The vast majority of the Doberman Pinscher breed of dogs are extremely health canines that live on average 12 to 14 years. They tend to have several health conditions that are common in other breeds and no common major health concerns that are unique within the Doberman breed. It is highly likely that the strong foundation stock that was used to start the breed in the late 1800ís had these genetic conditions as well, and they continue to be present in the modern day Doberman Pinscher as well as the existing foundation breeds.
Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD)
Canine hip dysplasia occurs in almost every large breed and the vast majority of medium sized dogs. This condition is hereditary and is actual a malformation of the ligaments around the hip joint that allow the ball and socket to become loose. When this happens the ball slides around in the socket, eventually leading to bone on bone contact as the dog moves. The lubricating gel and cartilage also deteriorates with this constant friction, leading to arthritis and degenerative joint conditions.
There are some treatments for hip dysplasia however there is no complete cure other than a surgical hip replacement. Since these are very costly and are only effective in younger dogs, they are not common. Dietary supplements, high quality foods, regular exercise and testing of all breeding dogs is essential to minimize the risk of the dog developing worsening conditions. However, even with these precautions the joint will eventually become more and more problematic. Hip dysplasia can be tested for through the OFA or the PennHIP program. Any dog found to have hip dysplasia, even if is not causing any problems for the dog, should be removed from the breeding program.
Von Willebrandís Disease (VWD)
Similar to canine hip dysplasia, Von Willebrandís Disease is also inherited. It is actually a reduced supply of a specific clotting factor in the blood, leading to excessive bleeding. It is very similar to hemophilia in humans, and it is both manageable and typically not life threatening unless the dog experiences some type of accident or trauma. The most common symptoms include bleeding around the teeth, bloody urine or stool or excessive bleeding from even minor scrapes.
Dogs that have Von Willebrandís Disease have to be specially treated prior to surgery and should always be carefully monitored to avoid any type of injury. In some cases blood transfusions may be required to boost the clotting factor to allow dogís to heal after severe injury. Many owners may not realize their puppy has the condition until they have some minor surgery, which in the case of Doberman Pinschers may be cropping of the ears, docking or the tail or spaying or neutering.
Wobbler syndrome is seen in several breeds, however the type of Wobbler Syndrome most commonly seen in Doberman Pinscher is a late onset variety. Dogs that have had great coordination and movement all through their lives suddenly begin to have difficulty in movement, walking and standing. This is not caused by any type of trauma or injury and often is misunderstood by the owner to simply be caused by the natural aging of the dog.
Wobbler syndrome occurs because of a malformation in the cervical vertebrae in the neck. They are actually compressed, leading to a narrowing of the hole that allows the spinal cord to pass through the vertebrae. As this pressure or compression increases the nerves pinch and cease to function.
Typically first signs are seen in the hind legs with a very wide, splayed type of stance. The dog often seems partially crouched in the hindquarters and they may sway from side to side or wobble, even if the dog is standing. A typical sign of early Wobbler syndrome is dragging the toes as the dog moves his or her hind legs in normal movement. This will become worse and progress to the front legs as well. Over time full paralysis can occur however the dog remains alert and typically does not show other neurological symptoms.
Treatment may include the use of corticosteroids to reduce swelling, combined with spinal surgery to decompress the spine at the neck. In situations where the treatment is completed early the condition can be reversed or minimized, but once the dog has become fully paralyzed the spinal cord itself may be permanently damaged.
In addition to the above mentioned conditions the Doberman Pinscher may also be likely to develop bloat if they are dogs that gulp their food or drink a lot of water during meals. It is important to carefully monitor the signs of discomfort or anxiety immediately after eating and to feed two or more smaller meals rather than one big meal per day. The signs of bloat should be reviewed by everyone in the family since it can cause death if the stomach twists and cuts of blood flow. In addition the rising pressure can push against the heart and lungs, leading to death in a few hours if not treated.
Like most of the working dogs there is the possibility of several different heart conditions in the Doberman Pinscher. Often these conditions are made much worse if the Doberman Pinscher is allowed to gain weight. It is essential to constantly monitor the Doberman Pinschers weight and to adjust food and exercise to keep the dog in a healthy weight range. The Doberman Pinscher is known to be rather food possessive and may have a tendency to eat everything in its bowl rather than to stop when full. Feeding dogs separately and feeding to rations rather than when the dog stops eating is important.
Most Doberman Pinschers are very calm in the house and are not highly active outdoors unless they have a job to do. Routine exercise with your Doberman Pinscher will help them stay in great shape as well as minimizing any destructive behaviors that can occur with a lack of exercise.
Some all white Doberman Pinschers, also known as albino Dobermans, may be more prone to having vision and hearing problems. As with any all white breeds, puppies that born completely white may be born deaf, so hearing checks are essential if you are considering one of these non-recognized color variations.