The doberman pinscher gives his heart and soul to his owner. Unfortunately, this most loyal and devoted of dogs is prone to literal heart problems that have nothing to do with love. Cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, is the No. 1 cause of death in dobermans.
While different forms of cardiomyopathy exist, dilated cardiomyopathy is a hereditary problem in the doberman pinscher. In dilated cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle cells don't contract properly, leading to heart malfunction. The heart begins dilating, causing its chambers to increase in size. While this early stage of dilated cardiomyopathy helps improve the heart's output temporarily, over time it leads to heart failure. According to the University of Guelph, in dobies the heart's left ventricle and left atrium are primarily affected. While the incidence of dilated cardiomyopathy is significant, males are more often affected than females.
Sometimes, the only symptom of cardiomyopathy is the dog's sudden death. In the early stages of dilation, there are no obvious signs. That's why it's called the occult, or hidden stage. Echocardigram testing can reveal if dilation is occurring. As the disease progresses, the signs and symptoms become apparent. This includes constant coughing, lack of appetite, weight loss, shortness of breath and even fainting. Most affected dobies are over 7 1/2 years of age when symptoms appear.
If your dobie is diagnosed during the occult stage, your vet can prescribe angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, better known as ACE inhibitors. These drugs help slow the disease's progress. If your dog is diagnosed after signs of cardiomyopathy are apparent, your vet may prescribe other medications or supplements to ease symptoms. Congestive heart failure eventually leads to death.
A DNA blood test for the genetic mutation causing cardiomyopathy in dobies is now available. Since this disease is so prevalent in the breed, you may want to have the test done on any prospective puppy you consider purchasing. The testing is not that expensive, but it does take up to a month to obtain the results.
Since approximately half of all dobies carry the gene for cardiomyopathy, prevention is very difficult. In most cases of genetic mutations in a breed, reputable breeders do not let affected animals reproduce. However, due to the sheer number of affected dobies, breeders are concerned about reducing the size of the available gene pool and possibly ending up breeding dogs without cardiomyopathy but with other inherited issues.
- Doberman Pinscher Club of America: Dilated Cardiomyopathy
- Vet Gen: Doberman Pinscher Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)
- University of Guelph: General Information About Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Doberman Pinschers
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Prevalence of Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Doberman Pinschers in Various Age Groups.
- Universities Federation for Animal Welfare: Dilated Cardiomyopathy
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