Health Questions for a Doberman Breeder

Genetic Problems to Avoid

The following are some questions about the health problems that responsible Doberman breeders are trying to breed away from. Understand that a creening the parents of your puppy does not guarantee that it will be free of the following illnesses throughout its life.


Cardiomyopathy, which simply means ‘heart muscle disease’, refers to a condition where the heart muscle is deteriorating. Symptoms include irregular heart beat, fatigue, weight loss, and sudden death. Cardiomyopathy is understood to be hereditary, meaning passed on from generation to generation.

There is currently no genetic screening process for this disease. There are ways of catching the disease early. EKG monitors and ultrasounds and sonograms of the heart can detect developing symptoms of the disease. Breeding Dobermans can be tested this way once a year or before each breeding with the idea that if symptoms are discovered the breeding will be canceled. However, this is a very expensive and ineffective practice. A perfectly healthy Doberman can go years without showing any signs of Cardiomyopathy under these tests, producing many litters, then suddenly one day show symptoms.

The best way to screen for Cardiomyopathy is good old fashioned blood line research. If the parents’ lines have been clear of the condition, the chances that they carry it are small, but still present.

Von Willebrands Disease (vWD)

Von Willebrands disease is a blood disorder in which there is a deficiency of the Von Willebrands Factor (vWF), required for blood clotting. In other words it causes too much bleeding. Somewhere in dog history, a gene mutated causing this disorder which is now present in over 60 breeds. Von Willebrands disease is easily detectable with a simple DNA test.

The problem with Von Willebrands disease in Dobermans is that there is no real problem. Although in many Dobermans Von Willebrands disease is detectable, it is extremely rare for the blood disorder to actually occur in Dobermans. If one takes into regard that the Doberman population undergoes procedures such as tail docking and ear cropping, a serious bleeding disorder in the breed would certainly show up, but it hasn’t.

Even though there is no real problem, the responsible Doberman breeding community is attempting to minimize carriers of Von Willebrands disease.


Cancer, like in humans, has a mysterious cause. There is likely a genetic predisposition toward cancer that is worth our attention. A Doberman from healthy long lived lines will be at less risk. Other obvious risks to avoid are smoking (not the dog) and poor diet.

Cervical Vertebral Instability (CVI) (Wobbler’s Syndrome)

Cervical Vertebral Instability (CVI) or Wobbler’s syndrome is the deterioration of the discs between the last three vertebrae in the neck. As with other abnormalities, this condition likely has a genetic component that responsible breeders will watch for a breed away from. There is no screening process other than research into blood lines.

Some breeders feel that CVI is the result of breeding Dobermans too quickly for a longer more slender look and this could easily be that case. Breeding for a certain look is not breeding for health.


Also occurring in Dobermans is Hypothyroidism, low thyroid function. Like Cardiomyopathy a healthy clear Doberman can develop the condition suddenly, making current screening efforts unreliable. Again, the best way to avoid this is by researching blood lines. In breeding Dobermans, it is wise to obtain annual blood panels for thyroid, kidney, and liver function to watch for this and other problems.

Eye Exam

With any breeding animals, it is also a good idea to keep an eye on ocular health with an annual veterinary ophthalmology exam.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia are conditions where the joints fit poorly together, subsequently causing calcification and pain. Dobermans have a low incidence of Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, but large breeds in general have a high incidence. For this reason, responsible breeders will have X-rays done of their dogs at two years of age. These X-rays will then be certified by the Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA) as Excellent, Good, or Dysplastic. Only Good or Excellent certified dogs will be part of a responsible breeding program.