These health conditions have been identified in the Doberman Pinscher. Items marked with asterisks (***) can be identified through testing. Screening tests are not currently available for the other conditions listed. It is important to know the status before breeding a dog or bitch – clinically affected dogs, dogs exhibiting symptoms for any of these conditions should NOT be bred. The text below is intended as an aid to those seeking health information and should not be used to form a diagnosis replacing regular veterinary care by one’s own Veterinarian.
Cardiomyopathy is suspected to be an inherited disease in Dobermans. Research is in progress in several institutions. An echocardiogram of the heart will confirm the disease but WILL not guarantee that the disease will not develop in the future. A 24 hour holter will record Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs). The primary problem in Doberman DCM is within the heart muscle cell, an inability to contract normally which leads to abnormal function of the heart. To compensate for the poor contractile ability the heart dilates increasing the chamber size which in the early stages of disease will improve output of the heart (stroke volume). At this time the disease is in the asymptomatic or occult stage. However, with further progression of disease, there comes a time when further dilation of the heart no longer improves stroke volume but in fact leads to increasing pressure within the heart (heart failure). This in turn causes a back up of blood in the blood vessels in the lungs and in turn causes fluid to leak out into the lungs leading to difficulty breathing, and eventually death. Another potential cause of death with Doberman DCM is arrhythmias. With the abnormal stretching of the heart electrical abnormalities can occur, some are of a benign nature but may aid in early detection of disease, but malignant forms can occur leading to sudden death. Click here to learn more.
***Hip Dysplasia is inherited. It may vary from slightly poor conformation to malformation of the hip joint allowing complete luxation of the femoral head. Both parents’ hips should be Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) certified – excellent, good or fair rating. There are other hip labs that are qualified to certify hips. Click here for more info.
***Hypothyroidism is probably inherited and means that the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormone to adequately maintain the dog’s metabolism. It is easily treated with thyroid replacement pills on a daily basis. Thyroid testing (T3, T4, TSH and autoantibodies) should be performed on an annual schedule. Finding autoantibodies to thyroglobulin (T4 autoantibodies) is an indication that the dog has “Hashimoto’s Disease”. Low thyroid dogs, manifested by a high TSH and a low T4, should be treated and monitored on a regular basis.
***vWD (Von Willebrand’s Disease) is an autosomally (not sex linked) inherited bleeding disorder with a prolonged bleeding time and a mild to severe factor IX deficiency. Von Willebrand’s factor antigens of 70% 180% are considered to be within the normal range for Dobermans. When dogs are tested through the Elisa assay blood test for vWD, they are tested for carrier status only NOT the disease. It is believed that carrier status tests (Elisa assay) are inaccurate if a dog is ill, received any medication or vaccination within 14 days of testing, pregnancy, bitches in heat or lactation. Stress conditions (infections, parasites, hormonal changes, trauma, surgery, emotional upset, etc.) may have an effect on the outcome of the vWD blood test and might be a contributing factor for bleeding tendencies. vWD carrier status is quite common in Dobermans. A DNA test for vWD is now available – genetically: clear, carrier (inherited one disease gene), affected (inherited two disease genes) – results are not effected by stress conditions, etc. Learn about DNA labs here.
Wobbler’s Syndrome is suspected to be an inherited condition in Dobermans. Dogs suffer from spinal cord compression caused by cervical vertebral instability or from a malformed spinal canal. Extreme symptoms are paralysis of the limbs (front, hind or all 4). Neck pain with extension and flexion may or may not be present. Surgical therapy is hotly debated and in some surgically treated cases, clinical recurrence has been identified.
***PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) is an inherited condition in Dobermans. Clinically, visual acuity is diminished, first at dusk, later in daylight. The disease progresses over months or years, to complete blindness. A screening test is available and can be performed by a veterinary ophthalmologist. CERF (Canine Eye Registration Foundation) will certify eyes for 12 months from the date of evaluation.
***Albinism “white coated” and “white factored” Dobermans should NOT be bred. These dogs are *TYROSINASE POSITIVE ALBINOS*. In 1996, the AKC established a tracking system (the letter “Z” will be part of the registration number) allowing breeders to identify the normal colored Dobermans which may carry the albinistic gene. A list with all dogs tracing back to Shebah’s (the first Albino Doberman registered) parents is available here. All breeders should require an AKC certified pedigree with colors to check that “white coated” and “white factored” dogs are not present in the pedigree of the dog or bitch to be bred.