Fluffy - The Miracle Dog

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COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT BLOOD DISORDERS IN DOGS 

If you would like Dr. Glass to answer a specific question you may have, please e-mail her at sgg@sunstates.org.

  1. Do dogs have blood types like people do?

Yes, there are several recognized blood types in dogs.  Dogs are much less likely to have a reaction to getting blood from another blood type as humans do, especially during a first transfusion. 

  1. What causes hemophilia? How did Fluffy get this disease?

The disease is caused because the body’s cells cannot make a molecule called Factor VIII.  In order for the body to form a clot in response to an injury a chain reaction of molecules must happen.  If only one link in this chain reaction can’t happen then a clot cannot form.  In the case of hemophilia there is no Factor VIII and the reaction stops there.  Factor VIII is not present because of an inherited inability for the cells to make it.  Most of the affected dogs are males because the instructions for making Factor VIII in cell DNA is on the female “X” sex-determining chromosome from the mother.  Females get two X chromosomes and can be carriers but will not express the disease, unless both X chromosomes are affected.  Hemophilia in females is much more rare than in males. 

  1. Why do hemophiliacs bleed when they don’t seem to have been badly injured?

In the course of normal daily physical activity and exercise we cause many minor traumas to our muscles, vessels, and joints.  Just running or bumping into something, for example, causes pounding of our joints and muscles that can result in small bleeds that are quickly stopped by the clotting chain reaction.  We don't even realize anything has ever happened to us.  These little bleeds don’t stop in hemophiliacs and depending on the degree and location of the bleed a life threatening hemorrhage can result. 

  1. How is a blood or plasma transfusion done in animals?

When whole blood transfusions are done, we check to see if the blood from the donor is incompatible.  In the case of hemophilia, the patient only needs red blood cells if a hemorrhage has occurred and they need to be replaced.  Most often Fluffy needs to receive Factor VIII from the “liquid” or “plasma” part of the blood.  In order to give him this, whole blood is spun at high speeds which separate the cells from the liquid; the cells are removed and only the plasma is captured.  This would be like removing the noodles from chicken noodle soup and saving the broth.  A blood collection needle is inserted into a large vein and blood is taken out as it is when people give blood. 

  1. What kind of transfusions does Fluffy receive?

Fluffy receives cryoprecipitate whenever it seems he is becoming uncomfortable (swollen joints, limping, etc.)  or begins to show signs that he is bleeding somewhere.  Cryoprecipitate is a special kind of concentrated plasma consisting of Factor VIII used to transfuse patients who are in need of clotting factors. 

  1. How often do hemophiliacs need to be transfused?

Hemophiliacs can be mild to severely affected depending on how little Factor VIII their bodies can make on their own.  This determines how often their level of Factor VIII must be topped off.  In Fluffy’s case, he is "very severely" affected and must receive a Factor VIII transfusion regularly.  He currently receives one transfusion per month. 

  1. How long do hemophiliacs live?

With monitoring and timely replacement of their clotting factors, they can live a full, productive, and happy life.

  1. Can hemophiliacs have puppies?

Female dogs who are carriers of the hemophilia gene are capable of becoming pregnant and having puppies.  Often their puppies are sickly.  If a female dog is known to carry hemophilia she should be sterilized and not allowed to have puppies. 

  1. How can I tell if my dog might be a carrier of this disease?

Female carriers of hemophilia, even though they appear normal, will have longer than normal clotting times.  Also, there are costly and involved chromosome tests to determine if the disease exists.  Male dogs cannot be silent carriers.  If they have the gene for the disease, they will actively have the bleeding disorder.

  1. Will there ever be a cure for hemophilia?

There is a very good possibility that a cure may be forthcoming. Genetic engineering research may lead to vaccines becoming available that will insert normal Factor VIII producing DNA into the cells of hemophiliacs.  Dogs coincidentally are being used in this research to help develop this treatment for humans. 

  1. How common is hemophilia in dogs?

Hemophilia in dogs is rare.  Most dogs are not diagnosed with the disease in time and usually die before a definitive diagnosis is made.  Furthermore, treatment of this disease is costly and most sick dogs are put to sleep.  Fluffy was lucky to have found a home where his guardians wanted to help him.

 

 

Dr. Glass is happy to answer any questions you may have regarding Fluffy's treatment or of hemophilia in general.  We've compiled a list of commonly asked questions and have posted them here for you here.