The Doberman Pinscher, like every purebred dog, is affected by a variety of congenital and heritable diseases. Some diseases have definitive tests, others have screens and still others have nothing. The following is a list of diseases that can affect the Doberman. Please note this list is by no means exhaustive, though it aims to bring to light some of the more common health problems in our breed. If you would like more information, contact a knowledgeable and reputable breeder or your Veterinarian.
DCM is an acquired disease that is characterized by a markedly enlarged and weakened heart muscle. In the Doberman, it affects mainly the left ventricle and left atrium. It results in irregular, abnormal or premature heartbeats. Occasional or intermittent cardiac arrhythmias may be difficult to identify during a routine clinical examination. Very sadly the first sign of a problem in your dog may be sudden death.
NOTE: The Greater Mid-Ontario Doberman Fanciers currently has one Holter monitors for rent at a nominal cost, but we will be purchasing a second one. A Holter monitor (also called an ambulatory electrocardiography device) is a portable device used to monitor the electrical activity of the heart and to diagnosis specific forms of heart disease and abnormal heart rhythms. The monitor is usually worn for twenty-four hours during normal activity. For more information please visit our website www.dobermanontario.com.
Because there are few ailments in veterinary medicine that rival the seriousness and immediacy of canine Bloat we have expanded on this issue. Bloat is a disease common to deep-chested dogs; in fact, Dobermans are on a list of 22 breeds recognized as being most at risk. Once Bloat occurs, it is the speed at which treatment is administered that determines whether or not your dog will live or die. Bloat occurs when something goes wrong during digestion of food. Something causes gases to build up in the stomach so fast that it blows up like a balloon, stretching the organ to the point where normal circulation of blood to and from the heart is cut off. What makes it even worse and more immediately serious is when the stomach actually “twists and turns” (known as Volvulus, aka torsion or twisted stomach) at the top near the esophagus and at the bottom of the stomach. Picture a Tootsie Roll with the wrapper twisted at both ends keeping the candy lodged inside the paper. Gas is trapped and can’t escape as a burp or out the other end as ‘passing gas’.
It is not really known what exactly triggers Bloat to occur; scientists can only make guesses due to the data taken from dogs that have experienced it. Most of the symptoms are behavioural, at least in the very beginning, so your dog will start to act differently. The abdomen is stretched to many times its normal size due to an increase in gas. It will also feel very hard to the touch, like a ball that has been pumped up with too much air. You may see your dog acting uncomfortable, pacing the floor not being able to find a comfortable position to lie down and making sounds like he/she is in pain. The biggest, most obvious symptom is that the dog appears to be nauseated. He/she will unsuccessfully attempt to vomit and will retch and gag, but nothing comes up, or very little. He/she may also attempt to have a bowel movement, assume the position, but again, nothing comes out. Excessive drooling is also a common symptom.
A few examples of what scientists believe to be contributing factors to the cause of Bloat are:
1.Large meals eaten at one time. With the exception of puppies, it is recommended serving two smaller meals a day rather than just one big one. 2. Rigorous exercise either right before a meal or right after one. You should wait one hour before feeding after exercise and one hour after eating before you let your dog run around and/or play. 3.Dry food high in grain causes fermentation during digestion and this causes gas. (Of note: Some texts claimthis is not true, but most do agree with it.) 4.Gulping large amounts of water at one time or during meals. 5. Gulping food can lead to choking, burping, passing gas, vomiting, Bloat and other gastric problems. One way to control this habit is to buy a “slow feed bowl”, it really works! Alternatively, you might consider putting one together yourself. Search “canine slow feed bowls” for ideas.
IF ANY OF THESE OCCUR, IMMEDIATELY CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN OR RUSH YOUR DOG TO THE NEAREST ANIMAL HOSPITAL. It is better to be safe than sorry. Because there are only a few hours available to handle this problem, time is everything in a case of Bloat.
Wobbler Syndrome is the term used to refer to compression of the cervical spinal cord. To most of us this disorder is simply referred to as ‘Wobblers’. It is characterized by progressive neurological dysfunction of all four limbs, usually starting with the hind legs. Common symptoms are an abnormal ‘drunken’ or ‘wobbly’ gait, scuffing or dragging of the hind feet, a short, choppy gait of the front legs, neck pain and holding the head and neck in a flexed (downward) position. Signs may progress to the point where the dog may not be able to walk or get up on its own.
Hypothyroidism is a hereditary condition that can affect the dog’s overall condition and has been proven to be closely related to the immune system. Dogs that have low thyroid function tend to experience a host of other problems throughout life. Aggression has also been linked to low thyroid function. The thyroid gland in the neck makes a hormone called thyroxine that controls metabolism, the process of turning food into fuel. With Hypothyroidism the gland doesn’t make enough of that hormone. The first sign is hair loss, usually on the dog’s trunk, back of the rear legs, and tail. The coat will be dull and thin, flaky, but not itchy or red (which is usually tied to fleas or an allergic reaction). You may also notice black patches of skin, followed by weight gain, muscle loss, sluggishness, a slowed heart rate, toenail and ear infections and intolerance to cold. Although not widespread, it is also linked to seizures, heart and blood vessel problems and infertility.
The good news is this disease isn’t life threatening. It can be diagnosed by a Veterinarian through a series of blood tests and is fairly easy to treat. Your dog will take oral drugs daily for the rest of its life. Chronic Active Hepatitis and Copper Toxicosis
Chronic Active Hepatitis (CAH) is a liver disease where the liver does not metabolize copper properly. The copper will accumulate in the liver and eventually become toxic to the dog. The build-up may be caused by excessive absorption of copper or abnormal storage of copper because of a failure of the excretion mechanism.
Von Willebrand’s Disease
Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD) is a common, inherited bleeding disorder in the Doberman. It is caused by a lack of von Willebrand factor (vWF or Factor VIII protein) which plays an essential role in the blood clotting process. Although many dogs are affected by vWD, only a small proportion experience severe problems.
Genetic Eye Diseases
It is estimated that approximately 40% of purebred dogs are affected by some sort of heritable eye disease. This includes cataracts, glaucoma, diseases of the eyelids, lens, cornea and other sections of the eye.
Unfortunately, Cancer is a common disease of dogs and it’s said that it will occur in 1 out of 4 dogs. Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells that may be benign (slow growing, removable) or malignant (aggressive, spreading through the body). There are many types of cancer and many clinical signs seen.
Here are some possible signs that warrant a visit to the Vet.
Any new lump or bump. A change in size, shape, or consistency of an existing lump. Runny nose, especially if bloody. Difficulty urinating, bloody urine (also very common with urinary tract infections). Straining to defecate, thin, ribbon-like stools that may or may not contain blood. Vomiting and diarrhea (common with many diseases). Limping, change in gait. Foul breath, excessive drooling, teeth that have moved. Drainage and odour from ears (also very common with ear infections). Increased water intake and urination. Lethargy, inappentence (lack of desire or appetite).
Hip Dysplasia is a genetic trait characterized by abnormal formation of the ball joint and hip socket. Hip Dysplasia can be hereditary, though injuries and nutrition have also been suspected causes. Sometimes there will be “wear and tear” on the ball joint which will show as flat spots. In its most severe form, it can cause crippling lameness and painful arthritis of the joints. Although primarily a disease of older dogs, puppies as young as five months may begin to show signs of pain and discomfort during and after exercise. This can be extremely painful for the dog and in some cases a hip replacement is required.