DOBERMANN HEALTH

       

The overall health of the Dobermann is very good. The average lifespan, is not so good averaging 9.5 years of age. The average lifespan of Aritaur Dobermanns is 10.9.

These are health conditions below are those which can affect the Dobermann, and not those that necessarily do. Humans can no more create a dog with perfect health than we can creat humans We can only do our best.

There is no regulation for health testing dogs for breeding and registering in the UK. KC registration is not an indicator of the health or quality of a dog as even puppy farmers can still KC register pups. A dog with severe heart problems, Hip Dysplasia, Von Willebrands Disease, going blind from severe PHPV could become a Champion and be widely used as a stud dog. Some breeders who like to see some 'red' (denoting Championship status) on their pedigrees, could take their (untested) bitches to a (untested) Champion and produce a fine litter on paper, but not in health. Health tests are not a guarantee of a healthy animal but indicate the breeder cares about the health of their dogs and puppies.

Aritaur is one of the foremost health testing kennels in the UK. We remain the only UK Dobermann breeders to test AND PUBLISH ALL results from ALL our dogs whether shown or not. We sincerely believe in health testing and will never knowingly sell a puppy with serious health problems. That does not, however, stop us having dogs who have suffered from hip problems, heart etc although fortunately very few, but any breeder who tells you their dogs don't have any such problems are lying.

We do feel strongly that to remove a top quality dog from the gene pool due to a poor test (within reason) if all other health aspects are excellent is detrimental. If the dog is a superb example of breed type, has an outstanding character and otherwise excellent health, to remove him or her is idealistic and would ultimately result in no Dobermanns being bred.

There are breeders currently selling puppies for £800 + whose parents have not had one health test. We can all do our best to test for those diseases we can identify and act rationally and logically on them. Our only exceptions to that above, is that Aritaur will never knowingly compromise on DCM or to breed a dog who may bleed from VWd.

There are 5 conditions to be aware of with Dobermanns, scroll down for details on each:

DCM (Dilated Cardiomyopathy)
Von Willebrands (Haemophilia)
Hip Dysplasia
PHPV (Eyes) - Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous
Thyroid

DCM - Dilated Cardiomyopathy - Heart

All mammals will eventually die of heart failure if they remain otherwise healthy, but DCM is a specific Dobermann heart disease causing weakening of the left ventricle and muscle walls. The left ventricle becomes dilated and has no muscle strength. There are two types of death from DCM - the first is sudden and unexplained death from an otherwise apparently healthy dog, the other is the prolonged death where the dog backs up with fluid, starts to cough to expel fluid from the lungs. If a Dobermann starts to cough and kennel cough is ruled out, DCM should be considered. DCM is not specific to age, but most DCM dogs successfully hide their condition which starts to be symptomatic usually from around 5 onwards. There is no cure, just medication - primarily diuretics. DCM is something to be well aware of in your choice of breeder.

DCM is the Dobermanns' 3rd biggest killer after old age and cancer. DCM is hereditary and dogs can and do die very young. All Aritaur dogs (breeding or not) who live with us are tested annually/18 mths for clinical signs of DCM. We are also taking immediate advantage of the new DNA test and opt for full disclosure of our results without prior sight of them. Until all gene markers are identifed, no breeder can avoid DCM completely but we can all do our best to reduce the risk of the disease.

It is unacceptable for some breeders to ignore DCM. If you don't choose us for your puppy, at least ask your breeder the ages of their dogs parents and grandparents when they died, and what they died of. There are very few alternative explanations for sudden death other than DCM. Click HERE for Aritaur DCM results.

 

*IN MEMORY OF BRANDY*

This is for anyone who thinks DCM 'doesn't matter'.

Please take a good, long look at Brandy. Brandy was diagnosed with DCM at just 4 months of age. She died when she was only just 2 years old.

The breeder and stud dog owner's names are witheld because although they didn't support the family and amazingly later repeated the mating knowing about Brandy's condition, the DCM gene is estimated to be carried by around 50% of the breed worldwide. Thanks to work at Liverpool University, co-ordinated by the Dobermann Breed Council and generously funded by Boehringer Ingelheim, free heart testing has been available for Dobermanns aged between 5-9 years. Although this is such a serious problem, sadly very few breeders have their dogs tested despite free funding. Testing once in a dog's lifetime is not sufficient. DCM is a progressive disease and dogs must be checked regularly.

Stethoscope testing is not Cardio testing and cannot identify DCM. Nor can X-ray. Ask the breeder you are talking to about health. If their response is flippant, you have your answer over whether they care about health or not.

               
                                   

Although her breeder didn't care, Brandy was blessed with a wonderful family who loved and gave her the utmost care, but living with this illness every day takes it's toll on everyone.

Their breeder should have done it, but we gifted a puppy to the family to fill the huge gap left by Brandy. It was the least Brandy's breeders could have done - if indeed they had wanted another puppy from non heart tested parents.

     

5th OCT 2010 Dr. Kate Meurs (US) has identified one of the genetic mutations responsible for causing Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dobermanns. There is now a DNA test to identify one of the genes (possibly 2 or 3) which are known to cause DCM. Scroll down for news.

 

Following the live streaming lecture by genetic scientist Kate Meurs at the US Nationals 5th Oct 2010 (recorded if you haven’t yet watched it at - http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/9997484 ) we are delighted that Kate Meurs has now discovered one of the genetic mutations responsible for causing Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Dobermanns.
Although this does not mean the end to DCM yet, it is a massive step towards eventually eliminating it. This test will not dictate when the disease will appear, or how quickly the illness takes our Dobes, so it will still be important for annual echo's and Holters until such time that a complete test is found, however, what this test can tell us is that when Positive Heterozygous is identified we will know not to mate two Positive dogs (two copies of the mutation) together, as progeny WILL develop DCM and die prematurely.

If you consider how VWD is passed on (clear, carrier, affected), the punnett equation would work like so:

Where "A" is Positive/Affected and "a" is Clear/Negative:

Aa x aa would mean offspring would each have a 50% chance of inheriting the illness.

Aa x Aa would mean offspring would each have a 75% chance of inheriting the illness.

AA x aa or AA x AA would mean 100% would inherit the illness.

At the current time, dogs tested Clear dogs may still die of DCM because the ‘other’ affected gene has not yet been identified, and that can only be done with more testing. Aritaur will continue to Echo cardio test because the gene marker identification is not yet a definitive test of the development of the disease; it is an invaluable tool with which to make informed breeding decisions. Equally if your dog does come back with a positive result, it does not mean your dog will develop DCM, but does mean that you should continue regular cardio testing.

Results can be published on the DPCA (Doberman Pinscher Club of America) DCM database, or kept confidential. Click HERE for Aritaur results - in the new orange column.

There is also now a Troponin test for Dobermanns, which identifies levels of the Troponin hormone in the dog. High levels of Troponin indicate possible heart problems. For this very low cost test, and used in association with the above, we will at least know whether our dogs were heart healthy at the time of testing.

                               
VWD - Von Willebrands Disease - Bleeding disorder

VWd is an recessive bleeding disorder (similar to haemophillia) where the blood fails to clot. There is a specific DNA test now available (Finnzymes - Finland). There are 3 status' ~ clear, carrier and affected. The chart below details possible breeding pair combinations in order to reduce the significance of the disease in a breed. There is no risk in producing carrier animals (eliminating a large proportion of those dogs from a breeding pool in the short term is extremely deleterious to the breed). Carriers cannot bleed or suffer from VWd complications. All our dogs at home are tested for Von Willebrands Disease. We have mostly clear and some carrier animals in our kennels and will not knowingly breed to produce affected animals. Just because a dog is affected, it does not mean they will necessarily bleed. Bleeding depends on other health conditions and the levels of Von Willebrands 'factor' in the blood.

Breeding Pair Combinations for eradication of Von Willebrands Disease

                             Clear Male                          Carrier Male                                        Affected Male
 Clear Female    100% clear                    50/50 carrier/clear                             100% carrier
 Carrier Female  50/50 carrier/clear   25/50/25 clear/carrier/affected  50/50 carrier/affected
 Affected Female 100% carrier                 50/50 carrier/affected                 100% affected

Ideal Breeding Pair : Puppies will not have the disease gene either as carrier or affected

Breeding is Safe: No affected puppies will be produced. However, some or all puppies will be carriers. Accordingly, it is recommended that carrier dogs which are desirable for breeding, be bred with clear dogs in the future, which will produce 50% carrier dogs, and 50% clear animals, to further reduced the disease gene frequency. These offspring should be tested for this defective gene, and if appropriate (alongside other considerations), only the clear animals in this generation should be used.

High Risk Breeding: Some puppies are likely to be carriers, and some puppies are likely to be affected. Although there may be some clear puppies when breeding carrier to carrier, this type of breeding is not recommended.

Affected to Affected -Breeding Not Recommended: All puppies will be genetically affected. The only option for breeding from an affected animal, is to a clear animal as the ultimate goal has to be to produce clear animals. However, each time a dog is eliminated from a breeding program it minimizes the genepool. The purebred population of a breed cannot afford to downsize their population - ie choice of mate by avoiding carrier animals completely, as other serious problems would quickly arise by restricting breeding to a small selection of only clear dogs. If a small genepool of affected animals is frequently bred from, the lower the clotting factor in the offspring therefore producing greatly increased risk of bleeding.

We will never knowingly breed to produce a VWd affected puppy. Before DNA testing was available we produced a VWd affected bitch. She is now coming up 10 years old and apparently has remarkable clotting actor, but we Fortunately now only produce Clear or Carriers.

Click HERE for Aritaur VWd results

   
               
HYPOTHYROIDISM & THYROID AUTO-IMMUNE - TgAA

Hypothyroidism is a hormonal disorder of a lack of thyroid hormone in the Dobermann, usually occurring around 2-5 years of age. Symptoms can be lethargy, hair loss (usually bilateral on the flanks) and coarseness of the hair, and obesity. Dogs who are affected will be lethargic, feel the cold and often shiver, huddling close to a source of warmth. Diagnosis is by means of a blood test. Treatment is by means of a daily dose of Thyroxine for life. There may be a link between onset Hypothyroidism, Auto Immune and 'Acquired' VWd. However, this appears not to be 'true' VWd, possibly another bleeding disorder prompted by the above. At this stage it is pure supposition, but it does demonstrate the need for wider Hypothyroidism testing.

Do not just dismiss Thyroid as an irrelevant test or condition. Thyroid affects everything from mood to fertility and other organ failure and has (in one UK bloodline ofwhich we are aware), caused the dog to die. One previously Top Breeder currently offers a dog he bred, who receives daily thyroxine medication for his clinical hypo-thyroidism, at stud, obviously not caring how many of his offspring he may afflict with the disease.

A dog may be clinically clear of hypo (producing insufficient thyroid hormone) or hyper (too much) thyroid-ism, but may be genetically affected - Canine Thyroglobulin Autoantibodies (TgAA). For some years, we have tested our breeding bitches and stud dogs for TgAA - in order not to pass the problem onto progeny. It is not therefore acceptable to just test and claim your dogs are free from clinical symptoms if you are a breeder/stud dog owner. An estimated 80% of cases of canine hypothyroidism result from heritable autoimmune (lymphocytic) thyroiditis. The presence of elevated TgAA levels confirms thyroiditis and promotes early recognition of the disorder

Click HERE for Aritaur Thyroid and TgAA results

HIP DYSPLASIA - HD

To examine the hips, dogs are usually heavily sedated and x-rays are taken when the dog is lying on it's back. The aim is to see how well the hip joint fits into the socket.

This subject has become of great interest to us, having produced some unexpected high scores on superbly moving animals. How can a dog who moves perfectly and shows no sign of aching or pain, have a score which everyone suggests is synonymous with hip dysplasia? We therefore did a great deal of research to discover if we had more of a problem than anyone else or if the supposed* 'average' UK score of 10 was, truly reflective of the state of the breed? We reviewed statistics, talked to other breeders (in different breeds - few Dobe breeders test to our extent and no others publish their 'poor' scores, only their good - that is if their vets are ever allowed by their clients to send them off - who can really blame them when they are afraid of a backlash), and spoke with Jeff Sampson, Geneticist at the KC and AHT and Malcolm Willis, Geneticist (Ret) for the BVA. We did our thorough research and did not act on hearsay or on a minute sample of the breed population. We didn't just follow blindly as many do saying 'that's the score and we should stick to it.' (If that was the case everyone would still be eating BSA burgers - because we were told by the government it was ok!)

Why would we consider using a dog above the 'UK average?

FACTS: *With an average of 3,000 registrations annually, and around 30 dogs scored annually, 1% is wholly insufficient to gain a true average. Considering how few breeders/owners test, and that some breeders will not let the vet submit any poor results to the BVA, it is unsurprising that the UK has such an apparently low and stable score average.The BVA state that: "Breeders wishing to reduce the risk of HD should select their breeding stock (both dogs and bitches) only from animals with hip scores well below the Breed Mean Score. Many clinically sound dogs may have high HD scores and should not therefore be used for breeding". Ideal in theory, but reducing the gene pool of otherwise healthy dogs by removing a dog with one comparatively 'poor' score wouldn't leave us with many decent dogs from which to choose, and in the current state of affairs, probably only a handful of stud dogs as so few test. It may very well be that those handful of dogs have other far worse problems, indeed.

It is uncommon to see severe dysplasia in Dobermanns. HD is primarily hereditary, although environmental factors such as a high protein diet and over exercise in puppies may play a large part in the development of the disease. X-Rays can be carried out usually from one year of age. The mode of inheritance of Hip Dysplasia is unknown, as identifying the gene marker responsible for HD is not currently possible given the variable scores of each factor. The pelvis and surrounding area is also taken into consideration on the overall score. Parents with excellent scores can produce progeny with very poor scores - ie two GSD brothers we knew of who were raised in the same household, on the same diet with the same environmental factors. Parents were 0:2 and 2:2, grandparents were 1:0, 2:1, 1:0 and 3:2, produced the brothers - one was scored at 2:2, the other at 86. Malcolm Willis, the internationally respected geneticist produced a BMD litter with two siblings - one scored at a total of 8, the other at 88. He later repeated the mating. In any breeding programme it is the overall health status which is fundamental to good breeding. Generally higher scoring parents produce a higher average. Generally the higher the score, the higher probability of clinical signs of the disease in the dog. Scoring is not an exact science. Is 15; 20; 25; 30; 40, 50 a 'bad' score? There is no figure at which any particular dog becomes clinically dysplastic.

Aritaur have had excellent scores and poor scores. Rather than turn a blind eye and ignore results, we will continue to score our dogs to enable us to identify any real issues we have from the dogs we breed from. Regrettably one silly girl who had a dog from us who had a high score, recently suggested that we "have a problem with hips". It is interesting how much focus there is about hips, yet how few breeders and owners score! Such comments are what causes most people not to test, because they are afraid of something imperfect being discovered on their dogs (preferring to live in blissful ignorance). According to Jeff Sampson - KC geneticist, "we have no more of a problem than anyone else - some people focus on the negative - but the more research you do, the more things you unearth which can make you look like you have a problem". A healthy breeding line is not one which relies on just one or two dogs in the kennel having a good result.

The breed average in our kennel from the 14 dogs tested to date is 15 out of a total possible score of 106. Our Aritaur range is is averaged on the basis of dogs scores 4 (2:2) to 64 (32:32). It is known that nutrition and early exercise has a large effect on hips. Whilst it can’t of course alter the shape of the socket, the degree of laxity could be altered. The Americans work on a system of Penn Hip Scoring which does measure exactly that, the degree of laxity. Two UK vets now offering the PennHip, we would recommend Mike Guillard at Nantwich Veterinary Hospital.

                     
         
        translation: still permitted    
        translation: middle
        translation: heavy/severe  
   

Therefore does hip scoring matter? What does this magical figure 10 actually mean?! If you are able to take a wider view of health test results, equate them to what you actually see in reality and not go off half cocked on a poor result, then yes. Although our commitment to testing all Aritaur dogs we breed from means we will inevitably bring up more good and poor results, we will continue to test in order to a) inform ourselves fully of what problems we have or don't, and b) in order that we don't combine two poor results. The danger comes when people have one test on one dog and think it gives them a wide profile of the health of their line.

The real test for us is how our dogs move, how healthy they are conformationally and how well they get around even in old age, not that their score is 10.

   

Talking with another Top Breeder for many years of a large breed which has has it's fair share of HD problems, I asked if he tested his dogs. Emphatically no, was the answer! One of his reasons was that for over 40 years, Germany have strictly refused to allow any dog scoring over the breed average to be bred from. When he judged in Germany, he said that his breed in Germany "is a disaster, with cow hocked dogs, so straight behind they're walking on stilts who look like they are in pain when they move". This experienced breeder has seen no correlation between high scores and poor movement which should be the defining factor in assessing dysplasicity.

Between 1984 and 1991, the BVA only sent score results over to the KC for publishing of scores below a total of 8! Apparently the release forms only allowed the BVA to send for publishing scores 8 or below - presumably so owners weren't embarassed with high scores, but the breed ‘average’ score is therefore only since 1991 – around 822 dogs. To put that in perspective, 31, 654 GSD’s were scores in the same period with an average score of 19. 37. 44,000 Lab Retrievers have an average result of 16. That sort of sample we can believe in. 822 we can’t.
As Jeff Sampson, KC Geneticist says; "the Clumber Spaniel has an average score of 45, but the breed will work all day and rarely develop osteo-arthritis". Gary Johnson at the KC recently informed me that Lab Retrievers have now reduced their average score to 15. A one point reduction out of a possible 106!!! That's it! However, despite the average reducing, high scoring dogs - the 'outlyers' are still being produced.

Although Jeff Sampson stated that a plate scoring 10 can be re-assessed again and return a score of 15, if idealists were heeded, they would eliminate all dogs scoring over 10 (even those at 11 one presumes?), all dogs who are carriers of VWd, (although they can't bleed), all dogs with low thyroid, those with an imperfect shoulder layback, light eyes, bad movement, flat feet, low croup etc etc. And how many dogs will be left?! Perhaps the ones with defective characters. Not for us.

Although we act within reason, what Aritaur will NOT do, is to breed from a dog scoring 54. We condemn the well known Kennel Club Assured breeders of Champions who do so, we condemn the stud dog owner who allowed her dog to be used on the bitch, and we condemn the Kennel Club for allowing the mating to go ahead. If you are looking for health results on breeders websites which are not displayed clearly, the Dobermann Breed Council website lists the health results in full (provided breeders declare them). You can scroll down the page to see each dogs results.

Fred Lanting writes about the Penn Hip method: "While the hip-extended position is best for discovering DJD (Degenerative Joint Disease - real hip problems), it is not best for uncovering latent laxity, or what I call "covert laxity". False-negative means that a passing grade is given because the true laxity was not observed, and that is the biggest drawback of the hip-extended methods worldwide. There are some individuals (usually of certain giant mastiff-family breeds) that do not develop DJD but are OFA-assessed as dysplastic because of laxity at two years' age. But even more importantly, there are a greater number of dogs of other breeds that are adjudged "normal" at one or two years but later develop DJD or produce an unacceptably high percentage of dysplastic descendants.
Thus, the accuracy of the hip-extended methods is gravely flawed. The gene pool is hurt most by these false negative diagnoses".

Click HERE to see Aritaur hip results.

                                   
PHPV (Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous)

PHPV is an eye disease occasionally causing loss of vision. The primary vitreous - the membrane covering the immature eye, does not disappear as it should, leaving strands which interfere with vision. Very few dogs are tested in the UK and a grading is not given as it is in some European countries, so we do not know how much of a problem it is in the breed in the UK. In Nordic and Scandic countries (notoriously the toughest for grading of all health tests), breeding a dog with a grade of up to 2/3 to a Clear partner is permitted. Without a grading system in this country, dogs of even Grade 1 could be wrongly excluded from the gene pool.

Click HERE for Aritaur PHPV results

                   
CERVICAL SPONDYLOPATHY Wobblers

CS is a degeneration of an abnormality in the structure of the spinal column in the neck, causing local tissue swelling and compression, resulting in neck pain, stiffness and swelling. Instability between the vertebrae result in pressure and possible trauma being exerted on the spinal cord resulting in loss of hind co-ordination and the classic wobbly hind legs. Early exercise and diet are factors as in HD. Tests by means of X-Rays can be carried out usually from one year of age. The disease can be instigated by injury. Particularly in the 80's and 90's, there was a programme of neck scoring Dobermanns for the prevention of the disease. However, testing was found to be an unreliable method of identifying which dogs would develop the problem, with progeny from normal parents being affected, and vice versa. (Possibly similar to hip scoring?) Very few if any breeders/owners have their dogs neck scored these days.

Aritaur dogs have had no known instances to date of Wobblers.

                   
HEALTH / LONGEVITY OF ARITAUR DOBERMANNS
   
                                   

One of the best indications of health of a dog is the longevity of the parents/relatives. Pedigrees of our dogs can be found on their own pages on our site. The average lifespan of our dogs is currently 10.9 yrs. Click HERE to see the health and longevity of Aritaur Dobermanns.

   
   
 
   
All text and images Copyright Aritaur Dobermanns.