Doberman Pinscher Common Health Problems
Doberman Pinschers are unique creatures and, although they are generally healthy companions, there are some illnesses specific to the breed that you should be aware of.
von Willebrand's Disease
von Willebrand's Disease is the most common bleeding disorder in dogs. von Willebrand's is NOT hemophilia. Essentially, von Willebrand's affects the ability of the dog's blood platelets to function normally. The bleeding that results in some cases may be linked to hypothyroidism, or stressful situations such as trauma, surgery or illness. However, some bleeding episodes have no apparent trigger.
Which Dobes does von Willebrand's Disease affect?
von Willebrand's Disease can manifest at any age. The average is 4.6 years of age, and although an affected dog is at lifelong risk to have recurring episodes, this may not necessarily occur. If the "family history" is available for your Dobe, you should be aware that von Willebrand's can be a hereditary condition. Therefore, if a close relative of your Dobe had the disease, your Dobe is at a higher risk. The disease is not gender-specific and affects males and females about equally.
Is von Willebrand's fatal?
von Willebrand's is NOT a death sentence in Dobermans. It is rarely fatal, although moderate to severe episodes may require medical intervention such as cauterization or transfusions to control bleeding.
What can I do to protect my dog and minimize the risk?
Keep your dog fit and healthy. Illness and injury are stressful and stress has been linked to episodes of excessive bleeding in some dogs. Also, have your adult dog's thyroid checked periodically.
If your dog is affected by the disease, get some silver nitrate sticks. These can be ordered from mail order pet catalogs and can be used to stop bleeding that results from minor injuries, such as a toenail clipped back too far. Make sure you keep these sticks in their protective sleeve, preferably in the refrigerator.
Do not ever give a suspected bleeder aspirin, as it thins the blood. Explore other options with your vet.
If you have a dog that has been diagnosed with von Willebrand's, do not despair! Your dog can lead a very normal and happy life. They can (and should) even still be spayed or neutered.
Other bleeding disorders
There are other bleeding disorders that can cause excessive bleeding. Because of this, if you or your veterinarian suspects your Dobe may have von Willebrand's, all other bleeding disorders must first be ruled out as the cause for your Dobe's symptoms so the proper treatment can be administered.
Source: Carla Mai Nissen, owner of Adobe's Ebony Enigma, a bleeder (reprinted with owner's permission)
This condition causes the Dobe's heart to expand, leading to deterioration of the heart muscle itself. According to Gentle Doberman's website, symptoms can include "irregular heart beat, racing heart beat, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, fatigue, weight loss, and fluid buildup in the lungs and abdomen." Unfortunately, 33% of all dogs with this condition show no symptoms until their sudden death.
There is no specific test that can determine if your Dobe has cardiomyopathy, however a combination of tests can be run to discover early signs. Sadly, once diagnosed, the dog will have a very short life span.
Source: Gentle Doberman. (2010, January 23). Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Retrieved December 6, 2011 from http://www.gentledoberman.com/veterinary-care/common-diseases/dilated-cardiomyopathy-dcm.
The scientific term for bloat is gastric dilatation-volvulus or GDV. It starts with the stomach filling with gas and expanding (dilatation) and then the stomach rotates (volvulus). The rotation closes both the entry to and exit from the stomach. This closes the blood vessels and restricts blood flow. There can be damage to the organs and stomach. No one seems to know for certain what causes bloat. These are some suggestions that have been said could minimize the risk:
- Feed small amounts of food, two to three times daily
- Avoid exercise for 1 hour before and 2 hours after meals
- Avoid large amounts of water just before or after eating or exercise.
- Encourage slow eating
- If possible, feed at times when after-feeding behavior can be observed
- Make gradual diet changes
- Feed a high-quality, highly digestible food with normal fiber levels
Signs of bloat:
- Whining, pacing or restlessness
- Hacking noises like they are trying to cough something up
- Salivating - foaming at the mouth
- Inability to get comfortable
- Pale or bluish gums
- Rapid breathing and increased heart rate
- Swelled belly
- Anxiety, pain, weakness
There is NO time to waste. Know where to find the nearest 24 hour full service emergency hospital. Call to alert them you are coming in with a dog who has bloated. They need to be ready for you.
Some Dobermans have poor coats. Fawns and Blues are susceptible to a condition called Color Dilution Alopecia, or CDA. We recommend that you supplement their diet with 1000 mg of Fish Oil, 200 mg of Vitamin E and 3 mg of Melatonin in each meal. These can be purchased at any drug store, grocery store or health food store. They are relatively inexpensive.
If your dog suffers from a thinning coat be sure to have a thyroid check done. If he had a thin coat when you adopted him, check the health record for the results of the thyroid test we had our vet run. Often a thinning coat is a sign of hypothyroidism.