Some Heath Aspects to Consider Before you Decide to Breed or Purchase a Puppy  

1. Purpose

To inform the Breeders and the public, who purchase our puppies of our efforts to breed healthy animals. Emphasis should also be made on the temperament to coincide with the concept of breeding the Complete Dobermann, which concentrates on conformation, health and temperament. Currently we have, as a guide, an FCI Breed Standard, temperament tests such as the ZTP (German Breed Suitability Test) and APT (Swedish temperament test).

The Dobermann Breed Standard calls for: “Exceptionally suitable as a companion, protection and working dog and also as a family dog.” Behaviour and Temperament – “the disposition of the Dobermann is friendly and calm, very devoted to the family, it loves children. Medium temperament and medium sharpness (alertness) is desired. A medium threshold of irritation is required with a good contact to the owner. Easy to train, the Dobermann enjoys working and shall have good working ability, courage and hardness. The particular values to self confidence and intrepidness are required and also adaptability and attention to fit the social environment.”

However, we feel that due consideration must also be given to health issues, as indicated below.

2. Background

All too often one reads or hears of the “sick” Dobermann Breed - this could be as a result of it being a 'man-made' breed where the usage of popular sires has contributed to the multiplying factor when looking at the inbreeding coefficients that are evident in the relatively small gene pool of the Breed worldwide and specifically in South Africa.

We need to thank the breeders importing “new” breeding stock into the country to assist us in widening our gene pool. A positive new trend seen over the last couple of years has seen more breeders and owners working their dogs in the various working disciplines. This requires time and dedication over a long period of time, which could end up breaking your heart when a serious health condition is diagnosed.

Currently in South Africa the only health assessment required for breeding by our canine umbrella body, the KUSA is an HD Assessment, with the new FCI grading system effective as from 1st January 2007. There is a worldwide the trend that more health aspects need to be concentrated on and we suggest that Breeders seriously consider the following aspects:

3. Aspects that Need to be Considered

Health issues

The following 5 health tests are being concentrated on at this point in time, it must be noted that not all our breeding stock has been tested, however, the results of those that have are displayed on there individual web pages:

  • HD (Hip Dysplasia)
  • ED (Elbow Dysplasia)
  • DCM (Dilated Cardiomyopathy)
  • vWD (Van Willebrand's Disease)
  • Eye tests, and in specific PHTVL/ PHPV
  • CVI (Wobblers)

The decision to test or not for some of the other health issues that are not considered as serious at present, are left to the discretion of the individual breeders:

  • Thyroid
  • Auto Immune Deficiency Syndromes

DNA Profiling

We recommend that Breeders have their dogs, especially stud males, DNA profiled for parentage verification. This is a simple procedure where a blood sample is taken from the dog and sent to the Genetics Laboratory at Onderstepoort and records are kept of the genes pertaining to parentage.

Other factors


Relatively little is known by breeders regarding this virus, hence the following explanation:

The Canine Herpes Virus (CHV-1) is highly infectious and seems to have been underplayed by Veterinarians and Breeders alike for many years. CHV-1 can have serious effects on both puppies and adult dogs. CHV-1 belongs to the family Herpesviridae and is a typical alpha-herpes virus. The virus is sensitive to lipid solvents, temperatures greater than 40°C, pH <~5 and >~8, and rapidly inactivated by common disinfectants. The virus grows only in canine cells and growth is best in kidney or testicular cells, optimally at 34 - 35°C. These viruses produce intranuclear inclusions in infected cells.

Transmission and Clinical Signs: Infection of puppies is considered to take place transplacentally (during pregnancy) or by contact during (passage through an infected dam's birth canal) or shortly after parturition (contact with oronasal secretions of the dam or other dogs) when licked. Infected littermates, or dogs in close proximity that are shedding the virus, also serve as sources of infection. Disease caused by CHV-1 is generally fatal in neonatal puppies that lack immunity derived from their dams. Asymptomatically infected dogs remain latently infected and virus may be excreted for about a week in nasal secretions or in genital secretions, and thereafter, at unpredictable intervals over periods of several months, or years.

Diagnosis: Dogs that are negative at the time of testing may in fact be infected, and will remain carriers of the virus for life, with the intermittent shedding of the virus occurring during periods of stress.

Treatment: There is no cure for infection with CHV-1. Therapy with general antiviral medicine does not appear to be effective.

Prevention: Vaccination is currently the only way to offer protection from CHV-1 to both newborn puppies and adult dogs. A vaccine (Eurican Herpes 205) has recently been launched by Merial SA, that induces immunity against Canine Herpes virus in pregnant bitches, whether or not they are currently infected with the virus. The vaccine is specifically indicated for bitches during pregnancy and has been shown to provide good immunity to newborn puppies after 2 injections have been administered to their dams. The first vaccination is given between the 1st day of the heat period and the 10th day after mating. The second vaccination is given 1-2 weeks before whelping. Puppies are subsequently passively immunised via the vaccinated dam's colostrum.


4 Guildlines

Kindly note that the explanations below are the guidelines which we breed to - as taken from information available on the web and other sources:

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM): is tested at 2 yearly intervals, with the recommended starting age of animals being over 24 months. Dogs diagnosed positively with this condition are to be eliminated from the breeding programme from the date of positive assessment. We are all aware of the fact that a DNA marker has not yet been identified for DCM and subsequently a dog can test negative at a certain age and positive at a later stage.

The only permissible combinations: 'IDEAL' combination:

Breeding Pair Combinations MALE - Normal/Negative MALE - Positive
FEMALE - Normal/Negative Ideal High Risk
FEMALE - Positive High Risk Not Recommended

von Willebrand's Disease (vWD): The vWD test is a DNA test, the result of which is applicable to the life of the animal. It is recommended that wherever possible only Clear animals be used in the breeding programme but where not possible the following guidelines become applicable:

Carrier or Affected animals may ONLY be mated to Clear animals.

The following table clearly shows the danger in mating Carrier-to-Carrier and Carrier-to-Affected and Affected-to-Affected:

Breeding Pair Combinations MALE - Clear MALE - Carrier MALE - Affected
FEMALE - Clear 100% Clear 50/50 Carrier/Clear 100% Carrier
FEMALE - Carrier 50/50 Carrier/Clear 25/50/25 Clr./Carr./Affctd. 50/50 Carrier/Affected
FEMALE - Affected 100% Carrier 50/50 Carrier/Affected 100% Affected

Ideal Breeding Pair. Puppies will not have the disease gene (neither as Carrier nor as Affected).

Breeding Is Safe. No Affected puppies will be produced. However, some or all puppies will be Carriers. Accordingly, it is recommended that Carrier dogs which are desirable for breeding be bred with Clear dogs in the future, which will produce 50% carrier and 50% clear animals, to further reduce the disease gene frequency. These offspring should be tested by VetGen's test for this defective gene, and if possible, only the clear animals in this generation should be used.

High Risk Breeding. Some puppies are likely to be Carriers and some puppies are likely to be Affected. Even though it is possible that there will be some clear puppies when breeding 'Carrier to Carrier', in general, neither this type of breeding pair nor 'Carrier to Affected' are recommended for breeding.

Breeding Not Recommended. All puppies will be genetically Affected.

Progeny from parents tested Clear, by an internationally recognised facility, will not need to be tested, however, if progeny that are tested do not come back clear, both these parents will be placed on a caution list until retested. To prevent the latter from possibly occurring, it is advised that the test be done in the presence of a veterinarian who will positively identify the animal. Parents tested in this manner will not be placed on the caution list.

Eye Tests: There are various eye problems and diseases that are currently tested for in SA, however, PHTVL/PHPV is the problem that we concentrate on. PHTVL/PHPV only needs to be tested for once during the dogs lifetime as it is genetically inherited, the result at the time of testing is applicable for the life of the dog. This test is done on breeding stock and the veterinary specialists in this field have been asked to consider introducing the grading system.

Should this grading system be possible the guidelines would be 'IDEAL' or 'RECOMMENDED' combinations only:

Breeding Pair Combinations MALE - Clear MALE - Unilateral (spots in one eye only) Grade 1 MALE - Grade 1 MALE - Grade 2 MALE - Grade 3+
FEMALE - Clear Ideal Recommended Recommended High Risk Not to be bred
FEMALE - Unilateral (spots in one eye only) Grade 1 Recommended Recommended High Risk High Risk Not to be bred
FEMALE - Grade 1 Recommended High Risk High Risk High Risk Not to be bred
FEMALE - Grade 2 High Risk High Risk High Risk High Risk Not to be bred
FEMALE - Grade 3+ Not to be bred Not to be bred Not to be bred Not to be bred Not to be bred

Other eye diseases and problems should be tested for on an annual basis as these can develop later in the dogs life and some of them are degenerative.

Hip Dysplasia (HD) and Elbow Dysplasia (ED) assessments are required to be done once in an animals life, after the age of 12 months, the results are applicable to the life of the animal. Guidelines for breeding as per KUSA guidelines specific to HD as shown by 'IDEAL' or 'RECOMMENDED' combinations only. KUSA adopted the FCI grading system on 1st January, 2007 and under the new regulation any combination of acceptable gradings (old system 0 and 1 / new system A and B) are allowed to be bred with:

New FCI Grading system

Breeding Pair Combinations MALE - Grade A MALE - Grade A/B MALE - Grade B MALE - Grade C +
FEMALE - Grade A Ideal Recommended Recommended Not to be bred
FEMALE - Grade A/B Recommended Recommended Recommended Not to be bred
FEMALE - Grade B Recommended Recommended Recommended Not to be bred
FEMALE - Grade C+ Not to be bred Not to be bred Not to be bred Not to be bred

Thyroid: We recommend the TSH (Thyroid function test) as well as the Total T4 tests. This is only a screening test and the three possible grading areas are 'Normal', 'Grey-area' and 'Hypothyroidism'. Inheritability of thyroid dysfunction in dogs is low.

5. Appendices

Health Test Test Authority Country Type of Test

1. Onderstepoort
2. Any vet practice, where x-ray facilities are available, to be finally certified by Dr Kirberger

South Africa X-Rays

1. Onderstepoort
2. JHB Animal Eye Hospital

South Africa Examination by vet
DCM 1. Onderstepoort
2. Provinces
South Africa Echo cardiogram
Vwd 1. VetGen
2. Laboklin
Saliva/Blood sample
Thyroid(TSH function + Total T4) 1. Onderstepoort South Africa Blood sample
Herpes 1. Onderstepoort South Africa Blood sample
Wobblers 1. Any vet practice, where x-ray facilities are Available South Africa X-Rays

Veterinarians accepted to do Cardio Scans:

Johannesburg: Dr. Gary Eckersley
Tel.: (011) 702-1957
Cape Town: Cape Animal Medical Centre
Dr. Malan van Zyl
Tel.: (021) 674-0034
Durban: Westville Animal Hospital
Dr. Winberley
Tel.: (031) 267-8020
Port Elizabeth: Kwagga Kamer Veterinary Clinic
Dr. Dave Euzared
Tel.: (041) 379-2740
Dr. Euzared would be able to recommend a vet in East London should there be one in that area qualified to do Cardio Scans.

Veterinarians accepted to do Eye Tests:

Johannesburg: Johannesburg Animal Eye Hospital
Drs. Venter & Goodhead
Tel.: (011) 465-1237
Pretoria: Eye tests are performed at Onderstepoort on Monday and Tuesday mornings, but bookings need to be made through JHB Animal Eye Hospital (011) 465-1237.
Cape Town: Cape Animal Medical Centre
Dr. Gary Bauer
Tel.: (021) 674-0034
Durban: Drs. Venter and Goodhead consult at Westville Animal Hospital every 4 – 5 months, so please phone to make a booking and to ascertain when the above Drs. will be consulting at this practice.
Tel.: (031) 267-8020
Bloemfontein: Drs. Venter and Goodhead consult at Bayswater Animal Hospital every 4 – 5 months, so please phone to make a booking and to ascertain when the above Drs. will be consulting at this practice.
Tel.: (051) 436-6604
Nelspruit: Drs. Venter and Goodhead consult at West Acres Animal Hospital every 4 – 5 months, so please phone to make a booking and to ascertain when the above Drs. will be consulting at this practice.
Tel.: (013) 741-2026

Unfortunately no practices in Port Elizabeth or East London are available for eye testing.

Van Willebrand's Disease testing can be done through the following two laboratories overseas as testing is not available in South Africa:

Germany: Laboklin – Laboratory for Clinical Diagnostics
Prinzregentenstrasse 3
97688 Bad Kissingen
Tel.: 0949 971 72020
Fax: 0949 971 68546
United States of America: Vetgen – Veterinary Genetic Services
3728 Plaza Drive, Suite 1, Ann Arbor,
Michigan, 48108 USA
Tel.: 091 734 669-8440
Fax: 091 734 669-8441

Thyroid and Herpes test can be done through your regular veterinarian as it is a blood sample, which needs to be sent to Onderstepoort for analysis.