Von Willebrand Disease (VWD) in Dogs

Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Doberman Pinscher smiling in front of a fence

Tara Gregg / EyeEm / Getty Images

Von Willebrand disease (vWD) is a serious condition that affects the blood and clotting ability of some dogs. The result is uncontrolled bleeding because the platelets (blood cells used in clotting) are not sticking together and can't seal the blood vessels. Learn the symptoms, causes, treatment, and how you can help prevent unnecessary bleeding problems in your dog.

What Is Von Willebrand Disease?

Von Willebrand disease is a disorder of the blood, specifically the clotting components. Simply put, it affects the blood's ability to clot. Platelets are a normal part of blood and they are responsible for clotting. When there is a broken blood vessel, either inside or outside the body, platelets help the blood clot and therefore stop the bleeding. In order for these platelets to do their job, they need to stick together. Proteins help these platelets stick together and form these important clots. In von Willebrand disease, a dog is lacking enough of a specific protein, called von Willebrand factor (vWF), that is needed to properly form a clot.

VWD, however, is not hemophilia. The two disorders have distinctive characteristics. Dogs affected with von Willebrand disease will bleed differently than a hemophiliac dog.

Symptoms of Von Willebrand Disease in Dogs

Many dogs live a very normal life without any outward signs of the disease and owners don't even know their dog has a clotting problem until a blood draw, surgery, or injury occurs. That's when the bleeding cannot be controlled and is indicative of the disease. Here are the symptoms of von Willebrand disease:


  • Prolonged bleeding
  • Spontaneous hemorrhaging
  • Bleeding while teething

Prolonged Bleeding

Due to a deficiency of the von Willebrand factor, uncontrolled or prolonged bleeding can occur in dogs with von Willebrand disease. Female dogs with vWD that have given birth may also bleed excessively. If a dog has a procedure that causes excessive bruising, that can also be a sign of the condition.

Spontaneous Hemorrhaging

Though bleeding usually occurs after surgery or when a dog is wounded, dogs with the condition can also bleed spontaneously from various bodily orifices and for no reason at all. Some of the areas that may hemorrhage include the nose, inside the mouth, vagina, or urinary bladder. Some medications may trigger spontaneous bleeding in dogs with the disease because the platelet production is further inhibited.

Bleeding While Teething

A puppy that is teething may excessively bleed in the mouth if it has this disease.

Causes of Von Willebrand Disease

No one knows why a dog may be born lacking the von Willebrand protein factor. This specific protein may be deficient or completely lacking causing the uncontrolled bleeding and level of disease severity but there is no known cause. Some dogs go their whole lives without any sign of this bleeding problem until they have surgery or are injured and then the disease is discovered.

There are a few affected dog breeds prone to the disease. Over 70 percent of Doberman pinschers have been documented to be carriers of von Willebrand disease, but that doesn't mean they are the only breed that can have this disorder. The Scottish terrier and Chesapeake Bay retriever are actually more likely to have the most severe forms of von Willebrand disease, even though the population percentages of those that have it is lower. Dobermans, while demonstrating the highest prevalence of von Willebrand, usually have the mildest form of the disease.

Diagnosing Von Willebrand Disease in Dogs

Often vWD is discovered after a dog has surgery or a wound that won't stop bleeding, but there is also a test that can be performed prior to an uncontrolled situation occurring. Usually, a simple test called a buccal mucosal screening is performed by the veterinarian, but a specific test to measure the von Willebrand factor can also be done.

Depending on your pet's breed, your vet can also classify what type of von Willebrand disease your dog is likely to have. There are three variants of von Willebrand disease that are identified by the structure and amount of the vWF protein a dog has in its system. Type 1 is the mildest form, Type 2 means your dog is moderately affected, and Type 3 is the most severe form of von Willebrand. Below are the breeds of dogs that tend to fall into each type of von Willebrand.

Type 1, breeds that may experience a mild form of von Willebrand disease with a low concentration but normal structure of vWF:

Type 2, breeds that may experience a moderate form of von Willebrand disease with a low concentration and abnormal structure of vWF:

Type 3, breeds that may experience a severe form of von Willebrand disease with little to no form of vWF:


If actively bleeding, a dog with von Willebrand disease needs to have the bleeding stopped immediately and sometimes the lost blood replenished. This is done by utilizing special clotting sponges or styptic powder, giving a blood transfusion, and sometimes administering a medication called desmopressin that may help a dog temporarily produce more von Willebrand factor in its blood.

Prognosis for Dogs With Von Willebrand Disease

There is no known cure for von Willebrand disease. If a dog has a mild to moderate type of the disease, your pet can live a normal day-to-day life under careful watch, but requires special care if surgery or other procedures are needed.

If a dog is actively bleeding and has the disease but is not treated, death may occur.

How to Prevent Von Willebrand Disease

The best way to try and prevent von Willebrand disease is to practice selective breeding. Breeds prone to carrying von Willebrand can be tested prior to breeding in order to prevent passing the disorder to offspring.

If you have a dog prone to or diagnosed with von Willebrand disease, you should be cautious about any procedures involving blood.

  • Discuss any blood tests, IV catheters, surgeries, or other procedures with your veterinarian in order to determine the safest protocol for your pet.
  • Ensure that any surgical incision that needs to be made on your dog will be as small as possible and laser or cautery surgery should be considered to lessen bleeding.
  • Confirm that needle and catheter gauges will be as small as possible for any injections, blood draws, and fluids that are administered to your dog.
  • Trim your dog's nails short to decrease the likelihood of them getting stuck, torn, or to keep your pet from accidently scratching itself.
  • Keep styptic powder on hand at home.
Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Canine von Willebrand Disease. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

  2. Von Willebrands Disease in Dogs. VCA Animal Hospitals.

  3. Canine von Willebrand Disease. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

  4. Canine von Willebrand Disease. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.