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Dobermann Breed Health Co-ordinator end-year update

This update is for clubs to provide to committees and members and for dobermann owners generally.

As we all know, 2020 has been an extraordinary year. This has also impacted health activities, hence a briefer report than usual, but there are some developments.

Club activities

There wasn’t any testing at shows during 2020. However, Midland Dobe Club sometimes arrange reduced price echo and Holter testing for members. Several clubs also now provide Holter monitors at a reduced rate to members, including South East, South West and Welsh.


Like almost all scientific research, the ‘How to Fix a Broken Heart’ project with Dr Connolly at the RVC has been impacted by Covid. This is a three-year research project (although now likely to take longer) into the potential for cardiac stem cells from healthy dogs to be injected into DCM dogs to reverse the symptoms. Most researchers were unable to get into their labs for some months and are still having to reduce the number of people in labs simultaneously, which has slowed progress.

We also discussed last year a project to assess any link between a gene known as Titin and DCM. This also had to be put on hold as the plan had been to take cheek swabs and blood from some of the dogs at shows. I will be talking to Dr Connolly shortly about reviving this plan. We’ll be looking for dogs with confirmed DCM and also dogs over five years who have recently tested clear by echo and Holter. I’ll probably post the cheek swab kits.


The Kennel Club’s 2014 survey (100 dogs) gave longevity at eight years. My own database, currently with about 520 dogs, gives a mean of 9.2 years and a median of 9.8, and this has been stable for some time. 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.

Changes to ABS requirements

The ten clubs agreed two changes to the Assured Breeder Scheme rules some time ago. These were:

  1. That bitches should not be bred from before the age of two;

  2. That eye testing should be carried out once before breeding and once at age 8.

Both of these have gone distinctly pear shaped at the KC/BVA. Re early breeding, I was told that this could only be added as a new requirement on the basis of evidence of harm. Apparently, there is no such evidence.

The issue about repeated eye testing has been even more frustrating. I had agreed with the KC health team and the BVA that we would go for one test before initial breeding and another at the age of eight, the latter to ensure that any emerging eye problems would be picked up. Imagine my surprise when, without any prior notice, I got the same email as all other breeds about the new ABS requirements, which were for dogs to have been tested within twelve months of every mating, and it had gone from recommended to required. Now, ABS breeders for their own stock would presumably grit their teeth and do it, but they need the same to be true of the stud dog – and I think very few stud dog owners would be interested in annual eye testing. Overseas dogs are extremely unlikely to be tested annually.

However, I have been told by the KC that they will allow exceptions on a case by case basis, ‘providing the breeder has a good reason for doing so ... [eg] … that the dog has a good heart and has outstanding longevity up his pedigree and no special thread of cause of death’. I think there is also a grace period until June, but do check that. The KC have also agreed to take this back to the next meeting with the BVA, which will be in May.

Having said all that, there are now only 15 Assured Breeders listed for dobes, and that has decreased even since I checked a few weeks ago.

I should add that, despite what some people were told by the KC, the change had nothing to do with a request from any breed club. It was an across the board change.

So, as mentioned above, not a huge amount to report. Let’s hope things are easier in 2021.


Sue Thorn

KC Breed Health Co-ordinator

February 2021

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