7 Health Problems to Watch Out for in Your Doberman Pinscher

Kate is a former veterinarian's assistant of five years. She maintains a passion for training and caring for dogs of all types.

Originally bred as guard dogs, Doberman Pinschers are marvelous and striking creatures who, with careful breeding, have transformed into reliable and loyal family pets. If you're lucky to share your home with a "Dobie," then you should know about the seven health concerns that are common in this breed.

Seven Common Health Concerns in Doberman Pinschers

  1. Dilated Cardiomyopathy
  2. Von Willebrand Disease
  3. Chronic Active Hepatitis (CAH)
  4. Cervical Vertebral Instability (Wobbler Syndrome)
  5. Hypothyroidism
  6. Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus Syndrome (GDV or "Bloat")
  7. Hip Dysplasia

1. Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), which is a fancy medical way of saying an "enlarged heart," is a condition during which the heart muscle becomes progressively thicker and weaker (resulting in heart and respiratory failure).

Symptoms of this condition aren't always obvious, but here's what to look out for in your pup:

  • Depression
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness

Your vet might perform an echocardiogram to get clues into whether or not your dog has DCM, but the best way for them to reach a diagnosis is through an ultrasound of the heart. If your dog ends up with a DCM diagnosis, then you and your vet will sit down and talk about the best way to care for your dog while keeping him as comfy as possible.

Regular veterinary examinations may help catch and treat this disease, improving and possibly extending life. This is an area of ongoing and vigorous research as scientists and veterinarians search for specific genetic markers and new treatments.

DCM Update

A recent investigation was done by the U.S. Food and Drug administration into certain brands of dog foods and how they are linked to the development of Dilated Cardiomyopathy in dogs. Their investigation looks into many specific cases of Dobermans who have contracted DCM and is quite insightful.

2. Von Willebrand Disease

The most common hereditary bleeding disorder among dogs, von Willebrand disease (vWD), is similar to hemophilia and is a clotting disorder which can make your poor doggo bleed excessively.

Here's the symptoms to look out for.

  • Nosebleeds (This is a pretty good clue since dogs aren't exactly known for nosebleeds!)
  • Blood in your dog's urine or stool
  • Bloody gums

Ugh. The good news here is that von Willebrand disease is rarely a fatal condition if managed correctly. Want more good news? This is one of the few canine diseases with a definitive genetic test. A little blood test will let you and your vet know if your dog is affected by or is a carrier of the disease. If your dog doesn't have any symptoms but is a carrier of the disease, then that'll affect breeding. (If your dog carries the gene for this disease, it is wise and responsible not to breed him/her and risk passing vWD on to the pups.)

Dogs with vWD can still safely undergo important surgeries like getting spayed or neutered as long as the proper precautions are taken.

3. Chronic Active Hepatitis (CAH)

Chronic Active Hepatitis or CAH is a disease where the liver cannot successfully metabolize copper which is present in many foods your dog consumes or that are part of his packaged dog food. The copper then builds up to toxic levels. This can lead to an accumulation of scar tissue, ending in liver failure and death. CAH is more common among females than males and often appears between four and six years of age. The first symptom is often extreme thirst, though this may not be constant and thus go unnoticed. As the disease progresses, symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal fluid retention
  • Lethargy

If CAH is suspected, your vet may test liver enzyme levels and eventually perform a biopsy. There is no cure, and the best treatment is to feed a low-copper diet. If commercial dog food is used, this requires careful label reading. Ingredients such as legumes, shellfish, liver, nuts, and cereal grains should all be avoided. A dog with CAH should drink only distilled water. Some vets recommend holistic treatments such as milk thistle but talk to your veterinarian before giving any "natural" or over the counter medicine.

4. Cervical Vertebral Instability (Wobbler Syndrome)

Wobbler syndrome is a neurological disorder caused by the compression of the part of the spinal cord that affects your dog's neck. Symptoms include:

  • An unsteady or "wobbly" gait
  • Dragging or weakness of the hind legs
  • Short, jerky steps with the front legs
  • Holding the neck in a flexed or downward arc
  • Neck pain

As the condition progresses, your dog may be unable to rise or walk on his own. This syndrome occurs most often in dogs older than three. The cause of the compression is unknown, and since it doesn't usually show in younger dogs, it's hard to breed out but there are lots of treatment options for dogs with wobbler syndrome.

Milder cases may be helped by rest and steroids. Therapies for more severe symptoms include acupuncture for pain management, chiropractic adjustment, and surgery. No matter what route you end up going, always consult with your veterinarian on how best to help your pup thrive with this condition.

5. Hypothyroidism

You've probably heard of hypothyroidism since it's a condition that affects a lot of humans, too. Caused by a lowered production of thyroid hormones, this often hereditary condition is also fairly common in medium to large breed dogs, including Dobermans. Dogs should be tested annually as the condition may develop at any time.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism in Doberman's include:

  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Dry skin
  • Cold sensitivity

The disorder is diagnosed through physical examination, blood tests, and a urinalysis. There are several causes of an underactive thyroid, but treatment is generally simple and effective. If your dog is diagnosed with hypothyroidism, he'll probably receive a prescription for a synthetic thyroid hormone replacement along with adjustments to his diet to help him get the best nutrition possible to counteract the effects of a shoddy thyroid.

6. Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus Syndrome (GDV or "Bloat")

We're not talking the same sensation you get after a night of soft pretzels and diet Coke in front of a full season of the Arrested Development remix.

Bloat in your dog can occur in all deep-chested dogs, including Dobermans. It's an emergency condition where the stomach twists, cutting off the esophagus at one end and the intestines at the other, causing a build-up of gas and obstructing the flow of blood and food material. It may occur when the dog is fed a heavy or difficult to digest meal or eats too fast. Additionally, some veterinarians warn against exercise immediately after eating to avoid this weird, rare medical occurrence.

Symptoms of bloat in your dog can include:

  • Gagging but not throwing up
  • Excessive slobber
  • Obvious pain
  • A distended belly. Bloat is fatal unless treatment is received. Any dog showing signs of bloat should be taken to the vet immediately.

Your vet may perform gastric decompression by inserting a tube into your dog's stomach through his throat. If the stomach twist prevents this, a large needle may be inserted directly into the abdomen to relieve the pressure and allow the stomach to un-kink. Surgery to untwist the stomach is the final option. To help prevent bloat, consider giving smaller, more frequent meals, softening kibble in water, feeding a mild diet, and spacing out meal times and exercise to give your dog some time to rest and digest before heading out for a run.

7. Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint where the ball and socket do not fit closely together and can lead to weakness and pain. This disorder is influenced by both heredity and environmental factors. It may become apparent in puppyhood or later as a form of osteoarthritis. Hip dysplasia has many fairly obvious symptoms including:

  • Reluctance to engage in running, jumping or any climbing activity
  • Difficulty rising
  • Limping
  • Decreased activity

If hip dysplasia is suspected, your veterinarian may order blood work and urinalysis and take an x-ray of your dog's hips and lower spine. Treatment includes symptom management and sometimes surgery. The surgical options vary depending on the age and size of the dog. Non-surgical approaches to symptom management include anti-inflammatory medication, physical and hydrotherapy, weight loss, and dietary changes.

How to Prepare for Your Veterinarian Visit


A stool sample in a sealed plastic baggie so your vet can test for parasites and other issues

"What is the easiest route of testing that will give us the best answers with the least amount of discomfort to my dog?"

A pen and paper to write down recommendations and answers to your questions

"Are there any remedies besides medication that I should pick up?"

A friend, if you're feeling nervous about the visit or diagnosis

"What changes should I look out for and when should I bring him back?"

A list of recent symptoms and when they seemed to start, as well as any other pertinent information to your dog's changing condition

"Are the ingredients in my dog's food a good choice for him still?"

© 2018 Kate Stroud

Marlissa on October 05, 2018:

What would cause a miniature Doberman Pinscher to dry heave and gasp for air

The Ultimate Guide: Doberman Pinscher

No doubt, policemen adore Dobermans. The Doberman Pinscher, one of 6 dogs belonging to the “Pinscher” group, was brought into existence by a German tax collector, Karl Friedrich Louis Doberman. Karl Doberman also worked part-time as a canine saver.

He took all stray dogs under his wingfor a good cause. This dog breed nicknamed Dobie has a short coat, a very sharp snout, and comes in different colors like red, black, fawn, and blue.

Males & females weigh about 30–40kg while their female counterparts weigh slightly less. Generally, Dobermans have a lifespan of about 9–12 years and is one of the top dog breeds to make the perfect guard dog.

This elegant canine breed is very intelligent, fiercely loyal, and always alert. The Doberman, also known as the German Pinscher, is strong and tenacious with some streaks of stubbornness. Studies have proven that this breed of dog is very unique. They are very fearless, curious, and playful. They possess some other distinguished personality factors.

Dobermans are generally non-aggressive to their owners, mildly aggressive to other canines, and very aggressive to strangers. Dobermans can tolerate physical punishment from their owners to an extent however, they tend to retaliate when they perceive that the punishment is too extreme.

Dobermans Dog Food Buyer’s Guide

Have you ever come across a blend that that seems like it’s the best dog food for your Doberman?

If not, you may still have a lot to learn about your breed’s nutritional requirements. To help you learn everything about your Doberman and his food. I am going to share my experiences and knowledge here to help you make an informed decision about your Doberman’s diet.

Understanding a Doberman’s Diet Requirements

Large breed dogs have special nutritional needs. Your Doberman pinscher is no different. Your big, beautiful dog has significant needs for high-quality protein to develop and sustain lean muscle mass along with moderate levels of fats for energy. These are essential nutrients that should be derive from real animal meat including poultry, meat, and fish.

As far as carbs are concerned, dogs do not have any special requirements in their diet, but a low to moderate level of quality carbs can offer certain health benefits. Digestible carbs and fiber are great for supplemental energy. Some important sources of healthy carbs include vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and beans.

Experts suggest at least 22% protein and 8% fat in a Doberman puppy’s diet. These nutrients are important for developing strong muscles. Choose a recipe that offers the right balance of fat and protein to fuel the healthy growth of your pup.

It is important to switch to an adult recipe as soon as your Doberman reaches his full size. The adult formula of large-breed dog food contains the right amount of protein and fat for maintaining lean muscle mass and energy. Moreover, opt for a diet that also contains joint-supporting nutrients such as chondroitin and glucosamine.

Once your Doberman reaches his golden age, it is natural for their metabolism to slow down. If you continue to offer him the same food, it could lead to weight gain and eventually, obesity. It’s the best time to switch their meal to a large-breed senior recipe with optimal nutrition suitable for a senior dog.

Common Health Problems and Symptoms to Watch Out For

Dobermans are not only an athletic breed but also highly energetic. They love indulging in physical activities and exercise. And since they experience a lot of physical exertion, they need a proper diet to stay well and healthy. Sometimes, even when you are doing everything right, there’s a possibility that your dog might develop certain health problems.

  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated Cardiomyopathy or DCM is a heart condition where the size of the heart increases and becomes progressively weaker. Common symptoms of the condition include fainting, depression, shortness of breath, and weakness.

This syndrome is a neurological issue that is caused by problems with the intervertebral disk in the dog’s neck. The condition is also known as Cervical Vertebral Instability and present symptoms like neck pain, weak hind legs, crooked neck position, and wobbly gait.

Some large dog breeds are susceptible to hypothyroidism, and unfortunately, your Doberman is one of them. While the condition is not life-threatening or too dangerous, getting your dog tested for an underactive thyroid is important to ensure you offer the right food to your dog. Watch out for the symptoms including cold sensitivity, depression, lethargy, and dry skin.

  • Chronic Active Hepatitis

Since chronic active hepatitis is a serious condition, it is important to pay attention to the symptoms and get an early diagnosis to ensure you offer the right food and treatment to your dog. The disease affects the liver and makes it difficult for your pooch to metabolize copper. Common symptoms are fluid retention, vomiting, and weight loss.

Like most large breed dogs, Dobermans are prone to hip dysplasia and other joint problems. Hip dysplasia is the malformation of the hip joint that could cause weakness and trouble in walking. The painful condition can be hereditary, but your dog may develop it over a period. Symptoms to watch out for include limping, difficulty rising, decreased activity level, and lethargy.

Health Problems

Hip Dysplasia – Hip dysplasia is an abnormality of the hip joint and is often seen in medium to large breed dogs.

Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD) – vWD is a health condition which involves the inability to the blood to clot properly. Signs of vWD include excessive bleeding post-surgery, bleeding gums and nosebleeds.

Bloat – Bloat is often caused by drinking or eating too much and is common in deep-chested breeds.

Hypothyroidism – This health condition is caused by a deficiency of the thyroid hormone. Symptoms include obesity, infertility and lack of energy.

Wobbler’s Syndrome – Wobbler’s Syndrome is thought to be an inherited condition in the Doberman which results in spinal cord compression. Symptoms include neck pain and paralysis of the hind legs.

Albinoism – Albinoism has been found to affect the Doberman. Albino dogs are sensitive to sunlight and at high risk for cancer and eye problems.

Narcolepsy – Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder which may result in your dog suddenly falling asleep at random times.

Top 10 Most Common Health Issues for Doberman Pinschers

  1. Colitis – inflammatory reaction in the colon
  2. Hypothyroidism
  3. Allergies
  4. Foreign body ingestion
  5. Gastroenteritis – intestinal infection marked by diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting, and fever
  6. Congestive heart failure
  7. Lipoma – fatty lump between the skin and underlying muscle layer
  8. Otitis – ear infection
  9. UTI – urinary tract infection
  10. Dermatitis

1. Why Are Doberman Pinscher Puppies Mouthy?

Many Doberman owners learned that raising a Doberman Pinscher puppy also involves dealing with biting tendencies. Nippiness is quite a natural behaviour in Dobie pups that comes with their young age. Their playfulness and teething can make them nippy.

Attempting to establish dominance in the household is also a common cause of this behaviour in these family pets. This is due to the breed’s utilisation during his early years.
Dobermans were originally bred as protection dogs or guard dogs by a tax collector named Louis Dobermann. He developed the Doberman Pinscher by breeding a variety of dogs including the German Pinscher and the extinct Black and Tan Terrier.

In World War II, these bold and courageous dogs were chosen to serve in various military canine work with the US Marine Corps. Their history as protection and military dogs made them intense canines that are prone to defying and testing the control of their owners, more so testing their patience.

Simple Tips to Stop Your Doberman Pinscher Puppy from Biting

Curbing your Doberman Pinscher puppy’s biting tendencies at an early age is crucial. It will prevent his mouthiness from becoming a big problem as he grows older.

Tip #1: Use toys to redirect your Doberman Pinscher puppy’s attention from nipping. It can be in a form of chew toys or frozen treats. When he is about to bite you, distract and divert his attention away from you by giving him a toy.

Do not forget to praise him afterward. Doing this consistently will make him learn that chewing the toy is what makes you happy and get him the fuss.

Tip #2: The Doberman breed will challenge his owner. Unlike some dog breeds, they will not outgrow this mindset even after puppyhood.

Be consistent and patient. Do not to lose your cool at times when your patience is wearing thin. Teach your Doberman Pinscher puppy from day 1 that you are the alpha of the pack, and he is there to chill and follow.

Tip #3: When you fail to redirect your Doberman Pinscher puppy’s attention and you end up getting nipped, tell him ‘no’ in a firm and clear voice.

Then redirect his attention to the dedicated chew toy. Then praise him again when he is sharpening his puppy teeth on the toy instead of your hand.

Tip #4: A Doberman Pinscher puppy that’s full of energy loves to nip when he gets excited. Let your Doberman Pinscher puppy do a lot of exercise before petting him. By tiring him out, he will be more relaxed and less likely to mouth you.

Tip #5: During playtime, skip games that will trigger your Doberman Pinscher puppy’s nippy behaviour. These include chase, tug of war, and playfully wrestling your pup.

Tip #6: Fear can lead a Doberman Pinscher puppy to bite. Thus, properly socialise and train your pup. Help him to get comfortable with other people and animals. Expose him to different situations so that he will not be on guard and nervous about things around him.

Tip #7: Every Doberman Pinscher puppy grows up at their own pace. Some may learn to stop nipping at their owners within a few weeks, whilst others will take months.

Be patient and consistent with your methods to set a clear expectation for your pup and avoid confusion. In the end, repetition will win.

Tip #8: All members of the family should know how to handle situations whilst your Doberman Pinscher puppy exhibits the undesired behaviour.

Let them understand that puppy mouthing might be cute. But it will develop into a bad or even dangerous behaviour if it is not nipped in the bud.

Watch the video: The Power of DOBERMANN - He was created for this (July 2021).