These are the health tests available and conditions to know of for this breed. It is important to know the status of each test on both the sire (dad) and the dam (mom) before they are bred. Dogs with clinical signs or symptoms of any of the diseases, or other health conditions, should not be bred.
Often times the symptoms or signs of disease/genetic condition do not appear until later in life. And if litters have been bred already, it can't be taken back. Also some genes are carried or "hidden," meaning the dog does not have signs of it, but if bred with another dog carrying the gene, the offspring can inherit it. This is why it is important to test even seemingly "healthy" dogs so that you know what is there on a deeper level and what may be passed down.
These conditions are not meant to scare you from the breed or cause you to worry about your pet. It is meant to educate and inform so the best decisions for the breed and for our families can be made.
VON WILLEBRAND'S DISEASE, also called vWD, is an inherited blood clotting disorder. It's the result of an insufficient amount of von Willebrand factor (vWF), which is a plasma protein that helps blood to clot. vWD can result in excessive, serious bleeding. It is autosomally inherited so it can and should be tested for.
VWD - The VWD test is taken by DNA swab, to determine if the dog is clear, carrier, or affected.
HIP DYSPLASIA is an abnormal formation of the hip socket that, in its more severe form, can eventually cause crippling lameness and painful arthritis of the joints. It is a genetic (polygenic) trait that is affected by environmental factors. The Doberman, being an athletic-active-large enough-size-breed with hip dysplasia too common of an occurrence, needs screened for this condition.
OFA HIPS - The test for the hip screening is called "OFA Hips" and is done when the dog is (minimum) 2yrs old, although preliminary but not official screenings may be done prior. An x-ray is taken at the vet office and sent to the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) where it is graded by multiple veterinary specialists to be excellent, good, fair, borderline, mild, moderate, or severe. (Only excellent, good, and fair are considered to be within the normal limits and given an OFA number within the OFA database).
ELBOW DYSPLASIA - is a polygenetic disease in the elbow of dogs, similar to the hips. It can eventually lead to crippling lameness and painful arthritis of the joints. It is not as critical of a screening compared to the hips, but since the test is available breeders are encouraged to include it.
OFA ELBOWS - The test for the elbow screening is called "OFA Elbows" and is done when the dog is (minimum) 2yrs old, although preliminary but not official screenings may be done prior. An x-ray is taken at the vet office and sent to the OFA where it is graded by multiple veterinary specialists as either normal or dysplastic.
DILATED CARDIOMYOPATHY - or DCM is a condition in which the heart becomes weakened and enlarged. As a result, the heart cannot pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Depending on the where the statistics are from, researchers say there is a 40-50% occurrence in Dobermans. Regardless, it is the #1 killer of this breed. Tests available will confirm the disease but will not guarantee it won't develop in the future.
OFA CARDIO - OFA evaluation by a cardiologist will involve an auscultation (listening to the heart for irregularities and murmurs) as well as a Doppler Echocardiograph which is basically like a live ultrasound of the heart showing its size and function of bloodflow. The results will be normal, equivocal (seen as normal, but no evidence to confirm nor deny that DCM may develop, also described as: One with an innocent heart murmur that is found to be otherwise normal by virtue of an echocardiographic examination which includes Dopplar Echocardiography), or abnormal/affected.
HOLTER MONITOR - a test in which a vest is strapped to the dog for 24hrs to monitor the heart, the recording is sent to a lab to interpret the data.
DCM GENE or PDK4 - a genetic test which tells us the status of just one gene of many that may attribute to Dilated Cardiomyopathy. Results are clear, carrier, or affected. It does not diagnose the dog nor guarantee the inheritance of its offspring, but it is just one more test we can consider in the puzzle piece.
HYPOTHYROIDISM - 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. Every cell in the body is affected by the thyroid so it is important that it be properly functioning.
THYROID - a sample is taken at the vet office and will either be tested/interpreted in their own lab or sent to another lab. The OFA will certify thyroid results.
PROGRESSIVE RETINAL ATROPHY - is an inherited eye condition in Dobermans. Clinically, visual acuity is diminished, first at dusk, later in daylight. The disease progresses over months or years, to complete blindness.
CERF - 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.
DVDob or DINGS - a test created by "Project Dogs" to test for inherited vestibular deafness gene. It is a DNA genetic test and cheek swab sent to the lab.
BLOODWORK/LIVER/KIDNEY PANELS - tests done by veterinarian checking current organ function etc.
DNA COLOR TEST - DNA genetic test to determine the color genetics of the dog. It is not a necessary test but if the genes are unknown on either dog it will help predict color outcomes in a mating.
WOBBLERS - is a neurological condition suspected to be inherited. 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. There is no test for this disease.
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.
CDA - Color Dilution Alopecia or CDA is a form of follicular dysplasia (FD), it is a skin/coat condition that results in hair loss and thinning coat condition. CDA is mostly on blue or fawn Dobermans. Special consideration should be made about owning a blue or fawn Doberman. They often develop CDA or if they don't, the coat condition at best is much thinner than blacks or reds. Their skin is sensitive from light and sun exposure must be monitored. There is also a known higher occurrence of low/hypothyroid condition associated with blues and fawns. ...that said, it is possible for black or red Dobermans to develop CDA also, but not very common.
A study conducted several years ago with a reply rate of over 800 Dobermans found the average longevity to be about 9 1/4 for males and about 9 1/2 for females. That study was the basis for the DPCA's longevity program setting inclusion in the program at 10 because if they lived to 10 and beyond, it was further than the average as evidenced by the study.
HEALTH Q & A
Q: Are these tests really important if the dog appears to be healthy? I just want a pet/family dog.?
A: Yes, because what you see on the outside is not necessarily what is on the "inside." The seemingly healthy dog could be a carrier for genetic conditions, or it could have a condition that just has not shown any symptoms yet.
Q: What if a very good veterinarian checks over the dog, and says he/she is healthy to be bred, or that the puppy is healthy, isn't that "good enough?"
A: We are not discrediting good veterinarians, but no vet, by simple examination, can tell you the genetic makeup and underlying conditions of a dog UNLESS they do the actual tests as described above. Several of the tests require specialists and labs
Q: I am not planning on breeding my Doberman. Do I need to do any of these tests on him/her?
A: All Dobermans with intended breeding purpose or not should have their VWD status known (either by parentage or through testing) so that they are not in danger for surgery or if a serious injury occurs. It would be very wise to check up on the heart annually since signs of DCM don't usually appear on the outside until it is "too late." Pet owners are welcome to do these tests and breeders certainly would appreciate the added data on what they produce, but it is not a strict or absolute part of pet ownership for a Doberman. Just added bonus of information concerning your pet's health.
Q: Where can I get these tests done and how much do they cost?
A: For DNA tests (VWD, DCM Gene or PDK4, Color Test) www.vetgen.com or other online/lab ordering places. These tests range from $65-95 each approximately. ... For cardio testing, you will need to find a cardiologist for the auscultation and echocardiograph. Your vet can give suggestions or check your closest University with veterinary programs. It is usually $200-400 per screening. The DPCA, your AKC club, or local breeders may be able to refer you to a Holter Monitor renting service which will vary in cost. ... Thyroid testing can be done by your veterinarian. They may test and interpret the results in their own lab or they may send it to a specialist lab. Usually this just includes testing "T4" but a more accurate or comprehensive test would be a "full panel." The OFA also certifies thyroid tests which are collected and submitted by your veterinarian. The prices can range from $75-150 depending on which test, which lab, and if it is sent to the OFA or not. ... CERF, eye examinations, you need to find a veterinary/canine ophthalmologist for. Your vet can tell you where or again check at your closest University with a veterinary or animal science department. It may cost around $50. ...consider that there may be travel involved for these tests and that females in heat or pregnant must wait to be tested until out of heat for most of the tests. Also a good place to go for health testing is shows where they have health clinics set up, sometimes at a more affordable price.
Q: The breeder says they have done all the health testing. Should I take their word for it or is it rude to ask for proof?
A: This is up to you and you should consider how well you know and trust the breeder. It is never rude to ask for copies of the results though, so don't be afraid to ask. If they have done the tests like they said they have, the breeder should happily provide records and information on it.
Q: These are all tests for the parents, what health tests should the breeder do on the puppies?
A: The puppies should overall be in good health condition. Any obvious conditions and the puppy should be held back for treatment, care, and special placement if needed. Most of the screenings and tests are for adult dogs only. The genetic DNA tests may be done at any age but the results of the puppies can be determined through parentage sometimes depending on the mating. (For example, a VWD clear to a VWD clear can only result in 100% VWD clear puppies since those are the only genes present in either side. They would not need tested in that scenario. A VWD clear to a VWD carrier will statistically produce 50% clear, 50% carrier, 0% affected. They may need tested to determine which are clear and which are carrier, but no risk for clinical signs of the disease exists so testing may or may not be warranted by the breeder. A Carrier to a carrier could result in 25% clear, 50% carrier, and 25% affected). The risk for potential affecteds warrants testing by the breeder.
DOBERMAN HEALTH RELATED LINKS
http://dpca.org/breed/breed_health.htm - DPCA Health Overview
http://dpca.org/breed/breed_color.htm - Chart of Color Inheritance
http://www.dpca.org/longevity/ - DPCA Longevity Program
http://www.offa.org/ - OFA registry
http://vetgen.com/BreedSpecific-Canine.aspx?id=Doberman%20Pinscher - VetGen Laboratory For Testing, Doberman Pinscher Available Tests
https://www.projectdog.org/dna_testing - Project Dogs, DVDob or DINGS
http://dpca.org/albino/albino-zlist.php?letter=A - List of Z Factored Dogs
http://dpca.org/news/health-presentation-recorded-videos- Health Presentation of DCM by Dr. Meurs and Dr. Estrada at the 2010 Doberman Nationals