Health Testing

2 replies [Last post]
RexNAZ's picture
Joined: 2017-07-12

At what age can we start health testing our pup, and for what health issues?


We have a rescue, and I'm almost certain he was from a BYB.  I would like to get him tested for everything, so that I know what to expect (for example, if he has a heart problem).  We are a very active household, and I want to make sure we extend this pup's life as much as possible and accommodate our activities (and which ones we allow him to partake in) for his wellbeing.  



Sgourle's picture
Joined: 2014-07-18

Pet Profiles

DNA testing can be done anytime if you care to do so. vWD, PDK4, and DCM2 are all available as DNA tests, as is a test for liver function and dings. Some speculation exists over the effect of PDK4 and DCM2 on the actual risk of developing DCM. At two years old you can start officially performing other tests like hips, elbows, thyroid, and CERF exams. Beginning at two you will also want to perform annual holter exams/echocardiograms to monitor heart function. Vetgen, NCSU, and embark all offer various DNA tests. 

Congratulations on your new puppy!



I would recommend doing the DNA test for VWD - it is good to know their status as many vets are really not knowledgeable about this disease in Dobermans.  You can order the test from several companies: vetgen is the original, vetnostic is also good. 

The 2 DNA tests for cardio are nice to do, but at this point in time really do not predict whether your boy will get cardio. They are really more for research at this point as we have no idea how many genes there are that affect cardio in Dobermans. In humans there are about 24..... probably somewhat similar number in Dobermans.

If you are going to do active sports with him (agility, IPO, etc...), I would recommend having his hips x-rayed at ago two. As he will never be bred and you don't know his pedigree, you do not necessarily need to have them OFA'd. A good knowledgeable vet can do the xray and tell you if he is at risk for hip issues and clear him for active sports. 

I would also recommend doing a baseline blood workup with thyroid at age 2. If it all looks normal then great - repeat at age 4. Low thyroid is super common and is easy to treat. Liver disease is becoming more common and catching it early is also key to prolonging their life - often to a normal age. By the time a dog shows signs of liver disease, it is pretty much too late to do much as it is really progressed. 

The best reason for heart testing after the age of 2 is to catch cardio in the occult stage so that you can medicate him to prolong his life.  I know of people who have caught cardio at an early stage and have their dog live to an average age with medication.  I would recommend a cardiac ultrasound done by a vet cardiologist by age 3. If everything looks good, then start doing them yearly at age 4. I would also recommend a 24 hour holter by age 4. The average age for cardio related issues is 6-8 with the first symptom often being sudden death. Their heart can look normal at say age 5 and the next year be in full blown cardio.  

As a very occasional breeder, I recommend this testing to all of my puppy homes but very few actually do it. A puppy from my last litter (my last litter was 5 years ago) dropped dead this year while running in his yard. I bred that litter for health - but you never know. I send out emails every time I test my own personal dogs (every year)with results and recommendations for testing. This particular owner never did any testing - I don't know if it might have diagnosed cardio or not..... but it might have saved his life. I have recommended testing for the other dogs.... but only 2 have done it. There is a huge issue with people keeping their head in the sand with this breed - they just don't want to know. When you have a breed where 50% will die from heart issues, this is not a disease to ignore and hope for the best!!

Hope this helps!