Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Cardiomyopathy is a general term meaning “disease of the heart muscle.” The word “dilated” further classifies the disease (the heart walls become very thin), as opposed to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (where the heart walls thicken) and viral cardiomyopathy.

 Dilated cardiomyopathy has become synonymous with heart disease in Dobermans and is a leading killer of our dogs. It is just one form of cardio in Dobermans, but by far the most common. Because of the poor prognosis for Dobermans it is believed by some to be at least somewhat different from that seen in other breeds, hence the term Doberman DCM. The disease generally appears between the ages of 6–9 years; long after the dogs may have been bred. Unfortunately, the most common sign is sudden death.

 Currently ultrasound and EKGs are the best tests available for early detection of this disease; DCM cannot be diagnosed simply by listening to the heart. The limitation of ultrasound or any other available test is that it is good only for the moment—the dog may contract the disease days or weeks after the test and exhibit few, if any, symptoms. It is very important to talk to your prospective breeder about the ages and causes of death of the ancestors of their litter. VON WILLEBRAND DISEASE

Von Willebrand's disease (vWD)

 is the most commonly inherited bleeding disorder of the dogs. It is an abnormality of the blood-clotting system, similar to a hemophiliac person. Some dogs test positive and are only carriers and have no problems, while for others a small cut can be a huge problem. Mortality from vWD is low, but surgical procedures on vWD dogs can lead to uncontrolled bleeding, which may lead to death.


Hypothyroidism is the most commonly diagnosed endocrine problem in the Doberman breed. The disease itself refers to an insufficient amount of thyroid hormone being produced. The process usually starts between one and three years of age in affected animals, but doesn't become clinically evident until later in life. Hypothyroidism is quite variable in its manifestations. Most often affected animals appear fine until they use up most of their remaining thyroid hormone reserves. The most common manifestations are lack of energy and recurrent infections. Hair loss and obesity can also be a sign. The fawns and blues most often (although it can occur in blacks and reds) become hypothyroid as they get older. Treatment is relatively inexpensive.


Wobbler syndrome (cervical vertebral instability) is caused by an instability in the intervertebral disks in the neck area. When the disk destabilizes and puts pressure on the spinal cord, the result is severe neck pain. Dobermans who are predisposed usually develop clinical signs between four and ten years of age. Strict rest and anti-inflammatory therapy are used initially to quickly reduce the amount of inflammation in the spinal canal. This conservative therapy will often improve the clinical signs but cannot be expected to correct the underlying spinal defect. Some dogs can be maintained on long-term cortisone therapy with adequate control, but most other eventually develop progressive problems. If permanent damage is not evident, surgical decompression and stabilization is the treatment of choice.


 is inherited. It may vary from slightly poor conformation to malformation of the hip joint allowing complete luxation of the femoral head. Both parents' hips should be Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) certified - excellent, good or fair rating.


 Is an inherited condition in Dobermans. Clinically, visual acuity is diminished, first at dusk, later in daylight. The disease progresses over months or years, to complete blindness. 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.


Cancer occurs quite often in Dobermans as it does in many breeds and, indeed, in humans. Research suggests that environmental pollutants and chemicals in food are major factors in the development and support of this group of diseases. While there may be many factors that seem to “cause” cancer, they don’t take effect unless the animal is in a weakened, susceptible condition.

 So the key would seem to be prevention. The condition of the thymus gland and its associated lymphatic tissues and immunological functions is extremely important. The immune system will be strong if you can keep the dog in excellent health with good food, adequate exercise, access to fresh air and sunshine and in a stable emotional environment. Whereas a weaker animal might succumb to the effects of carcinogens, the strong one will more likely resist and detoxify them. So prevention is paramount. No drug or vaccine can ever take the place of good health.

CHRONIC ACTIVE HEPATITIS (Copper toxicosis) - this is a biological defect in a Doberman's ability to remove copper from the body. This disease effects the liver and can be fatal.