Difficulties with Dobermans

November 16, 2016
Ross Clark, DVM
Ross Clark, DVM

Veterinary Economics Practice Management Editor, Ross Clark, DVM, founded Woodland West PetCare Centers in Tulsa, Okla., and the National PetCare Centers. He has served as a judge for the Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Conference for more than 20 years.

Many people mistakenly think Doberman pinschers, which have stood alongside soldiers and police officers, arent in need of attention and affection. But being misunderstood isnt the breeds only dilemma. Here are five common Doberman pinscher problems veterinarians should know.

All images courtesy of Getty ImagesEditor's note: Breed details are reprinted with permission from Medical, Genetic & Behavioral Risk Factors of Doberman Pinschers. And you can click here for details on Dr. Clark's entire series on dog breeds.


A relatively new breed, the Doberman pinscher was developed in the late 1800s by Herr Karl Louis Dobermann, a tax collector, night watchman and dog pound caretaker who wanted to create a breed that would protect him as he performed his various duties. Sleek and trim in appearance, the Doberman is a mixture of many breeds, including the smooth-haired German pinscher and certain shepherd strains.

Dobermans are frequently misunderstood. Although they were bred to be tough, courageous protectors, they are also loving companions that need to be treated as family members. Out of either indifference or ignorance, they often end up in unsuitable homes.

But that isn't their only battle. Dobermans are also genetically predisposed to develop a wide range of medical issues. ­­­­

5 common Doberman pinscher problems

VonWillebrand's disease (vWD): This condition refers to low levels of vonWillebrand's factor (vWF), a multimeric glycoprotein that, in conjunction with Factor III, is responsible for platelet adhesion. Dobermans are affected by type 1 vWD in which there is a reduced level of vWF but where all multimers are present. It is estimated that about one third of the breed are affected by vWD and one half are carriers.

Dilated cardiomyopathy: Dobermans have the highest incidence of dilated cardiomyopathy of any breed, and the disease appears to be evenly distributed between males and females. Dogs may have a long period of myocardial failure without clinical signs (occult dilated cardiomyopathy), and ventricular arrhythmias are often the first clinical sign. However, because of the early asymptomatic period, sudden death may be the first sign of the disease.

Color dilution alopecia: Blue and fawn Doberman pinschers are highly predisposed to color dilution alopecia. The frequency of this condition can be as high as 93% in blues and 75% in fawns. Initial signs include dorsal alopecia and folliculitis with lighter colored dogs presenting at an earlier age. The rate of hair loss is progressive, and lighter colored dogs with color dilution alopecia are almost completely bald by the time they are 2 or 3 years old.

Chronic active hepatitis: Decreased excretion of biliary copper appears to be an inciting factor in some Dobermans for this inflammatory liver disease in which lymphocytes and plasmacytes accumulate in the liver, leading to fibrosis and eventually cirrhosis and liver failure.

Cervical vertebral instability: Also called wobbler syndrome, cervical vertebral instability is an all-inclusive term that describes several conditions that result in stenosis of the cervical vertebral canal and spinal cord compression. Clinical signs, including severe neck pain and rear limb ataxia leading to paresis, can appear in dogs between the ages of 4 and 10 and are often caused by Hansen's type II protrusion of the annulus fibrosis at C5-6 or C6-7. Unlike other affected breeds, Dobermans can experience front leg rigidity, and the condition is more common in males than in females. 


Ross Clark, DVM, founded Woodland West PetCare Centers in Tulsa, Okla., and the National PetCare Centers. He is the author of Open Book Management.