Hemophilia A is frighteningly common among German shepherds due to a genetic predisposition from gene mutation. Because this disorder is so common in this breed, German Shepherd owners will do well to glean a good understanding of the condition.
It is also important to buy a German Shepherd dog from a reputable breeder in order to ensure that you have the healthiest animal possible. It may not always be possible to prevent a German Shepherd from inheriting the condition, but selective breeding can prevent many cases.
A proper diagnosis of and treatment for Hemophilia A from a vet is vital for your German Shepherd. Understanding what Hemophilia A is, and how to watch for symptoms, will help you to know if your dog may have the condition and whether to seek treatment.
What Is Hemophilia A?
Hemophilia is a genetic blood disorder characterized by lack of proper blood clotting. Clotting how long a cut or wound bleeds. Because the disease is caused by genetic mutation, if a dog is born with the condition, there is no way to prevent it.
Both Hemophilia A and B are caused by deficiencies of gene factors. Both types of Hemophilia result in excessive bleeding and an inability of the blood to clot as quickly as it does in a healthy dog.
In Hemophilia A, a dog will bleed more than normal due to a deficiency in the protein F8.
Causes Of Hemophilia A
The German Shepherd breed in general is, unfortunately, naturally predisposed to the condition Hemophilia A. However, this does not necessarily mean your German Shepherd is doomed to develop the disorder.
Hemophilia A is caused by genetically inherited mutation common in German Shepherds. In dogs with this condition, there is a severe deficiency of the protein Coagulation Factor VIII, or F8. Because the condition results from a mutation of the F8 gene, the disorder is also sometimes called Factor VIII Deficiency.
The result of an F8 deficiency in German Shepherds results in the blood being unable to clot normally. Abnormal bleeding and excessive bleeding occur when the blood does not clot and form a scab as soon as it would in a healthy animal.
Genetic testing can determine if a dog is a carrier of the condition. The breeder from whom you purchased your German Shepherd should be able to tell you if your dog has a predisposition. Male German Shepherds are more likely to inherit Hemophilia A than females due to only needing one copy of the mutated gene while females need two.
The only way to absolutely prevent Hemophilia A in German Shepherds is by selective breeding. Responsible breeders will make every effort to exclude affected dogs from the breeding line.
Symptoms Of Hemophilia A
Some symptoms of Hemophilia A are harder to spot than others. Some dog owners may notice signs while a German Shepherd is still a puppy, but others may not notice signs until their dog is several years old or even mature.
Common symptoms of Hemophilia A include:
- Frequent or severe bruising
- Frequent nose bleeds
- Spontaneous or excessive bleeding
- Abnormal bleeding after surgery or giving birth
- Stiff or swollen joints, due to internal bleeding
- Blood in the feces
- Discolored skin, red spots on the skin
- Impaired vision, or loss of vision
- General weakness or over tiredness
In a German Shepherd puppy, you may notice abnormal bleeding when the puppy loses its juvenile teeth or while it is cutting adult teeth.
If you notice any of these symptoms, it is crucial to make an appointment with the vet immediately. Hemophilia A is a severe bleeding disorder than can quickly result in death if it goes diagnosed and untreated.
Diagnoses Of Hemophilia A
Often a German Shepherd is diagnosed with Hemophilia A after a routine surgery results in abnormal bleeding. In such cases, other symptoms may have gone undetected, or they may not have been present at all.
Sometimes a breeder or dog owner will notice excessive bleeding after a female German Shepherd has given birth. If the bleeding is abnormal, it is vital that the dog be hospitalized for emergency treatment. Diagnosis can be made once the bleeding is under control.
In other cases, a dog owner may notice some of the symptoms listed above and suspect that the condition is present.
In order to make a diagnosis of Hemophilia A in your German Shepherd, a vet will take a blood sample. Then coagulation assays, such as an APTT (activated partial thromboplastin time) will be performed on the sample in order to determine if a blood disorder is present. This test can determine if Hemophilia is present, but more specific blood protein tests and gene tests are necessary to determine which type of Hemophilia your dog has.
Treatment For Hemophilia A
Substitution therapy, or blood transfusions, is the most common treatment for German Shepherds with Hemophilia A. Depending on the severity of the disorder in your dog, the animal may need either plasma transfusions, whole blood transfusions, or both. Dogs that are severely ill will need whole blood transfusions.
Sometimes German Shepherds can be treated with blood products that will increase clotting. Sometimes gene therapy involving adeno-associated viral vectors can also improve the condition.
German Shepherd owners will also need to be on high alert at home. Watch for any abnormal bleeding and be sure to bind any wounds you find that are bleeding. If a cut or wound does not stop bleeding on its own, you should take your dog to the vet immediately.
Prognosis For Hemophilia A
There is no cure for Hemophilia A. As a genetic condition, this is a disorder your German Shepherd will live with for the rest of its life. But with proper treatment, including substitution therapy, the dog should be able to enjoy a fairly long and healthy life.
A dog that has Hemophilia A and goes undiagnosed will likely die from the disorder, especially if the condition is severe in that particular animal.