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Health Issues in Dobermanns

Vestibular Syndrome

In 2010,  A group of breeders sought out Dr. Webb with concerns about vestibular disease, seeking attention to finding the gene and creating a dna test to identify it within the dobermann community as it is thought to be an inherited condition.  Dr.  Webb asked Mark Neff, Ph.D., head of the Laboratory of Canine Genetics & Genomics would soon work with him to identify the mode of inheritance of this disorder in dobermanns. Together they collaborated with Projectdog research labs in search for the genetic markers responsible for this disease. In 2012 a collection of dobermann dna provided by breeders  proved to find one specific causative marker that determined dogs clear (no mutation), affected (2 copies of the mutation)  and carrier dogs (one copy of the mutation)  within the dobermann population. However by late 2014, research had been halted due to lack of funding, and lack of interest by the dobermann community.
   Vestibular disease has been around in dobermanns since the creation of the breed. For decades breeders who produce these animals in their litters would be euthanized. Puppies often are born deaf in one ear, or both, and will continually circle, roll, thrash around, stagger, cry, and nurse on their backs. Many puppies end up fading for they are unable to latch on and nurse properly. These puppies require continued support from the breeder in order to survive. Puppies that are raised by the breeder eventually learn how to compensate for the deafness and can eventually walk normally without staggering , but often times will have a slight tilt to the head.  Many of these puppies struggle with engagement not only with humans, but also with other animals that they later go to live with. This in itself makes finding homes for these special puppies extremely difficult.
  Today, most breeders feel this disease is particular to certain bloodlines within the breed. However at this point the disorder has not been proven to be bloodline base, gender base,  colour base, or if the disorder is directly involved with any other known disorder. Nor has it been determined how much of the dobermann population is clear, carrier or affected. It however has been determined that  carrier dogs are  with one copy of the gene are NOT symptomatic. Further research is required to assist breeders in the irradiation of this disease with in the dobermann breed.
  Please assist our breed on our quest for further research, donations from 1500 individuals, at $20 or 40 each, will move this research forward with Projectdog Labs in Davis California , save countless lives, and increase genetic diversity in our gene pool.

Your help is urgently required to enable regular testing for VS Ding




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.

Some will tell you that the only accurate tool in diagnosis is a myelogram - where dye is injected into the dog's spinal column and Radiological pictures taken. Myelogram's are extremely dangerous ( dog's have died as a result of this procedure and should only be used as an absolute necessity.

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"., eventually affecting all four limbs.

Occasionally, in 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 become very stiff and walking is impossible.

Treatment for this disease can include pain medication and rest, surgery, through to alternative treatments are available

Note: Very few Dobermanns will be affected by "Wobblers", and the extreme cases are rare.

Von Willebrand Disease (vWD)

Dobermanns may suffer from the mildest type of vWD - Type 1.

The blood-clotting disorder Von Willebrand Disease (vWD) was first identified in humans in the 1920s by Finnish doctor Dr. E. A. von Willebrand. It is a haemophilia-like disease, typified by the reduced quantity or absence of a certain clotting factor the von Willebrand factor (vWf) - in the plasma. The factor is a glycoprotein and is necessary for the normal platelet function of blood clotting. Platelets are components of blood that assist with clotting; vWD does not lower the amount of platelets, but does change their constitution.

A Direct Marker (gene) Test allows an accurate assessment of the disease and is 100% accurate. Unlike the Indirect Marker Test, the direct test does not require pedigree information as it can be used to diagnose an individual dog. Research has shown that carrier or affected dogs can show variable levels of vWf expression, therefore some affected dogs may bleed severely while other affected dogs may show very little or no bleeding.

It should be noted that vWD is not a death sentence for dogs, in fact many dogs with the disease can live quite normal lives and show no complications e.g. carriers of the recessive form who do not have the disease - Affected who do not have bleeding episodes. With careful mating strategies and genetic screening, the breeder can begin to bring the percentage of carriers or affected in their pedigree down and make an impact on the levels seen in breeds

The three readings for vWD are:


no presence of the disease gene and cannot pass on any disease gene.


one copy of the disease gene is present, however the animal does not exhibit any symptoms of the disease. Therefore no medical problems arise. Carriers will pass on the disease gene to 50% of their offspring.


two copies of the disease gene are present. The animal will always pass on the disease gene (mutation) to its offspring.

Mating results

Clear to Clear
100% Clear Puppies
Here at Ruzuna we only use Clear to Clear

Clear to Carrier
50% Clear/ 50% Carrier puppies


Clear to Affected 100% Carrier puppies

Carrier to Carrier
25% Affected puppies

Carrier to Affected 50% Affected puppies
Affected to Affected 100% Affected puppies

No sensible breeder would knowingly do an Affected to Affected mating.

Bloat (Gastric Torsion)

This condition affects mainly large deep-chested breeds of dogs and is a very serious and life threatening condition. It warrants immediate veterinary attention and quite often surgical intervention to prevent recurrence. It is expensive to treat due to the need for intensive care and surgery.

Bloat appears to be caused by a combination of a number of factors.

Feeding one large meal a day causes stretching of the stomach wall and damage to the nervous supply to the stomach. Research suggests that the stomach has a "pacemaker" (just like the heart) which co-ordinates the contractions and emptying of the stomach. If the pacemaker is damaged by stretching of the stomach wall, uncoordinated stomach contractions and emptying occur. I feed my adults on 2 meals per day , Feeding dogs with elevated feeding stands is another good preventative. .

Exercised dogs, being very thirsty and hungry, may gulp both food and water down together in a short time. Avoid this by not feeding your Dobermann for at least an hour and a half before or two hours after exercise.

Although not proven, dry dog foods have been suggested to be a cause of bloat. The food swells up and stretches the stomach wall . To avoid this, if you feed your Dobermann dry food then soak in hot water for at least 5 minutes before feeding. When the hot water hits the biscuits you can see the gas escaping.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease of the heart muscle which causes the heart to enlarge and not function properly. The occurrence of DCM usually increases with age and typically has an age of onset between 4 and 10 years. The cause is still unknown although many factors strongly suggest a genetic cause.

It usually affects both the left and right sides of the heart with either side being more severely affected. Typically both the lower chamber and the upper chamber enlarge and lose their ability to contract and pump blood out to the body or the lungs.

Treatment is aimed at improving the heart's function and controlling the signs of congestive heart failure. Drugs are used to help the heart contract better, diuretics can help control and prevent accumulation of fluid in or around the lungs. Drugs that control cardiac arrhythmias are used as well.

It is important for you to monitor your dog's overall attitude and outward signs, so that if you notice any heavy/laboured breathing, coughing, fainting spells, restlessness or profound lethargy, arrangements can be made to see your regular veterinarian quickly.


Dysplasia literally means abnormal, so hip dysplasia literally translates as abnormal formation of the hip socket. The hip is a ball and socket joint, in a normal hip the ball fits snugly into the socket, forming a pivot point. Dogs which have a genetic predisposition for hip dysplasia are born with normal hips. However, as the dog grows, the structure of the hip joint becomes badly formed, and the ball no longer fits snugly into the socket and therefore does not rotate smoothly.

Although this problem is more common in larger breeds, smaller breed dogs and mongrels are not immune from it. Ultimately, the end result arthritis and a painful and crippling degenerative joint disease.

The severity of the symptoms obviously depends upon the degree of the dysplasia. More often than not the dog becomes lame and may be unwilling to run and play as much as he used to. He often starts to have trouble getting up or climbing stairs. If and older dog, he may perform a "bunny hop" when running, or walk with a "waddle" and become reluctant to exercise.

There are many diseases which display the same symptoms as hip dysplasia, therefore the only true way to diagnose hip dysplasia is by a complete physical and neurological examination, and then x-ray of the hips.

Hip dysplasia is a multifactorial trait, which means that a number of different factors can contribute to it. However, hip dysplasia is basically a genetic trait and will not develop if the hereditary factor is not there to begin with.

Nutrition is the greatest contribution. Puppies should be kept lean and not fat, obviously a puppy which is carrying round too much weight will exacerbate any degeneration of the joint. Research has also shown that giving a diet too high in protein and calcium also exacerbates the condition. Rapid growth in a young puppy also contributes, and, in most cases, the rapid growth rate is directly related to feeding a high calorie diet to puppies. Over supplementation of calcium has likewise been shown to be a major factor in the development of skeletal disease in puppies.

Exercise is the other main contribution. Many people over-exercise young puppies, or give them the wrong type of exercise. The wrong type of exercise can include forced running for any distance and too much exercise on tarmac or other hard surfaces. Up to at least six months of age, exercise on hard surfaces should be kept at a minimum. Correct exercise for puppies includes running and playing in the garden or in a park, although games that involve jumping and very rough play should be avoided, and the puppy should be allowed to rest as soon as he has had enough and must not "over-do" it. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise which builds up the muscles without putting stress on the joints.

The treatment depends a lot upon the severity of the hip dysplasia and the age of the dog concerned, and veterinary treatment must be sought.

Any dog with hip dysplasia should be kept fit and trim as any excess weight will obviously aggravate the condition, but good muscle tone will help to support the dog's weight. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise which builds up the muscle without stress to the joints.

Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and carprofen, can often help manage pain. Research has shown that Vitamin C can also reduce the inflammation in the affected joints. Some people have also reported success with holistic medicines.

However, in some dogs the arthritis in the joint can become so painful that if cannot be controlled medically. When the pain becomes this bad, there are various surgical procedures which can be done to relieve the pain. Each procedure has its pros and cons, and different veterinary surgeons may have more experience, and therefore be more skilled, with a particular type of surgery.

One such procedure is called a femoral head osteotomy. This involves removing the head and neck of the femur so that the bone does not contact bone, and a fibrous scar tissue then forms a "false" joint. As the dog's muscles must be strong enough to support the dog's weight on the false joint, regular exercise is very important. Another surgical procedure is hip replacement. This is the same as the human hip replacement, the diseased joint is taken out and an artificial joint is inserted

Hip dysplasia is an inherited disease with a polygenic (influenced by more than one gene) mode of inheritance. Total elimination of Canine Hip Dysplasia is an unrealistic goal, but by selectively breeding dogs with good hips, breeders can reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia. In this respect, the British Veterinary Association, along with The Kennel Club, run a scheme to test for hip dysplasia, which should aid the breeder when choosing breeding stock.


In hemolytic anemia's, a loss of red blood cells (rbcs) occurs due to destruction of the rbcs. The destruction occurs due to antibodies which stick to the rbc and cause the body to react, leading to destruction of the cell. This can be the direct result of a drug, toxin, blood parasite, virus or other primary cause or it can be an unexplained immune mediated reaction. It can occur inside the blood stream (intravascular hemolysis) or outside the bloodstream (extra vascular hemolysis). In most cases in dogs, hemolysis occurs outside the blood stream in the spleen, liver and bone marrow. The destruction of red blood cells often leaves recognizable cellular debris in the blood stream. In particular, a form of damaged rbc known as a spherocyte occurs. Finding spherocytes on a blood smear almost guarantees that some form of hemolytic anemia is occurring. It does not really give a clue as to whether the IMHA is due to a primary cause or if it is occurring for no apparent reason, though. Since this disorder does not stop the production of red blood cells, there are usually immature red blood cells in the bloodstream which can be detected on the blood smears as well (a regenerative anemia).