2. Von Willebrand's Disease
3. Wobbler Syndrome
4. Hip Dysplasia



This disease is something that i feel should be brought to the attention of all breeders who are unaware of it, in almost 20 years of breeding i have never come across anything like it, i hope by reading this information if you come across HOD you can effectively treat it without having to go through months of sleepless nights & trips to the vet while they kept guessing what the problem with Konrad could be, everything from upset stomach, septicaemia, broken pelvis, broken legs, the list goes on & on from the age of 6 weeks to almost 18 weeks with numerous x-rays & operations.


Hypertrophic osteodystrophy causes lameness & extreme pain in young growing dogs, usually of a large breed. Great Danes, G.S.D.s, Dobermanns, Retrievers & Weimaraners are examples of breeds that may be affected by this condition. It appears to occur in Weimaraners as a vaccine reaction & this may also affect Mastiffs & Great Danes.

In this case it usually occurs a few days after Vaccination and may appear to be worse than the "average" case on radiograph. ( In Konrads case he had a high fever & would not eat, we thought he had got some kind of virus, he was walking very stiff on both back legs, he was given painkillers & antibiotics over 2 weeks & he seemed to recover, so at 8 weeks he was vaccinated along with the other pups, after this things became progressively worse) .

HOD usually shows up as an acute lameness, often seeming to affect all four legs simultaneously. Affected dogs may stand in a " hunched up" stance or refuse to stand up at all. They may have a fever, but this is not consistently present. They usually have painful swellings around the lower joints on the legs. Some puppies will die from this disease, some suffer permanent disability, but many recover later. The disease is so painful that many owners elect to euthanize the puppy rather than watch it suffer, despite the reasonable good chance of recovery, long term affected dogs may be so ill they refuse to eat. X-rays confirm the diagnosis in most cases. There are typical x-ray changes although it can look a little like bone infection from a septic condition. There is some evidence at this point that viral or bacterial infections may underlie some cases of HOD as canine distemper virus has been found in the affected areas in some dogs. There can be high white blood cell counts and the alkaline phosphatase level in the blood stream is often elevated. ( Konrad had all of the above, swelling to all his leg joints, at some very bad periods he could not stand at all & at these times refused to eat, he cried constantly with pain at these times).

"There is also a theory that this condition may occur with excessive dietary levels of calcium or protein".

Treatment normally consists of analgesic medications such as aspirin or Rimadyl. Since a viral or bacterial agent may be involved in this problem the use of corticosteroids is questionable. Many people try switching to a diet that is lower in calcium ( large breed puppy food is a good choice, before these were available people fed adult food, but these didnt always result in lower total calcium in the diet). Even more potent pain relief medications may be indicated in some puppies. Hydrocodone & aspirin may be a more effective combination than either one alone. Antibiotics are often given with this condition. There is a persistent rumour that Vitamin C supplementation is beneficial in dogs with HOD, this appears to be a false rumour & there is some evidence that Vitamin C may actually promote abnormal calcification in these puppies. It is not a good idea to supplement with Vitamin C.

Konrads Treatment consisted of large doses of antibiotics over a 3 week period as everytime he went down hill it always started with a very high fever, he was also given rymadyl for about a week plus steroids 20mgs everyday, with this treatment he started to recover well, so we started to reduce the steroids to 10mgs everyday after about 2 months we reduced to every other day after 10 days of this he got a fever again Temp 41.0, so he was given antibiotics again & 20mgs a day of steroids. We continued once he recovered again to reducing the steroids but still giving everyday, meanwhile Konrad was growing not much in height but at 10 months he weighs 30kg & was having 5mgs a day of steroids. ( he was being fed on large breed puppy food from weaning )

3 weeks ago i reduced to 5mgs every other day, then last week every 2 days all was going well, he went to the Vet as a large Heamatoma came up on his elbow, so the vet drained it & gave him an antibiotic injection on Friday, by Tuesday Konrad looked unwell with a very high fever again we rushed him to the vet were he was given another Antibiotic injection & tablets for 3 days plus back to 10 mgs a day of steroids. So far so good.

We will continue to try to wean Konrad from the steroids & hope that as he grows ( he is now almost 11 months old ) we will succeed, but for now he is a very happy little dog, who runs & plays with all the other dogs, & he will stay here with us for the rest of his life. A show dog he isnt, but we love him dearly & is affectionately known as my "mini Dobe" & i hope now after you have read this, if you are lucky enough to meet Konrad, you dont turn round & say, (just because he is not a perfect specimen) "oh my god whats that" because its very upsetting when you have been through what we have with this little man, at the end of the day he is lucky to be alive.

2. Von Willebrand's Disease

A common inherited bleeding disorder. Clotting is a complex mechanism. In addition to platelets, clot formation is the result of a long chain of chemical reactions carried out by individual molecules called 'clotting factors.' Each factor is numbered such that factor I leads to a reaction with factor II forming a new substance. This then reacts with factor III and so on to factor XII.

In Von Willebrand's Disease, the dog is missing a substance, which helps the platelets form clots and stabilises Factor VIII in the clotting process. This substance is called 'Von Willebrand's factor.' Because of the deficient clotting of blood, dogs with Von Willebrand's disease have excessive bleeding upon injury. This would be similar to haemophilia in humans.

Certain breeds have a higher incidence of vWD than others. German Shepherds, Dobermanns , Shetland Sheepdogs, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, German Shorthaired Pointers, Golden Retrievers, Standard Poodles, and Scottish Terriers all have a higher than normal incidence, showing that it can be inherited.

What are the symptoms?

Excessive bleeding is the main symptom. Bleeding generally occurs after a wound or surgery. In these cases, the blood simply does not clot in the normal time, and bleeding is extensive. Dog's with Von Willebrand's disease may also develop nosebleeds, or bleeding from the gums. Bleeding may also occur in the stomach or intestine in which case the stool may either have blood in it, or be black and tarry. Some dogs will have blood in their urine. Bleeding into the joints also occurs, which can cause symptoms similar to those of arthritis.

The diagnosis of Von Willebrand's is made through a simple test, which checks for the level of Von Willebrand's factor in the blood.

What are the risks?

These dogs, without treatment, can bleed to death following surgery, or what might be normally considered less than life threatening injuries.

What is the management?

Transfusions with blood collected from normal dogs is the only proven way to treat Von Willebrand's disease. Some dogs with Von Willebrand's disease also are hypothyroid - meaning they have lower than normal levels of thyroid hormone. These dogs will benefit from thyroid hormone replacement therapy.

Some studies have been done which suggest a drug called desmopressin acetate (DDAVP) may help dogs with a bleeding episode. The drug can be administered intranasally (into the nose) to increase clotting. There is still some controversy over whether this treatment is effective.

There is no cure for Von Willebrand's disease. Prevention through eliminating affected individuals from any breeding program is the goal of veterinary medicine today. Tests are available to determine which dogs may have this trait. All individuals with a history of this disorder in their backgrounds should be tested.

The Dobermann breeder and owner should view VWD as a significant health risk, and a fault, and strive to get rid of the mutated gene.

Test results will come back as "clear," "carrier," or "affected." clear means both vWf genes are normal, carrier means one is normal and one is defective, and affected means both genes are defective. It is important to realise that this DNA test is very different from the old protein-based factor assay. The DNA test is definitive and final, a lifelong, permanent determination of the vWD status of each dog tested as contrasted to the factor assay, in which the levels could change drastically over time. We can now say in hindsight that the old test probably correctly identified some affected Dobermanns (values under 20), but it is completely unreliable for carrier detection.

What should a breeder do with the test results, once they are obtained, in terms of breeding decisions? Firstly, you should be breeding clear to clear producing only clear puppies, secondly clear to carrier producing 50/50. Over time, as the frequency of clear dogs increases, it should be possible to breed mostly clear.

The results of breeding carrier to carrier, (not advised & now not necessary, due to the large genepool of clear dogs thanks to the DNA test). This type of mating will produce 25% clear, 50% carrier, and 25% affected, on average. All the puppies should be tested and the affected puppies not used for breeding.

Breeding carrier to affected and affected to affected is totally irresponsible & unnecessary.

In summary, responsible Dobermann breeders are now in the advantageous position of being able to eliminate one of the significant diseases in our breed, The test is remarkably easy to get done, and is reasonably priced, considering that it is a definitive lifetime determiner of the VWD genetic type of the dog tested. We urge all Dobermann breeders to get their breeding stock tested, so that we can get on with eliminating this disease.

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2. Wobbler Syndrome

Caused by a malformation of the vertebrae within the neck. The spinal canal is the tunnel within the vertebrae in which the spinal cord lies. In affected dogs, this opening is smaller than normal, causing pressure on the spinal cord. This prevents neural impulses from passing through the spinal cord. Additionally, as the animal matures, the space within the vertebrae continues to shrink in relation to the size of the spinal cord. Instability between the individual neck vertebrae is generally noted in addition to the narrowing of the spinal canal. While any breed can be affected, over 80 percent of all cases reported are in Great Danes and Doberman Pinschers. Genetics definitely play a role.

What are the symptoms?

Usually symptoms appear before four years of age, and on average, earlier in Great Danes than in Dobermans. An unwillingness to bend the neck is usually the first sign, followed by weakness and lack of co-ordination in the rear limbs, progressing to weakness in the front limbs as well.

What are the risks?

This condition is always serious and can progress to complete paralysis A veterinary examination should be performed at once in animals of these breeds showing the above signs.

What is the management?

Anti-inflammatory medications can provide relief, but they do not correct the abnormal spinal canal within the vertebrae. Surgery can be performed to stabilise the vertebrae and/or to remove a portion of the vertebrae, thus allowing more room for the spinal cord. A full recovery is not always achieved.

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3. Hip Dysplasia

Caused by looseness in the hip joint. The looseness creates abnormal wear and erosion of the joint and as a result pain and arthritis develops. The disease process is fairly straightforward; the controversy starts when we try to determine what predisposes animals to contract the disease. Almost all researchers agree that there is a genetic link involved. If a parent has hip dysplasia, then the offspring are at greater risk for developing hip dysplasia. Some researchers feel that genetics are the only factor involved, where others feel that genetics contribute less than 25% to the development of the disease. The truth probably lies in the middle. If there are no carriers of hip dysplasia in a dog's lineage, then it will not contract the disease. If there are genetic carriers, then it may contract the disease. We can greatly reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia through selective breeding. We can also increase the incidence through selectively breeding. We cannot, however, completely reproduce the disease through selective breeding. In other words, if you breed two dysplastic dogs, the offspring are much more likely to develop the disease but will not all have the same level of symptoms or even necessarily show any symptoms. The offspring from these dogs will, however, be carriers and the disease may show up in their offspring in later generations. This is why it can be difficult to eradicate the disease from a breed or specific line.

Nutrition: Experimentally, we can increase the severity of the disease in genetically susceptible animals in a number of ways. One of them is through obesity. It stands to reason that carrying around extra weight will exacerbate degeneration of the joint in a dog with a loose hip. Overweight dogs are therefore at a much higher risk. Another factor that may increase the incidence is rapid growth in a puppy during the ages from three to ten months. Experimentally, the incidence has been increased in genetically susceptible dogs when they are given free choice high protein and high calorie diets.

Exercise: Exercise may be another risk factor. It appears that dogs that are genetically susceptible to the disease may have an increased incidence of disease if they over-exercised at a young age. But at the same time, we know that dogs with large and prominent leg muscle mass are less likely to contract the disease than dogs with small muscle mass. So exercising and maintaining good muscle mass may actually decrease the incidence of the disease. Moderate exercise that strengthens the gluteal muscles, such as running and swimming, is probably a good idea. Whereas, activities that apply a lot of force to the joint are contraindicated. An example would be jumping activities such as playing Frisbee.

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