A disorder of the coagulation system that affects the blood and causes the prevention of blood clotting. This is problematic as once blood vessels are broken they cannot stop bleeding. Hemophilia disorders may be congenital or acquired.
Acquired coagulation disorders can occur at any time. The congenital condition however, appears in young dogs. At the time of the second dentition, or around the period when puppies receive their first injections, bleeding time is noticeably prolonged. Dogs with short or very light coat are especially prone to developing small hemorrhages beneath the skin that are visible as red round spots. Nosebleeds may occur without a previous injury or trauma. Also, due to hemophilia, occasionally blood may be found in the dog’s feces or in their urine. While inner bleedings have rather unspecific symptoms, exhaustion, loss of appetite and weakness occur when the animal is suffering from a larger internal bleeding.
The coagulation system consists of two components. Firstly, there are platelets (a.k.a thrombocytes) that attach themselves to the place where a vascular injury occurs and thereby close the lesion. Secondly, the blood contains a variety of proteins, the so-called coagulation factors, that are activated in what is called the coagulation cascade, which causes fibrin (also a protein) to form a plug and stop the bleeding. A decreased production of thrombocytes or the destruction or consumption of a large number of them causes coagulation disorders. The coagulation cascade can be interrupted at some point due to a missing protein. The most common form of the hemophilia is what is known as “Von Willebrand disease”. This disease affects mostly Doberman Pinschers, Scotch Terriers and Shetland Sheepdogs. Diseases related to coagulation factors are primarily hereditary. Since the liver produces almost all coagulation factors, acquired coagulation diseases occur mainly as a side effect of chronic liver diseases. An often short but deadly form of coagulation disease occurs after the intake of rat poison whose main ingredient coumarin causes coagulation factor production disorders. Thrombocytes are produced by the bone marrow and are decomposed in the spleen. Tumorous diseases of these organs can drastically decrease the number of thrombocytes and thus cause bleedings. Also, certain medications can lead to the destruction of thrombocytes.
"The history of a patient might cause the suspicion of hemophilia. With certain methods of detection the coagulation time of the blood can be determined. A blood count can detect a decreased number of thrombocytes, and a blood analysis can determine the absence of a coagulation factor. Depending on the causes of hemophilia and excess bleeding, the treatment varies. If the bleeding was caused by rat poison and detected in time, the effects can be reversed by the administration of vitamin K. If the underlying cause is a different organ disorder, the cause has to be treated first. If the spleen is the cause of the disease it may have to be removed surgically. Otherwise, the therapy depends on the degree of the disease. For light to medium forms of hemophilia, the appropriate management of the dog can decrease the risk of injury. More severe forms have to be treated for example with blood infusions or intravenous administration of the missing coagulation factors.
If your dog suffers from a form of hemophilia the risk of injury has to be minimized. Bites and scratches inflicted by other animals as well as injuries sustained by excessive physical activity are especially dangerous. If there is any bleeding or symptoms of the same, visit a veterinarian immediately. On the way firmly press a towel on any visible wounds.