We believe in the health testing of all our dogs especially where we intend to breed from them. 

The average life span of a Dobermann is 9 to10 years of age but they can live longer and have been known to reach the age of 14 to 15

Dobemanns are a relatively healthy breed but there are conditions which Dobermanns can be susceptible to and it is recommended that the relevant health tests are carried out before consideration is given to breeding. All responsible breeders should health test and if they don’t ‘Ask Why?’ 

Dilated Cardiomyopathy(DCM)

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease of the heart muscle.

It has been estimated that DCM is responsible for 25% of all premature deaths in the Dobermann breed. Dogs affected are usually aged between 5 to 9 years of age.

Although it is known that DCM can be caused by specific nutritional deficiencies, in many cases the cause of the disease is unknown. There are various theories, however. These include genetic factors, viral infections, exposure to chemical toxins and, amino acid deficiency. In DCM the heart fails to pump effectively. The contractions of the heart are weak and blood is not supplied to the body as efficiently as previously. In addition, the heart stretches and enlarges.

Because the heart’s ability to pump is impaired, circulation is also impaired. For a time the dog’s body may make adjustments to allow it to cope. However, at some point, the disease overrides the adjustments that have been made and the dog can become unwell and shows signs of heart failure. Sudden death may also occur without any previous warning or symptoms.

Signs of heart disease can initially be quite mild and so may be difficult to pick up. However, as the disease progresses, the symptoms can become more severe. In DCM the disease tends to progress very quickly. Signs include:

Lack of energy/depression

Poor appetite

Weight loss

Laboured breathing




Swollen abdomen (ascites).

Every Dobermann in this Country can take part in a National Screening Programme for DCM.

The administrative co-ordination centre is based at Liverpool University. There are 8 Cardiologists taking part Nationally with the qualifications to heart scan using the Echocardiography Doppler System. Appointments can be made by the owner contacting the screening centre or you can be referred from your own veterinary practice.

There is no discrimination on the sex, colour, age or health of any Dobermann taking part. The age limit starts at 3 years upwards. At 5 years of age the screening programme is offered free of charge.

Only the nominated Cardiologists taking part in the scheme can carry out the free screening programme. After the initial heart scan screening is then continued every 12 to 18 months. Individual results remain confidential.

The aim of the screening programme is hoped to establish the cause of DCM and to establish if there is a genetic inheritance and the type of inheritance with a view to finding an effective treatment and ultimate cure.

To find out more about the scheme and where the screening centres are located contact Liverpool University’s Small Animal Teaching Hospital on 0151 795 6100

von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD)

vWD is a recessive bleeding disorder where the blood fails to clot. It is similar to haemophilia in humans. In Dobermanns there are 3 groups that dogs fall into: clear, carrier or affected.

There is currently a DNA testing scheme administered by the Kennel Club. The Finnzymes test consists of taking two swabs from the inner cheek of the dog. The DNA result from those swabs will determine the genetic group the dog falls into. Depending on its grouping determines which DNA group type it should be mated with.

A genetically clear dog will be clinically clear and cannot pass on the mutant gene to its offspring.

A carrier dog will also be clinically clear of vWD, but will pass the mutant gene onto approximately half of its offspring.

A genetically affected dog will be clinically affected and will pass a mutant gene onto each of its offspring.

It is therefore vital that all potential breeding stock are DNA tested for vWD before they are used in a mating programme so that breeders can avoid genetically incompatible pairings that might produce clinically affected offspring. 

An affected dog should not be mated to another affected dog or a carrier dog. There is the added complication that genetically affected dogs are also clinically affected and so a decision to mate such an affected bitch would require a consultation with a veterinary surgeon to discuss the potential risks that pregnancy might bring.

A carrier can be used for breeding but should only be mated to a DNA clear dog. A litter produced from such a mating will contain both carrier and clear puppies. 

The ideal pairing is 2 clear dogs when none of the litter will carry the affected gene.

To obtain a swab kit for the Finnzymes test contact the Kennel Club.


The current BVA/KC scoring scheme for hip dysplasia (HD) has been in operation since 1984.

Dysplasia means abnormal development, the degree of hip dysplasia present is indicated by a score assigned to each hip.

The hip score is the sum of the points awarded for each of nine aspects of the X-rays of both hip joints. The minimum hip score is 0 and the maximum is 106 (53 for each hip).

The lower the score the less degree of hip dysplasia present. An average (or mean) score is calculated for all breeds scored under the scheme.

The minimum age for hip scoring is one year, each dog is only ever scored once under the scheme.

Contact your local vet to arrange an x-ray.

Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous (PHPV)

Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous, or PHPV, is a congenital condition caused by the retention of elements of the foetal vascular supply to the lens. The condition results in variable amounts of fibrovascular plaque on the posterior lens capsule and possible posterior cortical cataract. PHPV is inherited in Dobermanns although the precise mode of inheritance is unknown.

For over 30 years the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has operated a hereditary eye disease screening programme in conjunction with the Kennel Club (KC) and the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS).

There are 31 appointed eye panellists around the country who can issue official certificates. The current list is held on the BVA eye scheme website.  You can arrange an eye examination directly with them or through your vet.


Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone.

The thyroid gland is one of the glands that make up the endocrine system. Endocrine glands are glands that produce hormones and chemicals that are distributed by the blood stream round the body. They affect almost every aspect of life, from reproduction and growth, through to food metabolism and stress. The thyroid gland is particularly involved in metabolism, and thyroid hormone affects almost all tissues in the body.

The Dobermann is one of several breeds of dog where hypothyroidism is especially prevalent. Symptoms usually start from the age of five but can be confused with a range of other illnesses.

Symptoms include:

Loss of appetite

Weight gain despite normal levels of feeding

Hair loss

Recurring skin infections

Lethargy or listlessness


Slow heart rate

Nerve disorders, including facial paralysis, head tilt, muscle wastage and stiffness

constipation, vomiting or diarrhoea

If  hypothyroidism is suspected your vet will carry out  tests. If diagnosed with hypothyroidism treatment is fairly simple. Your dog will be given synthetic thyroxine, either in tablet or liquid form, which it will need to take for life. Periodic checks will  ensure thyroid levels remain normal. There is no reason why your dog should not have a normal lifespan and lead an active life.