Hemophilia in dogs, which can actually be type A or type B, is a blood disorder that prevents the blood from clotting at the site of wounds or injury. In normally functioning dogs without hemophilia there are series of compounds and chemicals that are released by the blood and body in reaction to an injury. Each chemical reaction leads to another, which then eventually results in the blood platelets being "glued" together by coagulants at the site of the wound, forming a sort of a natural dam that stops blood loss.
In dogs with hemophilia A, there is a breakdown in the chain of reactions at the factor XIII stage. This condition, as with hemophilia B, is inherited and is a sex-linked genetic deficiency, which means that it is almost exclusively seen in male dogs. Females can be carriers so in breeds prone to the condition, such as German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers and Scottish Terriers, it is important to check the blood clotting ability of the female prior to breeding. In hemophilia A the blood actually does release platelets but they do not adhere together to form the blood clot. This form of hemophilia is more common than type B and is often not as severe unless the dog has multiple injuries or severe internal bleeding.
Hemophilia B is also known as Christmas Disease, named after Steven Christmas, the first human identified with the condition. This is much less common than hemophilia A and is also much more serious with internal bleeding and death from bleeding more prevalent with this condition. Often the first even moderate injury will result in death for puppies or dogs with hemophilia B. In some breeds such as the Cairn Terrier, French Bulldog and the American Cocker Spaniel it occurs rarely and is usually mild to moderate in symptoms. In some breeds such as the Coonhound, Malamute and the Saint Bernard the symptoms are often moderate to severe and are much more likely to be fatal.
Hemophilia B is a lack of the factor IX or the plasma thromboplastin component in the blood clotting sequence. Often this condition is first noted when the dog is spayed or neutered and the vet notices uncontrolled bleeding during the surgical procedure.
Dogs that have either form of hemophilia will often have excessive bleeding of the gums during teething, blood in the urine or in diarrhea, pale gums, swellings like blood blisters under the skin and even nosebleeds. Since this is a genetic, inherited condition there is no cure, but there are ways to manage dogs with hemophilia so they can live happy, normal lives.
In most cases dogs with the condition will immediately be spayed or neutered if this has not already been done. They should live in households were the potential for injury is minimized and the dog is never allowed in the contact of other, unknown dogs to prevent the chance of injury through rough play or fighting.
In cases where the dog has rapid or slow bleeding that will not stop, emergency medical care will be needed to clinically stop the blood through stitching or cauterizing the injury. In addition blood transfusions may be required to rebuild the blood after an injury. In many mild cases owners may never be aware the dog has the condition unless there is a significant injury or surgery.