- The 7 health concerns for Dobermans are (in no specific order): von Willebrand disease (vWD), Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), Hip/Elbow Dysplasia, Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), Hypothyroidism, Wobbler Syndrome, and Albinism.
- Von Willebrand disease (vWD) is a bleeding disorder that can cause excessive bleeding when lacerations are made to the skin. vWD is a much lower health concern due to the discovery of the gene solely responsible for the disease. There are three categories for vWD status: clear, carrier, and affected. If a Doberman does not carry either copy of the vWD gene, then they are considered “clear”. If a Doberman carries one copy of the vWD gene, then they are considered a “carrier”. A carrier DOES NOT have vWD, but can pass on the one vWD gene it has to its offspring. If a Doberman carries two copies of the vWD gene, then they are considered “affected”. Dobermans that are vWD “affected” do not automatically have a reduced lifespan. An owner of a vWD “affected” Doberman must take precautions to ensure that the Doberman does not get lacerated.When we breed our Dobermans, we ensure that all puppies are guaranteed to not be affected. The mating of clear to clear and clear to carrier is common practice in Doberman breeding. This is the vWD protocol we follow in our breeding program.
- With the use of DNA testing for vWD, it is not as much of a concern as it was in the past. Reputable breeders should take complete control over the eradication of this disorder. We might see vWD gone in a decade or so. Many of our past veterinarians have told us that vWD in Dobermans is usually not as horrific as people believe it is. The veterinarians usually give extra precautionary medications to Dobermans before surgery if they are not sure of their vWD status. That being said, we do not produce “affected” vWD puppies!
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease which enlarges the heart and weakens its ability to pump blood. DCM is the primary health concern for the Doberman. While there are many causes of DCM (hereditary and environmental), they are very ambiguous. Our protocol for determining DCM status of Dobermans are the following tests: Auscultation, 24-hour Holter, and Echocardiogram. Auscultation is the listening of the heart. 24-hour Holter is the recording of the heart’s electrical activity during a 24 hour period. The Echocardiogram is a sonogram showing the anatomy of the heart. The gene PDK4 has been linked to DCM, but it is not a consistent predictor of the disease. Testing positive for the PDK4 mutation does not conclude that a Doberman will ever develop DCM. There have been many Dobermans who have DNA tested negative for DCM, yet contract it at a later date. Furthermore, there have been many Dobermans who have DNA tested positive for DCM, yet never contract the disease. For these reasons, we do not rely on the DNA test for DCM. Rather, we prefer to use the Auscultation, 24-hour Holter, and Echocardiogram. These are the same tests that the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) uses to test a Doberman for DCM. If a Doberman has irregularities in their 24-hour Holter, then a cardiologist can listen to the heart (Auscultation) and look at the heart (Echocardiogram) to conclude DCM status. We own a Holter recorder and test are breeding Dobermans annually.
- Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip socket that can leave a dog in pain and possibly lead to lameness. Hips that are affected by hip dysplasia do not fit into the pelvic socket as do normal ones. Using an excellent/good/fair/poor rating system, orthopedic veterinarians examine x-rays to evaluate the presence and level of hip dysplasia. Even though hip dysplasia is evaluated using x-rays, the primary factor of the disease is hereditary. There are different organizations that determine and register Doberman hip dysplasia ratings.
- Elbow dysplasia is a malformation of the elbow joint. Many times excess cartilage grows around the joint causing inflammation and osteoarthritis. The methods of detection and reporting is very similar to hip dysplasia mentioned above.
- Only Dobermans with hips rated fair and above should be used in breeding programs; this is the protocol that we use. Elbows are not always required for dog registry/organizations. In some countries, elbow evaluations are not required or suggested before breeding. A very positive fact is that hip dysplasia is currently not seen very often in Dobermans. This could be attributed to the consistent testing and breeding of “fair” and above among Doberman breeders. We have never had a doberman with hip dysplasia!
- Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an inheritable Doberman disease that can eventually lead to blindness. At first, dogs with PRA have difficulty seeing clearly at night. After a few months or years, the disease can leave the dog blind. A screening test can be performed by a veterinary ophthalmologist. There are different registries/organizations that will assess and record the PRA status of Dobermans. The number of Dobermans that are affected by PRA is very low.
- Hypothyroidism is a condition where a dog’s thyroid gland is performing lower than normal. Hypothyroidism is easily correctable with medication. When medicated, hypothyroidism does not decrease a Doberman’s lifespan. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism in dogs is chronic recurent skin problems and unexplained weight gain. Hypothyroidism is easily detectable by any veterinarian. To detect hypothyroidism, a veterinarian pulls a blood sample from the dog and orders a thyroid panel from a laboratory. Like other health tests, hypothyroidism can be registered with registries/organizations.
- Wobbler syndrome is a neurological disorder of the cervical spine. Dogs with wobbler syndrome have difficulty running, walking, and even standing as the disease progresses. Wobbler syndrome does not have a pre-screening test. Wobbler syndrome affects approximately 5.5% of Dobermans. Wobbler syndrome can be easily detected by watching the gait of the dog in question. Eventually, Dobermans with wobbler syndrome will have extreme difficulty walking and even standing up. None of our Dobermans have wobbler syndrome, nor have we witnessed in person any Dobermans with wobbler syndrome.
- Albinism is the ability to produce offspring that are albino. Albinism is determined by looking at a Doberman’s AKC number. If the AKC number has a “Z” in it, then the Doberman (often referred to as Z-factored) has ancestors that carried the albinistic gene. Z-factored Dobermans should never be bred. None of our Dobermans are Z-factored dogs. Therefore, none of our Dobermans carry Albinism in their genetic makeup.