Dobermann Health Issues

Automimmune Haemolytic Anaemia

After the very sudden and tragic loss of Keira in 2012, one of our FOND Dobermanns and now with FOND’s champion Louis in a critical state (January 2016) also suffering from IMHA we thought that fellow adopters and supporters should have more information regarding IMHA.

Much is unknown as to why suddenly antibodies in the dogs blood are produced that attack the red blood cells causing severe anaemia so rapidly that the bone marrow can not keep up with replacing the lost red blood cells thought to be caused by a variety of factors including toxins, infections and congenital inheritance, the most common form is due to a malfunction of the body’s immune system. It occurs mostly in middle aged dogs and is more likely to affect females, the effects of the anaemia damages the major organs due to lack of oxygen, the structure and function of body tissue due to the toxins circulating around the body due to poor liver function and abnormalities of blood clotting leading to blockages of blood vessels.

At present it is not possible to predict which dogs may develop or be a carrier of the disease though it is thought prudent to only breed from bloodlines that have little or no history of incidences of IMHA showing up in their pedigrees.

Please follow this link the fact sheet is available in PDF form on the webpage to gain more detailed information regarding this most distressing of conditions.


Today many organisations and veterinarians are advocating early castration or spaying for our pets. What does this exactly entail? If you have not fully considered the implications you may like to read the following article with its related links and form your own opinion.
on. At the end of the day responsible ownership prevents unwanted puppies and proper socialisation and training produces a dog that is a pleasure to own. If you are considering taking on a
Dobermann they are high maintenance and do require dedicated and knowledgeable owners so please think carefully before taking on one of these beautiful dogs and deal with accredited breeders or organisations who are obviously in a position to offer the back up you may need.

Achillles Tendon Tears and Ruptures

Achilles Tendon

The Achilles tendon is the largest and most complex tendon in a dog, consisting of a group of five tendons. Four of these tendons attach to the heel or calcaneous bone and one goes over the back of the heel bone to the toes of the hind limb

These tendons can break down with tears and ruptures , laceration or degeneration over time, alternatively this condition can be due to sudden trauma.

First indications of the onset of problems are lameness and often the hock(s) become less upright and more parallel with the ground and the dog may walk with a crouching stance

Dobe with damaged tendon

It has been reported that Dobermanns have this chronic form of injury occurring in both rear limbs, more so than any other breed. though, at present it is not known why. You will see in the picture on the left of Kai a Dobermann in our care that his rear hocks are severely affected.

Below is a link with more information regarding treatment, surgery and recovery from an Achilles tendon injury together with a news article published in the Daily Mail in September 2012 describing the special splint aids that can help with post operative care of the condition.


Arthritis (also termed degenerative joint disease) is a condition that sadly affects pets and owners alike. The joints most susceptible to arthritis are those permitting limb movement- called synovial joints. The ends of the bones which meet at the joints are covered by very smooth articular cartilage. The joints are also lubricated with synovial fluid allowing friction free movement.

In dogs with arthritis, this protective cartilage is damaged and worn away, resulting in exposure of the underlying bone, causing pain and inflammation. Secondary new bone is commonly deposited around the joint and may be seen on X-rays. Affected joints commonly appear stiff, swollen and painful. Dogs may have difficulty in getting up after rest and may be reluctant to walk or jump onto chairs or into the car. Additionally, the symptoms are made worse by cold damp weather.


n the majority of cases arthritis occurs following a lifetime of wear and tear on the joints. It may also occur following joint trauma, or as a consequence of joint malformation (e.g.hip dysplasia), resulting in an unstable joint with increased wear and tear on the joint cartilage. Although arthritis cannot usually be cured, the good news is that there are now an expanding range of treatments to help your Dobe, loosing weight can make a huge difference, many dogs benefit from anti-inflammatory pain relief medication and food supplements containing Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulphate, Methylsulfonylmethane (MSN) and Omega 3 Fatty Acids obtained from fish oils

Glucosamine is derived from the shells of crustaceans made up of sugars (glucose) and amino acids. thought to benefit the skeletal system and provide the building blocks to synthesising new joint cartilage. It is a safe and natural ingredient and any excess that is not required by the body is simply excreted by the body in the urine.

Chondroitin Suphate benefits the skeletal system and blocks destructive enzymes that break down cartilage in the joint. There is always a low level of these destructive enzymes in the joint, but when injury or abnormal wear occurs the enzymes multiply.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a naturally occurring form of sulphur produced by ocean planktons and found in cow’s milk meat, seafoods (kelp), fruit, nuts and vegetables. It helps joint support, pain relief and acts as an anti-inflammatory.
Trade named products include Flexicose and Synflex both in liquid form.

Suggested herbal remedies that may help dogs with arthritis are mixed vegetable tablets containing Watercress, Celery Seeds, Horseradish and Parsley taken together with Fenugreek and Garlic tablets. Sadly there is no one cure for this condition but some supplements appear to give relief it is a matter of finding one that helps your dog.

Lick Granuloma

(also known as Acral Lick Dermatitis)

Dobe with Lick Granuloma

Dobermanns are prone to lick granulomas especially when this active breed is left alone for long periods or is living under stressful conditions. There are various triggers besides stress ranging
from bacterial infections, demodectic mange (parasitic mites), allergies to joint disease. A common cause is separation anxiety. The consequence of an untreated lick granuloma is dire and the
condition must be addressed immediately. The picture shows a Dobe whose wound had developed to a very difficult stage to control. The owner was beside himself and wanted to surrender the dog as he
could not cope. A traumatic situation for both dog and owner. Dogs have been known to chew right through to their bone with this obsessive behaviour. Seek veterinary advice immediately if your dog
begins to show signs of obsessive licking or sucking on his joints. You may well have to use an Elizabethan Collar to break the habit as well as address the cause meaning the dog cannot be left
unattended unless you are absolutely one hundred percent sure it cannot aggravate the wound. Some dogs seem more inclined to an outbreak in the Spring/Summer months indicating their problem may be
triggered by an allergic reaction. There are several helpful websites and a more detailed description can be read by clicking here

. Remember it is imperative not to delay treatment as untreated and unsupervised the situation can be irreversible.

Lungworm – is your dog at risk?

Is your dog inquisitive?

Has your dog ever eaten slugs, snails or frogs, either on purpose or by accident ….. and would you know?

Are there foxes, slugs and snails where you live or walk your dog?

If you answered yes to any of the above then your dog could be at risk from a potentially life-threatening lungworm; Angiostrongylus Vasorum which is spread by slugs, snails and occasionally
frogs. Foxes are natural hosts for lungworm and are also responsible for the spread of the disease.

Lungworm is a life threatening disease with more and more cases being reported, it appears to be on the increase. The reason for the increase is unknown. This lungworm used to be confined to South
Wales, the South West and some areas of the South East but increasingly cases are being diagnosed over a much wider area throughout the U.K. and Ireland.

For dogs to become infected they have to eat infected larvae. These may be present in slugs, snails and sometimes frogs. Some dogs may not eat the slugs or snails on purpose but if you leave toys
or bones outside they may accidentally ingest them. Research has shown that the infective lungworm larvae can also be released from the slug or snail in the slimy trail they leave behind, so larvae
could potentially be found wherever these trails appear.

When the lungworm gets inside a dog it can result in a number of quite different symptoms, some of which are easily confused with other illnesses. Your dog could present with one or more of the
following symptoms:

Breathing problems or coughing – tiring more easily

Poor blood clotting leading to excessive bleeding from minor wounds,

nose bleeds, bleeding into the eye and anaemia

Behavioural changes, seizures (fits), spinal pain, weight loss

loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea

For further information you might like to click here

Lungworm is not treated by conventional worming tablets so please see your veterinary surgeon if you think your dog my have been infected.

Autoimmune Hemolytic Anaemia [AIHA]

In hemolytic anaemia, a loss of red blood cells [rbcs] occurs due to destruction of the red blood cells. The destruction occurs due to antibodies which stick to the rbcs 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 recognisable 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 anaemia is occurring. However, 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. 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 anaemia].

Bloat The Killer

This beautiful dog Beau would have died in November 2008 if his owners hadn’t recognised that he had the dreaded bloat and rushed him to the vet immediately.

If you experience a combination of the following:

  • Your dog retches from the throat but nothing is produced, other than a small amount of frothy mucus
  • Your dog tries to defecate unsuccessfully
  • Your dog adopts the ‘Sphinx’ position
  • Your dog’s tummy goes hard and/or swells up like a balloon and is as taut as drum skin
  • Your dog is trying to bite, or worry, the abdomen
  • Your dog is very unsettled

Contact Your Vet Immediately

Bloat is a true emergency – be prepared to drive to the surgery straight away. The chance of survival decreases alarmingly if you delay getting the dog to the surgery more than 60-90 minutes after
the first signs.

So whether you’re about to catch a plane, serve a meal to your family or go to bed – Don’t Please Please Stop and take your dog to the vet.

It could save your dog’s life

Dilated Cardiomyopathy [DCM]

With this condition, the heart is enlarged and compensatory mechanisms are acting to maintain blood flow. The dog will initially have no clinical symptoms – but it will eventually exhibit
lethargy, will tire easily [due to the heart not being able to pump enough blood around the body], start coughing [fluid in lungs], or other similar symptoms [basically the symptoms of congestive
heart failure].

There is no cure for dilated cardiomyopathy, but there are treatments that will improve cardiac function which will diminish the clinical symptoms. The typical treatment consists of enalapril
[angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor], lasix [diuretic], and digoxin [improves the contractility of the heart to make it function better]. The treatment, in addition to lessening the clinical
manifestations of the disease, may prolong the dog’s life. Since cardiomyapathy is a progressive disease, treatment prior to the appearance of clinical symptoms may slow down the progression and
increase the dog’s life expectancy.

Healthy Heart Checks for Dobermanns!

“Healthy Heart Checks For Dobermanns and Doberman Dogs” />

Leading veterinary cardiologists are looking for owners of purebred Dobermanns (between 5 and 9 years old, in good health), who would be willing to allow their dog to be screened for early signs
of heart disease.

One or more common causes of heart disease in dogs is dilated cardiomyopathy. Here the heart muscle becomes flabby and weak, so that eventually the heart is unable to pump effectively. This can
take many months or years, meaning that the dog may have heart disease for a long time before visible symptoms can be seen by the vet and owner. However, eventually it results in the appearance of
signs of heart failure, such as weakness, exercise tolerance, difficulty breathing, coughing and weight loss.

The condition is most common in large (e.g. Dobermanns) and giant (e.g. Great Danes) breeds of dogs. The cardiologists are specifically interested in the effects of the disease in Dobermanns, and
a medication (pimobendan) that may delay the onset of symptoms of heart failure. This medication is already licensed, and widely used to manage the symptoms of heart failure in dogs once they

If you are interested in taking part in this study and your dog is suitable for screening, you will be offered a free of charge consultation and a detailed diagnostic examination by one of the
UK’s leading veterinary cardiologists. Should your dog be identified as having the hidden signs of dilated cardiomyopathy, it will then enter a free long term trial.

For further information, or if you would be interested in helping with this study, please contact your veterinary surgeon, or phone the PROTECT information line on 01344 742574 and leave your
details. Thank you.

Hypothyroidism and Dobermanns

(This article was originally published in the Dog World Dobermann Showcase of 17 June 2009. All rights reserved by the author. This article may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without the
author’s written permission. Sue Thorn has the Grafmax Dobermann kennel.)

The thyroid gland is one of the glands that make up the endocrine system. Endocrine glands are glands that produce hormones – chemicals that move around through the blood stream and affect
almost every aspect of life, from reproduction and growth, through to food metabolism and stress. The thyroid gland is particularly involved in metabolism, and thyroid hormone affects almost all
tissues in the body. This endocrine system is largely controlled by the pituitary gland, the ‘master’ gland, which is about the size of a pea in humans and which sits just under the brain
and connects it with the rest of the hormone system. The pituitary gland controls the workings of all these hormone glands by a system of feedback. So the pituitary gland produces thyroid-stimulating
hormone (TSH), which circulates through the blood until it reaches the thyroid glands in the neck, where it tells them to produce thyroid hormone. In simple terms, this is produced in two forms
– T3 (triiodothyronine, the active form) and T4 (thyroxine, the precursor hormone, some of which will be converted to T3). The thyroid hormone flows around the bloodstream, with the T3 acting
on a range of tissues, until it gets back to the pituitary, where it causes the pituitary gland to tell the thyroid glands to produce more, or less, thyroid hormone to keep the system in balance.

Normally the endocrine system works remarkably well, but occasionally things go wrong, and one of these can be when the thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone. This is
hypothyroidism (not to be confused with hyperthyroidism, where there is too much thyroid hormone). Hypothyroidism in dogs is usually caused by damage to the tissue of the thyroid gland. This can be
caused by the dog’s own immune system attacking it (autoimmune hypothyroidism) or by atrophy (wasting away) of the gland itself. It is thought that the latter may actually be a result of
earlier autoimmune attack. There are other potential causes, including pituitary malfunction and congenital hypothyroidism, but these are thought to be rare in dogs.

The Dobermann is one of several breeds of dog where hypothyroidism is especially prevalent. Symptoms usually start showing in ‘middle age’ – about five years onwards. Recent work
has identified a genetic marker that is twice as likely to be present in hypothyroid Dobes, but because it can also be present in ones with normal thyroid function, it is not a useful test on its
own. It is possible to measure antibodies against the thyroid gland proteins from which thyroid hormones are made (TgAA test), which would indicate if your Dobe is at risk of developing autoimmune
hypothyroidism later in life, but note that only about 20% of dogs that test positive will go on to become hypothyroid. Also, a negative TgAA test is only applicable at that point; the dog could go
on to develop antibodies at any later time.

As with many endocrine diseases, the symptoms of hypothyroidism can be confused with a range of other illnesses, so although the symptoms below can be an indication that investigation for
hypothyroidism should be carried out, they do not, of themselves, indicate that the dog is hypothyroid. Symptoms include:

decreased appetite

weight gain despite normal levels of feeding

hair loss – a ‘rat’s tail’ can be a noticeable symptom.

recurring skin infections – dogs can be scaly and also smelly, due to excessive oil production

lethargy or listlessness, unwillingness to exercise


slow heart rate

nerve disorders, including facial paralysis, head tilt, muscle wastage and stiffness

constipation, vomiting or diarrhoea

If it is suspected that your Dobe is hypothyroid, your vet will carry out one or more tests. This is by no means straightforward.

Measuring levels of T3 is not helpful on its own because levels fluctuate and can be in the normal range for dogs that are hypothyroid.

Measuring total T4 (TT4) levels can be useful, but unfortunately this can be affected by other illnesses or by drugs the dog is taking, including steroid replacement and anti-inflammatories. A
normal result means the dog is unlikely to be hypothyroid, but a positive result does not necessarily mean it is hypothyroid. Therefore, if the total T4 result is positive, it needs to be backed up
with a TSH test.

Measuring the free T4 (the very small proportion of the T4 that is available to be converted to T3; about 1/1000 of total T4) by equilibrium dialysis (ED) is probably the most accurate test.

If your vet confirms that your Dobe is hypothyroid, the treatment is fairly simple. Your dog will be given synthetic thyroxine, either in tablet or liquid form, which it will need to take for
life. Your vet will check periodically to ensure that your Dobe’s thyroid levels remain normal and it does not become hyperthyroid. There is no reason why your dog should not have a normal
lifespan and lead an active life. Do not be tempted to buy ‘alternative’ types of thyroxine replacement (eg pig thyroid) as their proportions of T3 and T4 can be variable and anyway are
unlikely to be in the correct proportions for dogs.

As stated above, although we do know this is a genetic issue, we do not yet know enough about the genetics to be able to confirm whether individual dogs are genetically susceptible. So, if your
bloodline seems to be susceptible to hypothyroidism, what are the implications for breeding? It would be sensible to look for suitable mates for your dogs whose bloodlines do not seem to be
susceptible, as evidenced by a recent negative TgAA test, but only where this is consistent with other positive health indications. Given that the Dobermann gene pool is fairly small, and that
hypothyroidism is not fatal and is one of the more easily managed genetic diseases, rigorously attempting to exclude hypothyroidism, even if this were possible, might just cause other genetic defects
to be magnified, or new ones to emerge. Remember that the prevalence of hypothyroidism in human women may be as high as 9%, and we don’t suggest men have their prospective mothers-in-law
tested! As with all of life, good judgement and common sense are key.

© 2009 Sue Thorn and reproduced with her kind permission.


A hormonal disorder usually occurring in dogs that are around 2-5 years old. Clinical signs are lethargy, hair loss, bacterial skin infections, excessive skin pigmentation, coarseness of the hair,
and obesity. Dogs affected will be lethargic and will tend to feel the cold more. This condition can be diagnosed by means of a simple blood test.

Hip Dysplasia [HIPS]

Hip dysplasia means, literally, an abnormality in the development of the hip joint, and it is characterized by a shallow acetabulum [the ‘cup’ of the hip joint], together with changes in the shape
of the femoral head [the ‘ball’ of the hip joint]. These changes may occur due to excessive laxity in the hip joint. Hip dysplasia can exist with or without clinical signs. When dogs exhibit clinical
signs of this problem they are usually lame on one or both rear limbs.

Severe arthritis can develop as a result of the malformation of the hip joint, and this results in pain as the disease progresses. Many young dogs exhibit pain during or shortly after the growth
period, often before arthritic changes appear to be present. It is not unusual for this pain to appear to disappear for several years and then to return when arthritic changes become obvious.