Newly funded study on chronic hepatitis in Doberman Pinschers


Funded by Morris Animal Foundation and conducted by veterinary research team at Utrecht University

OlgaOvcharenko /

OlgaOvcharenko /

Morris Animal Foundation (MAF) announced it will fund a study on chronic hepatitis in Doberman Pinschers. This research will be conducted by a veterinary team at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. MAF hopes that with this study, there can be a change seen in the outcomes for Doberman Pinschers affected by chronic hepatitis.

“Hepatitis is a serious but often overlooked disease of dogs, including Dobermans,” said Kathy Tietje, PhD, MBA, MAF vice president, scientific operations, in the release.1 “This study has the potential to provide new insights into this important problem and identify disease susceptibility earlier, which can lead to better clinical outcomes for these dogs.”1

According to the release, chronic hepatitis is a serious, sometimes fatal progressive inflammatory disease of the liver.1 The disease can more likely affect female dogs of this breed and is typically seen in middle-aged to older dogs. This disease is likely to be caused or worsened by high levels of copper in the liver and bloodstream.2 According to the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) it is currently not known why the Doberman is predisposed to develop the condition, but a genetic defect in copper metabolism in this breed is likely. Early diagnosis of chronic hepatitis is difficult because the clinical signs are non-specific and include weight loss, weakness, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Signs of later stages of the condition include abdominal swelling and jaundice, and confusion/altered consciousness may occur when increased copper levels affect brain function.2

The study funded by MAF will be led by Hille Fieten, DVM, PhD, MSc, DECVIM-CA, assistant professor of the department of clinical sciences. The research team will first look for genetic changes that influence development of hepatitis in Dobermans, aiming to help breeders make informed breeding decisions. In addition, researchers will use banked study samples to look for biomarkers of disease with the goal of developing an early disease-detection test.1

“As a clinician, you often feel powerless when you see these patients in clinic,” said Fieten in the release. “The current research project is aimed at unraveling the hereditary background of Doberman hepatitis. If we can successfully identify DNA mutations and biomarkers associated with disease, it could lead to more insights on disease development. This might be useful not only for the Doberman, but also for other dogs that suffer from similar forms of hepatitis.”1


  1. Morris Animal Foundation announces newly funded study on hepatitis in Dobermans. News release. Morris Animal Foundation. Published February 2, 2023. Accessed February 3, 2023.
  2. Genetic welfare problems of companion animals. Universities Federation for Animal Welfare. Published 2015. Accessed February 3, 2023.,in%20the%20liver%20and%20bloodstream.
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