Albinism - "white coated" and "white factored" Dobermans should NOT be bred. These dogs are tyrosinase positive albinos. In 1996, the AKC established a tracking system (the letter "Z" will be part of the registration number) allowing breeders to identify the normal colored Dobermans which may carry the albinistic gene. A list with all dogs tracing back to Shebah's (the first Albino Doberman registered) parents is available here. All breeders should require an AKC certified pedigree with colors to check that "white coated" and "white factored" dogs are not present in the pedigree of the dog or bitch to be bred.
Cardiomyopathy - is suspected to be an inherited disease in Dobermans. Research is in progress in several institutions. An echocardiogram of the heart will confirm the disease but will not guarantee that the disease will not develop in the future. A 24 hour holter will record Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs). It is recommended that both annual Holters (24 hours) and annual echocardiograms are done.
Hip Dysplasia - 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.
Hypothyroidism - is probably inherited and means that the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormone to adequately maintain the dog's metabolism. It is easily treated with thyroid replacement pills on a daily basis. Thyroid testing (T3, T4, TSH and autoantibodies) should be performed on an annual schedule. Finding autoantibodies to thyroglobulin (T4 autoantibodies) is an indication that the dog has "Hashimoto's Disease". Low thyroid dogs, manifested by a high TSH and a low T4, should be treated and monitored on a regular basis.
vWd (Von Willebrand's Disease) - is an autosomal (not sex linked) inherited bleeding disorder with a prolonged bleeding time and a mild to severe factor IX deficiency. Von Willebrand's factor antigens of 70% 180% are considered to be within the normal range for Dobermans. When dogs are tested through the Elisa assay blood test for vWD, they are tested for carrier status only NOT the disease. It is believed that carrier status tests (Elisa assay) are inaccurate if a dog is ill, received any medication or vaccination within 14 days of testing, pregnancy, bitches in heat or lactation. Stress conditions (infections, parasites, hormonal changes, trauma, surgery, emotional upset, etc.) may have an effect on the outcome of the vWD blood test and might be a contributing factor for bleeding tendencies. vWD carrier status is quite common in Dobermans. A DNA test for vWD is now available - genetically: clear, carrier (inherited one disease gene), affected (inherited two disease genes) - results are not effected by stress conditions, etc.
Wobbler's Syndrome - is suspected to be an inherited condition in Dobermans. Dogs suffer from spinal cord compression caused by cervical vertebral instability or from a malformed spinal canal. Extreme symptoms are paralysis of the limbs (front, hind or all 4). Neck pain with extension and flexion may or may not be present. Surgical therapy is hotly debated and in some surgically treated cases, clinical recurrence has been identified.
PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) - 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.