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Dobermann Breed Health Co-ordinator annual update

 

Club activities
During 2023, South East of England Dobe Club arranged biomarker heart testing at their show and tested 36 dogs. They may repeat it in August this year if there is enough
interest. Welsh Dobermann Club carried out reduced price echo scans on ten dobes early in 2024. Midland Dobe Club has an arrangement for members to get reduced price echo scans. Several clubs also now provide Holter monitors at a reduced rate to members, including SEEDC, WDC and SWDC. Check the club’s web site in each case or contact the Secretary.

Breed Health and Conservation Plan

A reminder that we have this plan, developed with the KC. The priorities are dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), cancer (especially lymphoma and mammary tumours), and Wobblers. Vestibular deafness (DINGS) and hypothyroidism were also flagged.

Longevity

My database, currently with over 700 dogs, gives a mean of 9.3 years and a median of 9.9. Thus, almost half had died before their 9th birthday, and more than 1 in 7 before their 6th birthday. Please keep sending me details of your dogs (email address at the end of this report). I just need pedigree name, date of death, and cause of death if you are fairly confident of it. The mean figure hasn’t varied for some time and is probably fairly accurate, at least for dogs from show backgrounds. I have now identified a researcher who will work with me on producing a definitive paper on dobermann longevity. I would like to thank the following breeders who have kindly sent me their full longevity records: Aritaur, Baikel, Jojavik, Kodam, Lateagain, Lodgehouse, Martifers, Newfords, Philmont, Remesca, Roanoke, Swnydwr, Woodbriar, Zeloviak. Apologies if I’ve missed any out.
I would be very grateful to receive records from other breeders.

Dings

There has been an important development in testing for DINGS – vestibular deafness. This is a dobermann specific genetic disease characterised in new-born pups by one or more of a wobbly neck, poor balance, going round in circles a lot, and crying. They are often PTS at a few days old, but can work through the locomotor problems if they are not deaf, which can’t be tested until they are several weeks old. Add in a complication with UK dobes that some seem also to have poor eyesight, and it will be clear that these pups are mostly not viable, despite being fully intelligent and active.

Two faulty genes have been discovered. The faulty gene for unilateral deafness (PTPRQ) has not been identified in UK dobes, but the faulty gene for bilateral deafness (MY07A) has been shown to be present in some UK dobes and is now approved as a genetic test by the Kennel Club as of March 2024. The application to the KC was supported by all eight clubs who expressed an opinion. For DINGS to occur requires both parents to be carriers, but progeny of carriers also have a 50% chance on average of being carriers, so it is important to test breeding stock so as to be able to avoid mating two carriers.

The test can be done by Laboklin https://www.laboklin.co.uk/laboklin/showGeneticTest.jsp?testID=8875 in the UK (who will forward the results to the KC if you tick the box to agree), and by other labs such as Wisdom MYDOGDNA https://mydogdna.com/ in which case you will need to forward the results certificate to health.results@thekennelclub.org.uk.
MYDOGDNA do a full DNA screening including vWD and DCM1-4. The latter tests have no established validity yet, but it would be very interesting to collate results.
For Wisdom there are also occasional special offers on their site. The KC are planning to add this test to their DNA breed bundle. The full list of approved labs is at:  https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/health-and dog-care/health/getting-started-with-health-testing-and-screening/dna-testing/

DCM

As most people know, at present we can only test for the existing presence of DCM; there are no predictive tests. This is why annual testing is so essential, because it can identify damage to the heart before there are any symptoms. There are two benefits to identifying DCM early (in its occult phase): first, it can avoid breeding from affected dogs, and secondly, starting the dog on medication before there are symptoms can give it several extra years of active, healthy life.

 

There have been four genes so far identified as being relevant to DCM (usually referred to as DCM1-4), but it is important to recognise that none of these has yet been validated in UK dogs and nor are they anyway accurate predictors of whether the dog will go on to develop DCM. Laboklin and Wisdom MYDOGDNA both test for these and it would be useful to collate results for future use. In addition, the Royal Vet College cardiology team are currently carrying out research on the relevance of these tests for a number of UK dogs and the results of this should be available later this year.

 

As regards testing, Dr Jo Dukes-McEwan’s research published a while ago showed that biomarker testing is a reliable first step, but she recommends using lower cut offs, thus going on to echo and 24 hr Holter testing if the Troponin result is above 0.056 (current cut-off 0.07) and for NT-pro-BNP 621, rather than 735.

 

When contacting your vet for biomarker testing, please ensure they send the samples to IDEXX, as I understand this is the only laboratory that can carry out high sensitivity Troponin I testing, measuring down to 0.001 ng/mL. Other labs can only test down to ‘<0.2’. As the cut-off for suspected DCM is 0.07, this means a result of <0.2 can never be used to say the dog does not have DCM. A result of 0.2 or higher means the dog possibly has DCM and should be echo/Holter tested. Thus, there is no possibility of ‘clear’ results from such tests.

Wobblers

In my database, over 5% of dogs with a recorded cause of death were due to Wobblers. This is behind only cancer, DCM and age-related issues. EMBARK in the USA were carrying out a research project to try to identify any relevant gene(s). I recruited some UK dogs to this, but EMBARK apparently have no news on this at the time of writing. I have recently heard that Wisdom are carrying out Wobblers research and have asked them for details.

Cancer

During 2023 I watched an online presentation from a cancer specialist about bone cancer. The take home messages were:

• Risk is greater for males, greater for neutered dogs, greater for early neuter.

• It's always fatal, but treatment can improve quality of life, in some instances extend good quality life, and, importantly, reduce pain.

• Surgery is usually recommended, but this doesn't always have to mean amputation. It is worth discussing limb-sparing surgery.

• Chemotherapy is often used in association with surgery and there is data that the outcome is much better if this is started within five days of surgery.
    Median survival time was 445 days vs 239 days.

• Radiotherapy can assist with pain relief.

 

I have kept in touch with the researcher involved and am discussing where Dobermanns can fit in his research.

Other Issues

If you carry out vWD tests, please check whether the company you use automatically sends the result to the KC, and send it on yourself if not (health.results@thekennelclub.org.uk). We really do need good records on this.

 

A number of owners have been sending hip x-rays to Australian vets, who usually return them within a day or two, especially while the BVA had huge delays.
The KC will record these values if sent them, but do not add them to the dog’s visible record.

A word of thanks

There are many people behind the scenes who are working to improve dobe health. I’d like to mention especially June Piper and Emma Edwards who organised the Welsh Dobe echo scans, and Alison Godfrey and Jenny Sharp, who organised the SEEDC biomarker testing, as well as Carol Smith, who organises the reduced price scans for Midland Dobe.

 

Sue Thorn, Breed Health Co-ordinator

suejthorn@yahoo.co.uk

March 2024

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