von Willebrand's Disease (vWD) - a blood clotting disorder
von Willebrand's Disease (vWD) is an inherited bleeding disorder that affects many breeds, including Dobermans. 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 Dobermans 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. This test can be done by either yourself or a vet after obtaining a testing kit from a DNA testing company.
Doberman 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
Affected Carries two copies of the vWD gene Potentially at risk of clotting problems due to vWD (however, the majority of Affected Dobermans 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 minimize 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
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 (arrhythmia) – 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 arrhythmia (electrical disturbances in the heart) is 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.
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 immobilize the neck) and gold bead implants (currently being used with some success in the US).
Note: Not all Dobermans will be affected by "Wobblers", and the extreme cases are rare.
Hip (and Elbow) Dysplasia
This is not a widespread problem within the Doberman 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 hip score ranging from 0 to 106.
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.
Hypothyroidism (Thyroid Insufficiency)
Hypothyroidism (thyroid hormone insufficiency) is fairly common in Dobermans. 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.
Cancer causes the early deaths of far too many of our beloved Dobermans. 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 tumor, aggressive chemotherapy, and medication. Early detection will, of course, help your odds. Treatment method depends on the type of tumor, whether it has or is likely to metastasize, and how far it has progressed.
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 Dobermans, but it is also found in other breeds, most notably, Bedlington Terriers, and Golden Retrievers.
Among Dobermans, 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 Doberman shows any of the above symptoms please see your veterinarian as soon as possible.
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 Dobermans 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 esophagus 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 Doberman, 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.
List of Foods Not to Feed Your Dog Here’s an alphabetized list of foods that are unsafe and unfit for canine consumption, many of which are toxic for dogs. We’ll be updating it and adding foods as we learn more. The ones in red italics are especially dangerous and often poisonous for canines. And be sure to look below this list for a helpful and sharable Infographic to print out and keep on your fridge. Alcohol – I’m sure you’ve heard of the birthday parties where the dog accidentally gets into some of the spilled keg beer, and then gets all silly to the amusement of the crowd. While it may be funny to you, it’s not funny to your dog. Alcohol can cause not only intoxication, lack of coordination, poor breathing, and abnormal acidity, but potentially even coma and/or death. Apple Seeds – The casing of apple seeds are toxic to a dog as they contain a natural chemical (amygdlin) that releases cyanide when digested. This is really only an issue if a large amount was eaten and the seed were chewed up by the dog, causing it to enter its blood stream. But to play it safe, be sure to core and seed apples before you feed them to your dog. Avocado – Avocados contain Persin, which can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and heart congestion. Baby food – Baby food by itself isn’t terrible, just make sure it doesn’t contain any onion powder. Baby food also doesn’t contain all the nutrients a dog relies on for a healthy, well maintained diet. Cooked Bones – When it comes to bones, the danger is that cooked bones can easily splinter when chewed by your dog. Raw (uncooked) bones, however, are appropriate and good for both your dog’s nutritional and teeth. Candy and chewing gum – Not only does candy contain sugar, but it often contains Xylitol, which can lead to the over-release of insulin, kidney failure, and worse. Cat food – Not that they would want this anyway, but cat food contains proteins and fats that are targeted at the diet of a cat, not a dog. The protein and fat levels in cat food are too high for your dog, and not healthy. Chocolate – You’ve probably heard this before, but chocolate is a definite no no for your pup. And it’s not just about caffeine, which is enough to harm your dog by itself, but theobromine and theophylline, which can be toxic, cause panting, vomiting, and diarrhea, and damage your dog’s heart and nervous systems. Citrus oil extracts – Can cause vomiting. Coffee – Not sure why you would give your dog coffee, but pretty much the same applies here as to chocolate. This is essentially poison for your dog if ingested. Corn on the cob– This is a sure way to get your dog’s intestine blocked. The corn is digested, but the cob gets lodged in the small intestine, and if it’s not removed surgically, can prove fatal to your dog. Additionally, too much corn kernels can upset the digestive tract as well so be cautious to not feed too much. Fat trimmings – Can cause pancreatitis. Fish – The primary fish that you need to be careful about are salmon and trout. Raw salmon can be fatal to dogs if the fish is infected with a certain parasite, Nanophyetus salmincola. The parasite itself isn’t dangerous to dogs, but is often infected with a bacteria called Neorickettsia helminthoeca, which in many cases is fatal to dogs if not treated properly. If diagnosis occurs early on, the dog has a great chance of recovering. Cooked salmon is fine as it kills the parasite. Grapes and raisins – This is one that lots of dog owners are unaware of. Grapes contain a toxin that can cause severe liver damage and kidney failure. We’ve heard stories of dogs dying from only a handful of grapes so do not feed your pup this toxic food. Hops – An ingredient in beer that can be toxic to your dog. The consumption of hops by your dog can cause panting, an increased heart rate, fever, seizures, and even death. Human vitamins – Some human vitamins are okay to use, but the key is comparing the ingredients (all of them – active and inactive) to the vitamins your vet subscribes for your dog (often you can get the human equivalent for much less money). Make sure there’s no iron – iron can damage the digestive system lining, and prove poisonous for the liver and kidneys. Liver – In small amounts, liver is great but avoid feeding too much liver to your dog. Liver contains quite a bit of Vitamin A, which can adversely affect your pup’s muscles and bones. Macadamia nuts – These contain a toxin that can inhibit locomotory activities, resulting in weakness, panting, swollen limbs, and tremors as well as possible damage to your dog’s digestive, nervous, and muscle systems. Marijuana – Not that you would pass the bong to your dog, but if you do, you should know that it can adversely affect your pup’s nervous system and heart rate, and induce vomiting. Milk and dairy products – While small doses aren’t going to kill your dog, you could get some smelly farts and some nasty cases of diarrhea. Why? Dogs are lactose intolerant (as are an increasing number of humans today), and don’t have enough of the lactase enzyme to properly digest dairy foods. If you really need to give them dairy, look into lactose-free dairy products. Mushrooms – Just as the wrong mushroom can be fatal to humans, the same applies to dogs. Don’t mess with them. Onions and chives – No matter what form they’re in (dry, raw, cooked, powder, within other foods), onions are some of the absolute worst foods you could possibly give your pup (it’s poisonous for dogs, and its even worse for cats). They contain disulfides and sulfoxides (thiosulphate), both of which can cause anemia and damage red blood cells. Persimmons, peaches, and plums – Peach pits are not only a choke hazard they contain amygdalin, a cyanide and sugar compound that degrades into hydrogen cyanide (HCN) when metabolized. Pear seeds also contain trace amount of arsenic and are dangerous. So if you live in an area that is home to persimmon, peach, or plum trees, look out. Persimmon seeds and peach and plum pits can cause intestinal obstruction and enteritis. You’ll want to make sure there aren’t any wild persimmon or other fruit trees that produce seeds growing in your backyard. If you notice your dog pooping all over the place, and see a bunch of seeds or pits in their waste, you’ll need to break out the saw and chop down some trees. Rhubarb, and tomato leaves – These contain oxalates, which can adversely affect the digestive, nervous, and urinary systems. Raw fish – Another vitamin B (Thiamine) deficiency can result from the regular consumption of raw fish. Loss of appetite will be common, followed by seizures, and in rare instances, death. Salt – Just like salt isn’t the healthiest thing for humans, it’s even less healthy for dogs. Too much of it can lead to an imbalance in electrolyte levels, dehydration and potentially diarrhea. String – While not a food itself, foods can often contain or be similar to string (ie. meat you’ve wrapped for the oven). If your dog were to eat a string, it could get stuck in their digestive tract and cause complications. Sugar – This applies to any food containing sugar. Make sure you check the ingredient label for human foods – corn syrup (which is a less expensive form of sugar or glucose) is found in just about everything these days. Too much sugar for your pup can lead to dental issues, obesity, and even diabetes. Tobacco – A major toxic hazard for dogs (and humans). The effects nicotine has on dogs are far worse than on humans. Nicotine can damage your pup’s digestive and nervous systems, increase their heart rate, make them pass out, and ultimately result in death. Xylitol – A sugar alcohol found in gum, candies, baked goods, and other sugar-substituted items, Xylitol, while causing no apparent harm to humans, is extremely toxic to dogs. Even small amounts can cause low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure, even death for your pup. Yeast (on its own or in dough) – Just like yeast rises in bread, it will also expand and rise within your pup’s tummy. Make sure they don’t get any. While mild cases will cause gas, lots of farting, and discomfort – too much of it could rupture their stomach and intestines.