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A Simple Screening Test That Can Save Your Doberman Pinscher’s Life

Doberman Pinscher Disease Prevention

Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a deadly disease of the heart that has strong genetic roots in certain large and giant dog breeds, among them, Doberman Pinschers.  Dilated cardiomyopathy (aka., DCM) is a disease of the heart muscle that is characterized by an enlarged heart that does not function properly. With DCM, both the upper and lower chambers of the heart become enlarged, with one side being more severely affected than the other. When the ventricle, or lower chamber, becomes enlarged, its ability to pump blood out into the lungs and body diminishes. When the heart’s ventricle does not pump enough blood into the lungs, fluid begins to accumulate within the lungs. An enlarged heart soon becomes overloaded, and this leads to congestive heart failure.

In the past all we had to combat DCM was to carefully examine a puppy’s parents for having been properly been heart certified prior to breeding.  Even then, while the parents may not be showing signs of disease, they could still be genetic carriers that combine by chance to genetically manifest the disease in their offspring.  Thankfully, a new genetic test for DCM exists at Norther Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine that successfully genetically screens Doberman Pinscher dogs for having inherited the genetic predisposition for the development of DCM.

The genes responsible for DCM are DCM1 and DCM2.  If positive for both, the dog has an 80% chance of developing DCM as early as 3 years of age.  If a dog tests positive for DCM1 only, he/she has a 40% chance of developing the disease by age 5.

Testing should therefore begin as the dog approaches his/her third birthday.  Here are the recommended guidelines:

Dog positive for DCM1 & DCM2:

  • Begin exclusive feeding of a heart healthy prescription diet such as Hills H/D or Royal Canine Early Cardiac immediately.  Diets like this are restricted in sodium and are fortified with high doses of heart healthy nutrients such as taurine, L-carnitine, vitamin D, potassium, and folic acid.
  • Start yearly ECG (electrical pulse wave measurement) and cardiac ultrasound screening at 3 years of age.
    • If early abnormalities are detected with these tests, early intervention with cardiac medications will be pivotal in staving off full blown disease.
  • It would be considered unethical to breed these dogs.

Dog positive for DCM1 only:

  • All of the same guidelines as DCM1 & DCM2 positive, but yearly ECG and cardiac testing to begin at 5 years of age.

Beyond early intervention to save and prolong lives, DCM genetic testing also has far reaching implications whereby, if prospective dog owners hold breeders accountable to doing their due diligence in proving that neither parents is a carrier for DCM1 and DCM2, within only a few generations, the disease could be eradicated from whole lines of Doberman Pinschers.

What’s more, NC State is currently working on expanding their genetic testing for DCM into other breeds genetically prone to the disease, such as Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a globally recognized expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , general partner of Grant Animal Clinic, and runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care.  Dr. Welton fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.


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