Von Willebrands disease

Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD) is a bleeding disorder that, as far as we know affects a small proportion of GWPs in this country. Although the incidence of vWD in GWPs being reported is quite rare, it may be the cause of unexplained stillbirths, or pups that die shortly after birth. Most dogs with vWD can lead normal lives with only occasional bleeding episodes that, if treated appropriately after an injury, may well go unnoticed. If a dog is a carrier and not actually affected by the disorder there will be no symptoms at all. vWD has become widespread in other breeds which is something we would like to avoid happening to this breed. This disorder causes an animal to be prone to increased bleeding, and for animals which inherit the condition there is no possibility of a cure. The Severity of bleeding with vWD can be quite varied and often the disease is not diagnosed until the dog is 3 to 5 years of age. This is over the age that a majority of breeders choose to breed with their dogs. It would there for, be easy to unwittingly mate carrier or affected dogs together. VWD is caused by the inheritance of mutated genes. These mutated genes are also referred to as the von Willebrand’s Disease genes. An animal with 2 mutated genes will be affected by the disease. An animal that has inherited 1 mutated gene will be a carrier. Carrier animals often exhibit no symptoms of the disease. If two carrier animals are mated there is a probability that half of the litter will be carriers 25% will be affected and 25% will be normal (clear). A clear dog or bitch can’t pass on this disease, as they have no mutated genes.

Sensible breeding can control this trait and There are three ways that vWD can be detected. One is by a mucosal bleeding time test. This tests the time it takes the animal's blood to clot after trauma. This can however be misleading, as prolonged bleeding can also be an indication of other blood disorders. The second is by a conventional blood test which measures blood levels of von Willebrand factor. Unfortunately the blood test does have a degree of inaccuracy and in some cases this has been at a very worrying level, with dogs that had been declared clear of the disease by blood test, then prove to be carrying the mutation after DNA testing. These days DNA tests are recommended and are rapidly taking over from the blood tests. Dr Jeff Sampson of the KC is promoting the use of DNA tests, and in his few articles on the KC website, clearly demonstrates that DNA tests are what all breed clubs and breeders should be striving to use and promote. Blood tests are better than nothing but once a DNA test is available that should be used. There is now a DNA testing lab in Manchester www.laboklin.co.uk Tel: 0161 282 3066, so it is now easer for breeders in this country to test for this disease. The staff at Laboklin are extremely helpful, the test is not expensive, and the results are back in about one week.

 If you are thinking of standing you male at stud or breeding a litter from your female we would highly recommend that you DNA test your GWPs prior to breeding. As from the 01 January 2015 the UK Kennel Club will only register GWP litters from  parents that are proven to be  genetically clear of vWD either by parentage or DNA testing. 

Identified carriers of vWD will be permitted by the Kennel Club for breeding providing that they are only mated to a GWP that is proven clear of vWD. 


 Naturally an animal which has two genetically clear parents  is hereditary clear and therefore will not need testing. 

 Hans Keuper                                                                                                  Hans is the founder and owner of the vWD databank, he will be able to provide you with information on any tested GWP/DD. Hans has worked tirelessly to educate breeders, owners and breed clubs across the world about vWD, and to provide valuable information to enable breeders to make educated choices before producing a litter!