Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy In The Doberman Pinscher

The Doberman pinscher is a large pedigree dog breed recognised within The Kennel Club’s working group, and this distinctive and handsome looking breed makes for both an excellent pet and a versatile working dog for a number of different roles.

Their excellent watchdog tendencies, high intelligence and ease of training makes them a good choice of dog for active owners who are experienced in managing larger dogs, and with the right owner they make for very rewarding companions.

However, like most pedigree dog breeds and particularly those towards the larger end of the size spectrum, the Doberman pinscher breed as a whole has elevated risk factors for certain hereditary health conditions that can develop at different stages of the dog’s life.

Heart problems including dilated cardiomyopathy or heart disease is one of them, and this condition is noted as one of the breed’s more common hereditary health problems. Dilated cardiomyopathy in the Doberman may develop in adult dogs later in life, or show symptoms very early on in puppyhood – and this latter form of the condition is called juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy.

If you are considering buying or adopting a Doberman pinscher puppy, it is important to understand the risk of dilated cardiomyopathy within the breed, and know how to identify the symptoms of juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy in the puppy.

In this article we will examine the condition in more detail, including its symptoms, progression and prognosis, as well as explaining how to give yourself the best chance of buying a healthy Doberman pup. Read on to learn more.

What is juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy?

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a hereditary health defect that affects the heart’s muscles, leading to a gradual thinning of the heart’s musculature that ultimately results in congestive heart failure. Dilated cardiomyopathy might develop in an adult dog, or present with symptoms much earlier, as is the case for juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy.

The Doberman pinscher breed has elevated risk factors for both the adult form and the juvenile form of the condition, which is something that all owners of dogs of the breed should be aware of.

Why are Doberman pinschers at higher risk of juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy?

There are at least two specific gene mutations that can result in dilated cardiomyopathy, and whether or not any given dog develops the juvenile form of the condition or adult-onset dilated cardiomyopathy may itself depend on the specific gene mutations involved.

Juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy in the Doberman pinscher usually begins to develop at a young age – from just a few weeks old up to around seven or eight months.

Why and how the Doberman breed has become one of the higher-risk breeds for the condition is probably due to the ease with which a harmful gene mutation can spread within a limited population of dogs, as is the case when the gene pool of breeding stock is limited to dogs of the same breed.

Selective breeding and the breeding of closely related dogs further increases the risks of the spread of the gene mutations too, raising the risk factors for dogs of the breed as a whole.

What are the symptoms of juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy?

The symptoms of juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy in the Doberman pinscher can be diverse and varied, and they are also common to certain other health conditions too. However, you will almost certainly realise that something is wrong with your pup, and booking an appointment with your vet to check out any issues is something that you should arrange as a priority.

Some of the potential symptoms of juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy that you might see in your Doberman puppy include a failure to thrive, refusal to eat, vomiting after eating, and breathing difficulties. The pup will also tend to be more lethargic than you would expect them to be, as well as generally intolerant of exercise.

Can anything be done for affected dogs?

Unfortunately, juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs isn’t something that can be cured or reversed, and when your vet provides their diagnosis they will advise you of this and share advice on how to take care of your dog and manage their comfort at home.

Ultimately, juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy is usually fatal in affected puppies, although some pups will live past their second birthday before succumbing to the condition.

Choosing and buying a healthy puppy

Juvenile dilated cardiomyopathy might not display any symptoms until the dog in question is several months old, which means that you can’t tell simply by looking at and interacting with a litter if any of the pups are affected.

However, there is a health testing protocol in place for the Doberman pinscher dog breed that enables breeders to have their parent stock health tested to find out their status before a mating match is decided.

This is a DNA test that returns a result of either clear, carrier or affected, and allows the breeder to make an informed decision on mating any two dogs in order to produce an unaffected litter.

If you are considering buying a Doberman pinscher puppy, choose a breeder who undertook pre-breeding health testing on their parent stock, and ask to see the results before you pick a puppy or commit to a purchase.


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