Dobermann Health Issues
There are a number of health issues which can occur within the Dobermann breed.
They include the following (listed in no particular order):


von Willebrand's Disease (vWD) - a blood clotting disorder

von Willebrand's Disease (vWD) is an inherited bleeding disorder that affects many breeds, including Dobermanns.  Dogs clinically affected by this disease have a reduced ability to produce von Willebrand's Factor in their blood - a substance needed to achieve blood clotting.

There is now a definitive DNA test for Dobermanns to determine their vWD status.  This test is a simple swab of the cells from inside the dog's mouth (cheek) which is then sent to a lab for analysis (commonly used testing centres are in Australia and the US).  This test can be done by either yourself or a vet after obtaining a testing kit from a DNA testing company (see links further below).

Dobermann vWD DNA results can only be one of the following:

Clear      Does not carry the vWD gene
At no risk of clotting problems due to vWD
Can not pass the vWD gene on to offspring

Carrier   Carries one copy of the vWD gene
At no risk of clotting problems due to vWD
Can pass the vWD gene on to offspring

AffectedCarries two copies of the vWD gene
Potentially at risk of clotting problems due to vWD
(however, the majority of Affected Dobes have no clotting problems at all,
including during minor surgeries, and live a long and active life)
Will pass the vWD gene on to all offspring

If your dog is genetically vWD Affected and requires surgery, your vet can help to minimise any risks by having extra clotting factor on hand, and also by doing a blood clotting test (usually a small cut in the dog's gum or cheek and timing how long it takes to clot) prior to surgery.

Today, Breeders use the results of the vWD DNA test to assist them in their breeding programs.  Breeding results for vWD are:

Parents     Offspring vWD Results

Clear x Clear        100% Clear

Clear x Carrier     50% Clear, 50% Carrier (these are averages only)

Clear x Affected          100% Carrier

Carrier x Carrier          25% Clear, 50% Carrier, 25% Affected (these are averages only)

Carrier x Affected        50% Carrier, 50% Affected (these are averages only)

Affected x Affected     100% Affected


NOTE: Members of the Dobermann Club of NSW agree to abide by the Club's Code of Ethics and Best Breeding Practices for vWD (Types 1 & 2) - for more information see here.

For more information, or if you would like to test your Dobermann for  vWD, contact your Breeder or visit the following websites:

Genetic Science Services (Australian based DNA testing service)
Vetgen (US DNA testing service)


Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) - also referred to as "Cardio"

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is where the muscle of the heart becomes diseased.  This results in an enlarged heart which does not function properly.  DCM can affect both sides of the heart with one side usually being more severely affected.  The enlarged heart chambers lose their ability to contract effectively and are unable to pump blood out to the body or lungs.

If the left side of the heart is affected, fluid builds up into the lungs, if the right side of the heart is affected, fluid builds up in the abdomen or area surrounding the lungs.  This build up of fluid places pressure on the heart and creates breathing difficulties, eventually leading to death from congestive heart failure.  Another cause of death from DCM is from irregular heart beats (arrhythmias) – these can lead to sudden death, often with no prior outward signs of the disease in the dog.

Long term prognosis varies considerably.  Dogs survive from weeks up to years after diagnosis of DCM.

The occurrence of DCM increases with age and typically has an age of onset between 4 and 10 years.  The cause of DCM is still unknown although many factors suggest a genetic cause, the mode of inheritance is unknown at this stage.

Treatment of DCM is aimed at improving the function of the heart and controlling the symptoms of congestive heart failure.  Drugs can be administered to help the heart contract better, diuretics can help control and prevent accumulation of fluid in or around the lungs.  Medication that controls arrhythmias (electrical disturbances in the heart) are used as well.

If you notice your dog displaying any shortness of breath, coughing, poor appetite, fainting spells, restlessness or profound lethargy, make an appointment to see your vet as soon as possible.  Your dog will benefit from your observations, and the administration of prescribed medications will aid to prolong your pet’s life.


For more information, visit the sites below or contact your Breeder.

Canine Inherited Disorders Database (US site)

Alba Medical - Cardiac Holter Monitors (US site)


Cervical Vertebral Instability (CVI) - also known as "Wobblers"

Cervical Vertebral Instability (CVI), commonly known as "Wobblers" is the compression on the spinal cord between the 5th, 6th and 7th cervical vertebrae located in the neck.  It usually develops gradually and is seen in the affected canine typically between 7 and 8 years of age.

The early visual signs that the dog may have Wobblers is the dragging of hind feet causing abnormal wear to the dog's toenails.  The hind legs will often be awkward and sway, making the animal walk like he is drunk - thus the name "Wobblers".  The disease will progress from this point, eventually affecting all four limbs.

Occasionally, in more serious cases, there is a rapid decline in the dog's condition.  This is associated with extreme pain, arching of the neck, and the dog is unable to raise his head higher than shoulder level.  All four legs are extremely rigid and walking is impossible.

The inheritance factors for this problem unfortunately are not fully understood - often the onset of this disease occurs late in a dog's life after they have already produced offspring, so removing afflicted animals from the breeding pool is difficult.

Treatment for this disease can include pain medication and rest, surgery (though not always successful), through to alternative treatments of neck wraps (to immobilise the neck) and gold bead implants (currently being used with some success in the US).

Note: Not all Dobermanns will be affected by "Wobblers", and the extreme cases are rare.


For more information, visit the sites below or contact your Breeder.

Wobblers - is there an alternative to surgery? (US site)


Hip (and Elbow) Dysplasia

This is not a widespread problem within the Dobermann breed, however like any medium to large breed dog, there can be instances where Hip and Elbow Dysplasia occur.

Hip Dysplasia (HD) is the malformation in the development of one or both ball and socket joints in the hip.  The hip joint is composed of the socket which is formed by the bones of the pelvis and the "ball" (head) of the thigh bone (femur).  Normally, this joint is very tight fitting, however if suffering from dysplasia there will be too much movement in the joint leading to pain and lameness.

Hip (HD) and Elbow Dysplasia (ED) is a multifactoral, genetically based disease which is greatly influenced by environmental factors.  The mode of inheritance of HD and ED is complex and the degenerative changes occur with growth if the genetic and environmental factors are present.  Due to this complexity, normal hipped/elbowed dogs can produce offspring with all degrees of dysplasia and dysplastic dogs can produce normal offspring.

Some Breeders are now starting to x-ray their breeding stock and having these x-rays "scored" by professional veterinary graders. 

Hip scores can range from 0 to 53 for each hip - the lower score per hip the better.  By adding the scores for both hips together it will give you a total hipscore ranging from 0 to 106.

As at January 2007 the Australian Dobermann Breed Mean Score (BMS) for hips is a total score of 7.89

Elbow scores range from grade 0 to 3 for each elbow with 0 being ideal.

Treatment of HD is directed at alleviation of pain, and in severe cases major (and expensive) surgery to replace the joint.


For more information, contact your Breeder or visit the site below:

The AVA/ANKC Hip Dysplasia Scoring Scheme


Hypothyroidism (Thyroid Insufficiency)

Hypothyroidism (thyroid hormone insufficiency) is fairly common in Dobermanns.  Symptoms include lack of energy, weight gain, inability to keep warm, hair loss (especially in areas such as the dog's back and sides), and temperament changes.

Diagnosis is by blood test analysis by a veterinarian.  If the thyroid hormone is below normal levels, then thyroid hormone supplementation is usually recommended.

Thyroid supplementation is via daily medication for the life of the dog.


For more information, contact your Breeder or visit the link below:

Hypothyroidism in Dogs

Thyroid


Cancer

Cancer causes the early deaths of far too many of our beloved Dobermanns.  Signs to be alert for include abnormal swellings especially in the lymph nodes, unusual bleeding or discharge, sores that do not heal, loss of appetite, loss of energy, weight loss, persistent lameness, lumps in the mammary area (bitches), abnormal feel/size of the testicles (dogs).

If your dog displays any of the above symptoms or anything else you feel is unusual, the sooner you can have your dog examined by the vet, the better.

The most common form of treatments are surgical excision of the tumour, aggressive chemotherapy, and medication.  Early detection will, of course, help your odds.  Treatment method depends on the type of tumour, whether it has or is likely to metastasize, and how far it has progressed.

More info on cancer in your pet can be found at the following links:

Cancer and Tumors in Dogs (US Site)

More general information on cancer in dogs (US Site)


Chronic Active Hepatitis (CAH)

Chronic Active Hepatitis (CAH) is suspected in the presence of persistently elevated ALT values and can be definitively diagnosed by a liver biopsy.  The liver is a major filtering organ for the body.  During CAH, as the liver cells die they release a protein that causes the elevated ALT values.  Scar tissue then replaces the dead liver cells reducing the filtering effectiveness of the liver and creating a build up of toxins in the body.  This degenerative state will continue to the point of liver failure and death.

Occurrence tends to be high in Dobermanns, but it is also found in other breeds, most notably, Bedlington Terriers, and Golden Retrievers.

Among Dobermanns, this disease is more common among females with the average age of onset between 4 and 6 years of age.  Initial symptoms of CAH include excessive drinking.  As the disease progresses and at least half the liver has been destroyed, the dog will be quite sick presenting with jaundice, abdominal swelling, vomiting and weight loss.

There are no studies that prove CAH is heritable.  Low fat, low protein diets can help, and some have used steroids with a degree of success.  If your Dobermann shows any of the above symptoms please see your veterinarian as soon as possible.

For more info on Chronic Active Hepatitis and liver disease in Dobermans, go to:

Chronic Active Hepatitis

Portosystemic Shunts in Dogs

Copper Toxicosis


Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV) - more commonly known as "Bloat"

The technical name for bloat is "Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus" ("GDV").  It is frequently reported that deep-chested dogs, such as German Shepherds, Great Danes, and Dobermanns are particularly at risk.

Bloating of the stomach is often due to swallowed air (although food and fluid can also be present).  It usually happens when there's an abnormal accumulation of air, fluid, and/or foam in the stomach ("gastric dilatation").  Bloat can occur with or without "volvulus" (twisting).  As the stomach swells, it may rotate and twist between its fixed ends at the esophageus and at the upper intestine.  This twisting of the stomach traps air, food, and water and obstructs veins in the abdomen, leading to low blood pressure, shock, and damage to internal organs.  The combined effect can quickly kill a dog – bloat is a medical emergency!

Symptoms of bloat are that the dog may have an obviously distended stomach especially near the ribs, but the main symptom is that the dog will appear highly nauseated and is retching but little is coming up.

If this is seen, rush your dog to the veterinarian IMMEDIATELY for relief of pressure in the stomach and management of shock.  Treatment usually involves surgery to untwist the stomach and tack it into place (called gastroplexy).

To avoid the risk of bloat in your Dobermann, latest research points to feeding your dog several small meals during the day rather than one large meal, not feeding your dogs using raised food bowls, and restricting the amount of water and food consumed before heavy exercise.

For more information, visit the following links:

The Canine Bloat Information Resource

Bloat  (US Site)

Bloat in Dogs