Dobermann Health

Breeding is not an exact science, you can only make assumptions based on pedigrees and available testing. No one breeds with the intention of producing bad health results but from time to time they will happen. Breeders need to embrace their results no matter what they are and use them to better the breed, those who make others feel bad about bad results are only making people want to hide them which in turn will only do the breed more harm in the long run.

We are one of only a very small percentage of breeders in the UK who declare all results of health testing regardless of result, we are not ashamed of our results and will happily discuss results openly and provide anyone who asks with copies of all our results. Click for OUR RESULTS

A normal life expectancy of a dobermann ranges anywhere between 8-12 years old, there are many who have seen north of 12 but this is more of an exception than a rule. No matter how long they do spend with you once you have had a Dobermann it will never be long enough. With using dogs who are already older thus already proving their longevity is one way to do it but pedigree research and health testing, good diet and life style will help your dog life a long healthy & happy life. 

There are 5 main health complaints which are known to affect the Dobermann Breed. There is nothing to say that any of these will affect a dog in its life time but information is power! 

As responsible breeders we test for the following conditions, please see our RESULTS here. 

  • VWD (Von Willebransds disease) 

  • PHPV (Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous ) Eyes

  • Hip Displasia

  • Thyroid

  • DCM (Dilated Cardiomyopathy)


Von Willebrand's disease (vWD) is a common, usually mild, inherited bleeding disorder in people and in dogs. It is caused by a lack of von Willebrand factor (vWF), which plays an essential role in the blood clotting process.

Normally the body responds to an injury causing bleeding through a complex defence system. This consists of local changes in the damaged blood vessels, activation of blood cells called platelets, and the coagulation process. A reduction in von Willebrand factor leads to abnormal platelet function and prolonged bleeding times. 









75% Clear
25% Carrier

75% Carrier
25% Clear
25% Affected

75% Affected
25% Carrier

75% Affected
25% Carrier




75% Clear
25% Carrier

There are 3 states to vWD, Clear, Carrier & Affected.

If a dog is tested to be clear of Vwd then it has no gene mutations
and is clear from the condition. If it is bred it cant pass any vWD
genes on to its progeny. 
If a dog is tested as "carrier" it will hold one VWD gene, this has
affect on the dog on any day to day living and only needs to be 
taken in to consideration if they are being bred from. Do not be
fooled by vets saying as a carrier they also have a 
higher risk of
bleeding as this is not the case. If a dog is tested as "affected" then
it is best to make your vet aware of this before any surgical
procedure is performed due to the high risk of them not being able
to clot correctly. You are able to do a blood test which will give you an idea of the dogs clotting rate. This can be a life threatening condition as something as simple as a knock or a cut can cause a dog to bleed-out but this is not often the case.  Many dogs who are genetically VWD affected display no signs or symptons throughout their life. 

When it comes to VWD and matings its a very simple condition as its represented by 2 genes. The chart above gives an estimation of what would come from a preposed mating. The green ones are safe matings where no affected dogs will be produced. 
I have included breeding from affected dogs in this list which some breeders would recoil in horror over, however if you had the perfect dog in every other way and excluded it from a breeding program because of this you are potentially loosing a valuable bloodline.. that said, I do not condone the breeding of affected bitches. There is too much risk during the whelping process and your bitches health and well being should always come first. An Affected male does not have the same risks when mating so providing he is only ever mated to a Clear bitch there is no immediate problem. 


There is a DNA test which is a definative  test for VWD, your vet may offer you a blood test but this is not reliable.  If you are buying a pet and you do not know the status of your dogs parents its advisable to do this simple cheap DNA test for your own peace of mind and inform your vet of the result. 
Labloklin are both labs which perform the test with a simple swab in their cheek and provide you with a result by email within 10 days normally.  



PHPV is a developmental abnormality of the eye which occurs in the puppy embryo at about 4-5 weeks of age after conception. Blood vessels which help develop the lens of the eye are not reabsorbed as they should be. This results in deposits on the lens which can result in mild vision impairment to severe (blindness) depending on the grade or severity of the condition.

In Dobermanns its not a very common condition, 1% maybe of total tested stock per year will diagnosed with it. This is not a life threatning condition but it is thought to have some family inheritence. Just because a parent is diagnosed as clear from PHPV it does not mean that all resulting puppies will be automatically clear from PHPV, the chance is much less but as dogs for breeding should still be screened. A puppy can be tested from 6 weeks of age but it can only be tested by one of the countries 33 board certified canine eye specalist. List available here. 

In Europe dogs will be graded 1-5 for their level of severity while in the UK they are only graded as "affected", the problem with this is no one wants to be seen breeding from an "unhealthy" animal however the UK see no difference between a dog with a very slight blemish to a dog which is completly blind and this in its self is a problem. Breeding should be about the total dog and not focusing on one problem, to exclude a completly healthy, mentally sound and conformationly superior dog from a breeding program because of a few blemishes on its eye would be unwise, as a breeder however I personally would test the entire litter for PHPV for my own peace of mind.  
To date we have not had any instances of PHPV in the dogs we have bred to date.  OUR HEALTH RESULTS

Hip Displasia
With any large breed where considerable stress is put on joints there are possiblities for problems, as a breed dobermanns are not high up on the list of dogs to suffer from HD. As an average we have a score of 11 with the BVA from over 1000 dogs scored with them, HOWEVER this only reflects a very small perfentage of the overall dobermann population. from 1500 annual dogs registered only 2-3% of them are being scored so I do not belive that the average we have is a true representation of the breed. The current advised breeding practise is use dogs with low scores to produce animals with low scores however the true nature of HD and its inheritance isnt fully known. The practice of hip scoring its is possibly flawed as you are reliant on your radiographer positioning the dog in the correct way to enable the x-rays to be red correctly however this is the only method accepted by the KC at this point in time. Hip scoring en masse has only been common for the last 15 years, before that it just simply wasnt done. Responsible breeders (the only breeders you should be looking to buy a puppy from) will hip score their dogs before breeding however because it is thought its a polygenetic inheritance using a low hip score from parents is only a guide. A low numbered parent could go on to produce a high scoring offpring however that high scoreing offpring may never produce a high score its self. The problem with numbers being the guiding light breeders is they take the number as gospel, I have seen some dogs with scores in the 40's yet move better than a dog with a 0:0 score. So many things can affect a dogs hips in its life, poor diet,  over exercise & injury can affect the state of hip and potential in more advanced years. 

We have an average of 9 with our scores (lowest being 5 and highest being 12) out of a total score of 106.  While severe HD isnt common in Dobermanns its important to keep screening to make educated matings. The problems we are faced with is not bad results showing up on tests, its the breeders who dont test either though laziness or ignorance. I have had some "breeders" say they would rather not know if the dog has bad hips as without a hip score they can continue on however with a bad score breeding would stop and their reputation tarnished. Not the right attitude!!! 

As a rule we hip score all of our dogs who are canditates in our breeding program, we actively encourage any of our pet owners to hip score as it helps us in our research and educate us for our future breedings. If you would like to hip score your dog please talk to us as we have a list of reccomended vets who do hip scoring under sedation rather than general anesthetic. OUR HIP RESULTS



This is a hormonal condition affecting some Dobermanns, its normal on set is between 2-5 years old and is charactised by hair loss on the flanks, becoming over weight, feeling the cold more, Shivering and wanting to huddle most of the time. Its often reported that being cranky is another sign. It is diagnosed by a blood test and is treatable with Thyroxin as a life long treatment. 
Althought thought to be a somewhat insignificant condition it can have a large effect on fertility, mood and in extream cases organ failure. 
There are certain bloodlines it seems to be more common in and some breeders dismiss this as being a valid condition happy in the knowledge that they are producing dogs with no after thought to what problems they will cause their future owners. 


We try to make it best practice to regularly screen our dogs for this proir to mating and for their own health, we have had one bitch come back with a low functioning thyriod and now medically suppliment this. We discuss our health results with our puppy owners and hoe tat if any problems occur in the future they inform us so we are able to use this for our future breeding plans.  

This is topic which is hotly discussed at the moment is one of the top contrubtiing causing of death in dobermanns. 
DCM (Diliated cardio myopthy) is a broadly used term to define problems with a dogs heart, this can be anything from an enlarged heart to arrythmia. 
The biggest problem with DCM is at this point in time we do not fully understand its inheritnace and because if more often than not appears later in a dogs life  (7+) a dog could have been bred from numerous of times and passed this problem on without anyone knowing. 

We currently have  4 tools for screening for DCM.

  • DNA test for PK4 Gene, Identified by Dr. Meyers (2010) 

  • Cardiac Troponin blood testing

  • A Sonogram (Echo) of the beating heart

  • 24 Hour Holter (EKG)

The biggest thing that needs stressing here is that while we have these tests they are not DEFINATIVE. When anyone does these tests they need to understand that the dog  (if clear) is only clear of signs of the condition AT THE TIME OF THE TEST. The nature of DCM is it can and often is sudden, no different to a heart attack in humans and because of this there will be no early signs of it.

The DNA test is a fantastic acheivement however its only for 1 gene at this point and its thought that there could be a vast number of genes in combinations which cause DCM. There are dogs tested CLEAR of this gene who still go on to die from DCM and those who are tested homozygos Affected and never develop the condition. It is thought that this test is more suited to the USA gene pool. 

Cardiac Troponin blood testing is currently in the trial stages but has proved promising so far. Its a simple low cost blood test which tests the Troponin in the blood, this is a chemical produced by the heart when under stress. This can help with the very early indication of the diesease. 
An Echo is currently the most trusted method for screening world wide, you are able to have a live picture of your dogs heart as its working and your cardioligist is able to measure everything from muscle thickness to the contractablity of the heart. If there are any signs of DCM this is where it will picked up. 
24 hour holter moniter is normally done in conjunction with an Echo. This measures the rhythem of the heart over a 24 hour period checking for abnormal patterns. There are several different ways that DCM can take its evil hold, sudden death is failry self explanatory where with no former warning the dog will just collapse and pass away, this is very quick and nothing can be done. Its very distressing for anyone who has to witness them but for the dog its over very quickly. 


While every effort should be made by breeders to reduce the risk of dogs suffering from conditions discussed above every dog is a genetic lottery and nothing can be guarenteed. 

© 2009-2019 Newford Dobermanns/Georgie Kuhl - No images may be reproduced without consent. 

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