by John E. Dillberger, DVM

Originally published in the March/April 2011 issue of The Claymore.

UPDATE: Click here for a follow-up article written in 2014.

Every few months I hear of another Deerhound that has unexpected bleeding after surgery. The stories are much the same. Dogs typically emerge from surgery in good shape and go home with their owners, only to begin bleeding 24 to 36 hours later. The bleeding doesn’t originate from a single blood vessel; instead, blood seems to seep from every vessel that was cut during surgery. Indeed, the only vessels that don’t bleed are those that were specifically tied off or cauterized during surgery.

Some Deerhounds that have delayed post-operative bleeding survive, but only with heroic and expensive supportive care. Many don’t. Some dogs are simply found dead the morning after surgery.

The recent discovery of an inherited Factor VII gene mutation in Deerhounds led some people to speculate that this might explain the delayed post-operative bleeding. (Factor VII is one of many proteins that help create a blood clot.) Unfortunately, the Factor VII mutation does not explain the problem in Deerhounds. Delayed post-operative bleeding has occurred in dogs with two normal Factor VII genes.

The biggest mystery surrounding delayed post-operative bleeding is also the biggest clue to what may be happening; specifically, the time when bleeding begins. It is as if the Deerhound forms normal blood clots after surgery, but those clots “come unglued” the next day. In other words, the problem is not in the dog’s ability to form a blood clot, but instead in the dog’s ability to maintain the blood clot for a normal length of time.  Read more