Love at Your Own Risk
GCh Whiskey Mac's Nina Simone participating in a Texas A&M DCM study
By now you’ve come to the obvious conclusion that the Doberman is the ultimate house, family, office, jogging, hiking, snuggle bug, dock diving, couch potato, follow-you-into-the-bathroom, costume-wearing, know-when-you’re-hurting, agility, trick, class-clown, let-you-know-if-something ain’t-right, baby-sittin, lizard-chasin dog in the world. There’s just one problem…. They will NEVER live long enough. In fact they have a nasty habit of dying before their 10th birthday. And I guarantee you will want to die when they do.
Our biggest problem is Dilated Cardiomyopathy or DCM. There is still no reliable genetic marker for it yet. 50% of all Dobermans will die of DCM. It can take them as young as 4 or not till they are 10. It runs in every line on the planet. There is no escaping the risk. Why is this? Our gene pool is stupid small. All Dobermans are related… literally. We are not the only akc breed with this problem but it has hit us especially hard. Of course there are many dobes that live past 10 but they are the exception. The testing we do can only diagnose a problem. It can not predict who gets the disease and who passes it on to their get. No Doberman breeder can guarantee their puppies won’t get it. I do echocardiograms on all of my dogs every year and I own my own digital holter. Backyard breeders don’t do these kind of tests because they are expensive but it’s the only thing we’ve got to fight against this disease.
Earlier I said we have no reliable genetic marker. We do have 2 markers now but we still do not understand how and under what circumstances they turn on and off. The DPCA has invested millions into research looking for the silver bullet that would help us steer our way out of this box. When the markers known as dcm 1 and dcm 2 were isolated we were elated. Unfortunately it became clear almost immediately that there were plenty of dogs with the marker who never succumbed and just as many who tested clear who did. Some breeders continue to test for these markers but do not make breeding decisions solely on the results.
Sound like I’m trying to convince you to get a mutt? I am. You’ve got to REALLY love this breed to stay with it. If you want a dog who’s got the best chance of staying healthy into their teens you need to get a mixed breed with a big gene pool. Purebred dogs are always going to be inherently riskier than mutts. Please think about all of this when considering this breed.
Regarding Jlo and Billie…. Their sire died of cardio however their maternal grandmother Pearl is about to turn 10 and their great grandmother Scarlett is 13 yrs 5 months old! Three bitches from Scarlett’s litter made it to 13. Their paternal grand sire lived past 12. As you can see breeding Dobermans is a balancing act of calculated risk.
If I match you with a Whiskey Mac puppy I will help you find economical ways to test for DCM. Many shows hold echo clinics where a board certified veterinary cardiologist screens dogs at a reduced rate as a means of helping breeders make informed decisions regarding who to breed. Shows are held all over the country so where ever you live I will be able to help you find a clinic that can mean a cost savings of $400-$500. You may have to take a day off of work and drive a few hrs. If this is too inconvenient you are welcome to pay $600+ for an echo in a vet hospital. It’s an investment of either time or money I will expect you to make as close to annually as possible in this puppy whether he is intact or not to ensure he gets the care he deserves AND to help me make future breeding decisions.
And as I said earlier I own my own holter. An echo at a clinic at a dog show runs around $250 and a 24 hr holter costs around $45 for the electrodes and to have a preliminary interpretation done. Every yr we get clear results we breath a sigh of relief. If the tests find abnormalities you will need to make an appointment with a cardiologist to plan treatment and management. Early diagnosis can extend your best friend’s life by years if put on appropriate meds immediately. And I know you will want every last additional second of quality time with your Whiskey Mac dog as possible.
Regarding von willebrands disease, the Doberman is one of many breeds that can carry this mutation. The mutation found in the Doberman is known at type 1 and is the mildest form of this bleeding disorder. It rarely causes problematic episodes even in genetically affected dogs. It is an autosomal dominant gene which means the dog must inherit 2 copies of the gene to be “affected”. No copies=clear meaning no possibility of clotting issues. One copy=carrier, again no possibility of clotting issues. And 2 copies=affected which in extremely rare cases can affect clotting time. Vwd type 1 affected Dobermans are cropped, docked, spayed and neutered all the time with no problems whatsoever. It is only in extreme cases of stress and trauma that adverse affects can occur.
Before the gene was isolated their was a lot of flat out hysteria regarding this disease. Breeders placed such a high value on breeding vWd clear dogs that they knowingly and unknowingly exacerbated the breed’s dcm problems. They bred themselves into a corner trying to avoid a disease that rarely if ever actually caused adverse affects. Fortunately the discovery of the vWd gene loosely coincided with the realization that we had bigger fish to fry so to speak with our dogs dropping dead of cardio at 4 and 5. When deciding whether or not to breed a dog with great longevity behind it but who is vWd carrier or even affect we are now choosing to give more weight where it belongs… behind longevity.
There are other types of vWd that can and do kill dogs but the Doberman does not carry that predisposition. Responsible breeders will breed vWd type 1 carrier to carrier which can produce genetically affected dogs as well as carriers and clear dogs if they are trying to correct other inheritable issues. And even breeding an affected dog to a clear dog will produce only carriers. Unfortunately your run of the mill old school vets will try to scare people into believing that all vWd disease types are deadly. This is simply not true. Plus there are now medications and therapies that promote clotting that an informed vet can have on hand just in case when doing surgery on a genetically affected dog.
If I choose to breed a carrier to carrier I will test all puppies in the litter before placing them so that each new home will have the power of knowledge.