Breed of the Month: Doberman Pinscher


History:  The Doberman Pinscher originated in Germany around 1890.  A tax collector, named Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann ‘designed’ the Doberman to be his guard dog.  Mr. Dobermann had to collect money from people in some pretty shady areas, he decided that having a guard dog would prevent people from stealing his money.

Description: Dobermans’ are a large, muscular dog.  Their bodies are built for endurance and stamina.  These dogs were first bread to guard and protect their owners, now they have the same look as their ancestors, but a more gentle personality.  The head is a wedge shape.  Doberman puppies are born with floppy ears and a long tail.  After they reach a certain age, most owners will have the ears cropped and the tails docked.

Size:  The Doberman is a large dog and averages 61-68 centimeters in height.  Male Dobermans weigh in at 34-45 kg and females at 27-41 kg. (1 pound is about 2.2 kilogram)

Temperament:  Originally, Dobermans were bread to be fearless guard dogs.  They were bred to be large, fearless, and ready to protect when commanded.  These traits have given the Dobermans a bad reputation.  Over the years, breeders have somehow altered the Dobermans’ personality traits.  They are still large and in charge, but are not as aggressive and intimidating.  Today, Doberman’s are still known to be protective of their owners, but they are also good-natured, intelligent, and loyal.

Dobermans’ are prone to separation anxiety. This is because the breed is used to spending a lot of time around humans.  If you work long hours, it would not be a good idea to adopt a Doberman. They can become anxious and destructive when left alone for long periods of time. These active dogs require attention and activity.  If this does not happen, the Doberman will become bored and search for their own source of entertainment; which might not be approved by any owner.

Grooming: Doberman’s could be classified as a ‘low maintenance’ dog when it comes to grooming. These dogs do shed year round, but brushing them weekly is enough to keep it under control.  When it comes to the ‘dog smell,’ most owners have stated that their Dobermans’ rarely smell and don’t bathe that often.  You can get away with bathing these dogs 3-4 times a year.

An important thing to keep up on is checking the Doberman’s ears.  They sometimes have wax build up, which may lead to an ear infection.  If you have noticed issues with your Doberman’s ears, ask your veterinarian if they can recommended an ear cleansing solution.

Health:  Doberman’s have a few serious health issues that their owners should pay close attention to.  The first and most common is Dilated cardiomyopathy.  This is when your heart is an abnormal shape and there are problems pumping blood efficiently throughout your body.  This then causes the rest of your organs to have problems, due to the lack of blood flow. 

Wobbler disease affects most large-breed dogs.  It is a neurological disease that causes a wobbly gait in most animals.  Some dogs will walk with their head hung low, this is a sign that they are in pain.  Their spinal cords are under pressure whether from a herniated disc, or a small spinal canal.

Von Willebrand disease is where the blood has a hard time clotting after a blood vessel becomes injured.  This means after a Doberman becomes injured, they might have excessive bleeding even if the sustained injury is minimal.

Exercise:  Due to the Doberman being bred with an active, athletic nature; they require a large amount of daily exercise and mental activities.  After looking around at a few different sites, most current Doberman owners suggest that you not only have a large fenced-in back yard, but that you also have the time to spend exercising your Doberman.  You might think that putting them out back gives them plenty of time to run around, but playing by yourself can get boring.  This is where a companion would come in.  Not every Doberman owner recommends that you get 2 at once, it is just something to think about.

Lifespan: On average, the Doberman can live 10-13 years.  This also depends on the health of your animal and how well it is taken care of.

Trivia:  Dobermans have also been known for making appearance on the big screen. Zeus and Apollo were owned by Higgens in the television show Magnum PI.  In the movie Resident Evil, there were a few Doberman Zombies.  Also in Disney’s movie Up, there was a Doberman by the name of Alpha.


Do Hypoallergenic Dogs Actually Exist?

The short answer is, no. However, I imagine you all require some evidence to back up this claim.

First things first; what even causes a persons’ allergic reaction to dogs? Proteins contained in the saliva and urine of dogs attaches to the dead skin cells (dander) and is released into the air. When a person who is allergic to dogs breathes in that dander their body has a hypersensitive response, attacking the rather harmless substance and causing itchy eyes, a stuffy or runny nose, and sneezing.

Some people have mistakenly made a correlation between the allergenic nature of a dog and the amount of hair a dog produces; this assertion just isn’t so. In fact, hair is the same thing as fur, as both hair and fur have an identical chemical make-up. Only a linguistic difference stands between hair and fur. Fur usually refers to hair on non-human animals, and hair usually refers to fur on humans.

The American Kennel Club highlights eleven alleged hypoallergenic breeds: Bedlington Terrier, Kerry Blue Terrier, Schnauzer, Bichon Frise, Maltese, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Chinese Crested, Poodles, Xoloitzcuintli, Irish Water Spaniel, and Portuguese Water Dog.

In July of 2011 an article was published by the American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy which compared the allergen levels of hypoallergenic dogs to non-hypoallergenic dogs.

The study by Henry Ford Hospital researchers looked at 173 households containing a single dog one month after bringing home a newborn and tested dog allergen levels in the house. Among the 173 dogs, there were 60 breeds, 11 of which were hypoallergenic breeds.

From an article by pertaining to this study:

“Based on public web site claims of hypoallergenic breeds, dogs were classified as hypoallergenic using one of four “schemes” based on their breed for comparing allergen levels. Scheme A compared purebred hypoallergenic dogs to purebred non-hypoallergenic dogs; Scheme B compared purebred and mixed breed dogs with at least one hypoallergenic parent to purebred non-hypoallergenic dogs; Scheme C compared purebred and mixed breed dogs with at least one hypoallergenic parent to purebred and mixed breed dogs with no known hypoallergenic component; Scheme D compared only purebred dogs identified as hypoallergenic by the American Kennel Club to all other dogs.”

When comparing these four schemes, the Henry Ford researchers found no statistical difference between alleged hypoallergenic dogs and non-hypoallergenic dogs.

In summation: the amount of allergens released differs between each individual dog, regardless of breed. There are no consistent differences in amounts of allergens concerning specific breeds, including those breeds labeled by the AKC as “hypoallergenic.”

If you would like to read the study in its entirety, you can find it presented online right here.

Canine Obesity

As I’m sure you all are aware, obesity is a major problem that our country faces. Over one-third of all US adults are overweight and medical costs associated with obesity (stroke, type 2 diabetes, heart attack, and heart disease) were estimated at $147 billion in 2008.

As our society becomes more sedentary and more prone to eating high-calorie foods, the dogs in our care receive similar treatment. According to a survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) 53% of all adult dogs are defined as overweight or obese.

A dog is considered overweight if the dog weights 5% – 19% more than their ideal weight while an obese dog weighs 20% or more than it’s ideal weight. To put this into perspective, a male Black Labrador Retriever’s ideal weight is about 70lbs. If that dog were to gain 14lbs, it would be considered obese.

Pfizer Animal Health has put together, what they call, a BARC (Body Assessment Rating for Canines). It’s a good resource that helps you take all sorts of variables of risk into consideration. But as they stress on their website, this nine question assessment shouldn’t be used as a replacement for a visit to your dog’s veterinarian.

There are some ways to test at home to see if your dog is overweight. You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs but, not be able to see them when your dog is wet. On the BARC test from Pfizer, they ask:

Stand at your dog’s side and look at the tuck-up — the belly area between the ribcage and hindquarters. Is the body more “square-shaped” in this area?

If your dog looks like a sausage, he’s probably overweight. Instead, dogs should have an hour-glass figure.

Obesity comes with a multitude of health consequences. Overweight dogs have an increased risk of cancer and are susceptible to fatty liver disease. Carrying around all that extra weight causes joint pain and difficulty breathing. Overweight dogs, much like humans, are susceptible to diabetes and can succumb to surgical complications. On average, an overweight dog has a decreased life span of nearly 2.5 years.

So, why exactly do dogs get fat? Much like humans, dogs also gain weight for two main reasons; eating too much and exercising too little. Owners will often times feed their dogs table scraps. All of those unnecessary extra calories can really add up and start adding weight.

Owners of overweight dogs also have a tendency to over feed. Simply following the information on the back of the package of dog food is not all the information you need. When it comes to appropriate portion size, your veterinarian can inform you of other variables that need to be taken into account, like energy requirements, size, breed, and genetics.

Dogs often don’t receive the appropriate amount of exercise. Depending on the breed, most dogs require 30 – 45 minutes of exercise each day. Not only does exercise keep a dog lean, it helps keep dogs occupied and less likely to get bored, bark, and act out in a destructive manner.

Owners also have a hard time resisting a dogs begging. Maybe your dog is barking and making a racket begging for more food or your dog might just be too cute have treats withheld from him. Giving into begging isn’t doing your dog any favors. Ultimately, the owner controls the amount of food and exercise a dog will receive so only an owner can be to blame for an overweight dog.

Treatment for obesity is reducing caloric intake and increasing exercise. Also similar to humans, dogs can sometimes have a strong aversion to a reduced diet and increased amount of exercise.

For those dogs with excessive amounts of body fat, a weight loss drug may be an option. Dogs that aren’t responding well to a change in diet and exercise may be prescribed the weight loss drug, Slentrol, which recently came out on the market.

Although they aren’t very common, fat camps for dogs are gaining popularity. You can drop off your dog in the morning and pick up your pooch in the afternoon after a long day of socialization and exercise.

If your dog is overweight, reducing your dogs caloric intake and getting him or her outside more often to burn off extra calories is important but, it’s always good to check with your veterinarian before making changes to your dogs diet and exercise regimen.

Canine Lymphoma

Lymphoma, also known as Lymphosarcoma, is one of the most common types of cancers to effect dogs. Dogs of any breed or age are susceptible to lymphoma but, there are certain breeds that are more genetically predisposed to an increased risk of developing lymphoma. Scottish Terriers, German Shepherds, St. Bernards, Boxers, Poodles, Rottweilers, and Golden Retrievers are breeds that are much more likely to be effected. In fact, one in every eight Golden Retrievers will get lymphoma. Even more disturbing, 60% of Golden Retrievers will die of some form of cancer.

Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell thats helps make up the immune system of vertebrate animals. Lymphoma is the reproduction of cancerous lymphocytes within various organs such as bone, stomach, intestines, and lymph nodes, therefore, this proliferation of malignant cells can lead to many different forms of lymphoma.

There are many types of lymphoma that can effect many different parts of the dog. Extranodal lymphoma, the most rare type of lymphoma, can effect eye, liver, skin, bone, mouth, and breast tissue. Mediastinal lymphoma can effect the thorax and lungs. Gastrointestinal lymphoma is cancer in the stomach and intestines. The most common type of lymphoma, making up 85% of all cases of lymphoma, is multicentric lymphoma which effects the lymph nodes.

For the most part, symptoms of lymphoma are generic and can mimic the symptoms of other diseases or illnesses. Some of these symptoms include, but are not limited to: depression, lethargy, weight loss, fever, cough, labored breathing, difficulty swallowing, diarrhea, vomiting, disorientation, changes in behavior, melena, increased thirst, and increased urination.

Signs and symptoms of lymphoma will differ depending on the area effected by the condition. Mediastinal lymphoma, for example, is lymphoma in the mediastinum located in the middle of the chest cavity so, a dog with that condition may see symptoms of labored breathing, fluid around the lungs, and other symptoms that resemble congestive heart failure.

Gastrointestinal lymphoma can be present anywhere along the digestive tract, from stomach to rectum. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weight loss, loss of appetite, and melena, or tarry black feces indicating a gastrointestinal hemorrhage.

Multicentric lymphoma is the most common type of lymphoma in canines. Multicentric lymphoma is an enlargement of the lymph nodes in the neck, behind the knees, in the groin, or in other lymph nodes located in the body such as lymph nodes located near the spleen and liver. The malignant growth isn’t necessarily painful in the beginning stages.

If a person suspects that their dog has enlarged lymph nodes, after confirmation by a veterinarian, a urinalysis and blood tests would be conducted. Also, to confirm a diagnosis of lymphoma, a biopsy is taken of the enlarged lymph node(s).

While radiation therapy and surgery are used to treat canine lymphoma, chemotherapy is the most common and most recommended form of treatment. Since lymphoma is highly variable in it’s severity and how it effects an animals health, effectiveness of treatment is also highly variable. Treatment of lymphoma is largely palliative, since a cure for lymphoma is extremely rare. However with a combination of chemotherapy drugs, a remission of 6 – 8 months is achievable, with a total survival time of about 9 – 12 months.

If left untreated, a dog diagnosed with canine lymphoma has a prognosis of about 60 days.

Lymphoma is a progressive cancer which is fatal in most every case. Identifying the cancer in its early stages is key to helping a dog have a longer and pain free life. If your dog is experiencing symptoms that I mentioned above, consult your veterinarian.

Rabies Vaccination

Rabies is a virus which causes acute encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) which is  spread through saliva through an open wound in broken skin.

From the time of exposure to the onset of symptoms (known as the incubations period), is about one month in humans, and three to eight weeks in dogs and cats. The virus is only treatable during the incubation period. If left untreated and symptoms arise, the virus is untreatable and death is certain.

Symptoms in humans include: difficulty swallowing, slight or partial paralysis, increase in saliva, difficulty swallowing, hydrophobia, insomnia, anxiety, and confusion.

A dog infected with rabies will start to exhibit symptoms of nervousness, apprehension, anxiety, and fever. After a few days of these symptoms, the infected will dog will start to become more aggressive, irritable, and vicious. The infected dog will eventually become more disoriented, show signs of paralysis and labored breathing, and will eventually die of respiratory failure.

Each year, around 55,000 people die of rabies worldwide. Thankfully, the United States has laws requiring pet owners to vaccinate their pets. Vaccination has eradicated rabies in  some parts of the world and has reduced the number of cases of death caused by rabies in the US to around 3 to 6 cases a year.

Rabies is a preventable disease due to vaccination, which is the best way to combat rabies. In a nut shell, a vaccine is used to help the body prepare for future contact with a disease causing pathogen. After receiving a vaccine, the body is more able to identify a pathogen, which results in shorter duration of illness or no illness at all.

In the rabies vaccine for dogs (the particular product called Rabvac 3) contains a “dead” virus which cannot replicate or cause disease. A substance called an adjuvant (typically composed of aluminum) is added to the vaccine to elicit an immune response from the body. More antibodies are created as a result of the immune response created by the adjuvant. The vaccine also contains neomycin and polymyxin, which are antibiotics. Amphotericin B is added as an antifungal. The ingredient thimerosal is added as a preservative, antifungal, and antiseptic to extend the shelf-life of a vaccine and to keep other pathogens out.

In Omaha, dogs, cats, and mini-pigs are required to be vaccinated for rabies every three years. Every local government has their own laws. If you live in the Omaha area, be sure to check out the Nebraska Humane Society’s page about responsible pet ownership. It explains when your animal needs to be vaccinated as well as other general city ordinances for which pet owners should be aware.


Canine Influenza

Just as you and I are susceptible to catching the seasonal flu, so are our beloved dogs. While both humans and dogs are susceptible to influenza, there are many different strains of influenza, none of which can pass from humans to dogs or vise versa. So, if you are suffering from the flu, don’t worry about getting your dog sick; it ain’t gunna happen.

There are three types of influenza; influenza A, influenza B, and influenza C. Like our seasonal flu and the H1N1 pandemic of 2010, the canine influenza virus is also a strain of influenza A, the subtype being H3N8.

There are also strains of influenza that effects birds, seals, and horses; this is how we ended up with canine influenza.

In January of 2004, the first cases of canine influenza was reported at a Florida dog racing track. The equine flu carried by race horses was transmitted to the dogs at the race track. This is what is known as antigenic shift or, the process that allows viruses to jump from one species to another species.

From American Veterinary Medical Association: “CIV represents a very rare event in adaptive evolution; the entire genome of the H3N8 equine influenza virus was transferred to dogs, and the virus adapted to the canine species to emerge as a new canine-specific virus. Although the virus spreads readily from dog to dog, there is no evidence to support that it can be transmitted from dogs to humans.”

The time between exposure to the influenza pathogen and when a dog starts to exhibit symptoms (called the incubation period) is roughly two to four days. Unfortunately, during this time when the infected dog is showing no symptoms is also the time when there is more viral shedding, meaning the dog is most contagious at this time.

A dog can be exposed to the virus by means of respiratory secretions from an infected dog (such as sneezing or simple respiration). Transmission of the virus can also take place by means of infected items like toys, water and food bowls, collars, leashes, clothing, and other items in which a dog may come into contact.

Viruses are masters of survival. A common virus that causes most all gastroenteritis (stomach flu), norovirus, can actually survive on hands cleaned with alcohol based hand sanitizer. The canine influenza virus can survive on human hands for approximately 12 hours. The virus can survive on clothing for 24 hours and on surfaces for 48 hours.

So far, its hard to determine the prevalence of the virus since the symptoms seems to mimic those of kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis). A dog infected with CIV may show symptoms of lethargy; low fever; runny nose; soft, moist cough. A minority of infected dogs exhibit a dry hacking cough which would be more closely resemble kennel cough.

Since the symptoms for CIV and kennel cough are so similar, a diagnosis cannot be made by clinical signs alone. Only a blood test can accurately determine whether or not a dog is infected with CIV.

If you happen to fall ill and discover that your illness is viral (as opposed to bacterial), there really isn’t any treatment other than supportive treatment. A physician might prescribe Tamiflu but, more than likely, he/she will tell you to get a lot of rest and drink plenty of water. Similarly, dogs will be required to get rest and fluids to aide in their recovery.

Infected dogs should be closely monitored as there is a chance that dogs can acquire a secondary bacterial infection which could include pneumonia.

The canine influenza virus is one that is very virulent, meaning it is highly contagious. In fact, nearly every dog that comes into contact with the virus will become infected, while nearly 20% of infected dogs will not demonstrate symptoms.

The terms morbidity and mortality are used in pathology (the study and diagnosis of disease) and epidemiology and can case a bit of confusion. So let me break it down: Morbidity rate describes the percent of subjects who, when exposed to the pathogen, will contract the pathogen. Mortality rate demonstrates the percent of infected subjects that will die due to illness.

The canine influenza virus has a morbidity rate of 80% (this is very high due to CIV being a new virus and dogs not having immunity), and the mortality rate 1-5% (low for influenza).

It should be noted that mortality is higher amongst dogs with secondary infections such as pneumonia.

As we discussed, the CIV is quite virulent but, it’s not exactly widespread. This virus remains active in pockets of the United States where dogs are confined to tight spaces such as shelters, dog parks, kennels, boarding facilities, veterinarian clinics, etc. As of September 2011, the virus has been found in 38 states which include: WA, OR, CA, ID, WY, NV, UT, AZ, CO, NM, KS, OK, TX, AR, IA, WI, IL, FL, GA, AL, SC, NC, TN, KY, WV, VA, OH, PA, DE, MD, NJ, NY, CT, RI, MA, NH, VT, and ME.

Currently there exists an effective vaccine for CIV. The vaccine has shown to significantly reduce the severity and duration of the influenza virus so, dogs that have become vaccinated and still become infected with the virus will have considerably reduced symptoms.

The American Veterinary Medical Association describes the CIV vaccine on their website:

“The canine influenza vaccine is a “lifestyle” vaccine, and is not recommended for every dog. In general, the vaccine is intended for the protection of dogs at risk for exposure to the CI virus, which include those that either participate in activities with many other dogs or are housed in communal facilities, particularly where the virus is prevalent. Dogs that may benefit from canine influenza vaccination include those that receive the kennel cough (Bordetella/parainfluenza) vaccine, because the risk groups are similar. Dog owners should consult with their veterinarian to determine whether their dog’s lifestyle includes risks for exposure to the CI virus, and if the vaccine is appropriate for their dog.”

I have spotted several blogs that seem distrustful of the CIV vaccine and will tell you not to vaccinate your dog due to supposed “lack of safety”. At the bottom of this article I link to a few extensive studies regarding the excellent safety and effectiveness of the CIV vaccine. As I quoted from the AVMA, consult your veterinarian when making a choice to vaccinate your dog as not all dogs require that vaccine (dogs that don’t socialize or do not have a risk for exposure).

References and Resources:

PubMed articles showing strong efficacy for CIV vaccine:

Dog Longevity

One thing about dogs that fascinates me the most is the differences in lifespans between dog breeds.

At 29 years of age, the Australian Cattle Dog name Bluey is the oldest living dog, passing away in 1939. However, a study regarding longevity in Australian Cattle Dogs showed that most Australian Cattle Dogs live, on average, 13.41 years. Although Australian Cattle Dogs live longer than average, it’s not the longest living breed of dog.

As for the longest living dog breeds, these breeds are amongst the average longest living: Toy Poodle 14.67 years, Miniature Dachshund 14.4 years, Canaan Dog 14.67 years, Swedish Vallhund 14.77, Border Terrier 14 years, and Cairn Terrier 14 years.

The Dogue de Bordeaux, or French Mastiff, has the shortest life span of 5.29 years. Other breeds like the Irish Wolfhound and Bloodhound have an average lifespan of around 7 years.

The British Veterinary Association compiled results of a survey by dog owners who gave information about their deceased dogs, resulting in information from 3,000 dogs.

From the abstract of the article: “The mean age at death (all breeds, all causes) was 11 years one month, but in dogs dying of natural causes it was 12 years eight months. Only 8 per cent of dogs lived beyond 15, and 64 per cent of dogs died of disease or were euthanased as a result of disease. Nearly 16 percent of deaths were attributed to cancer, twice as many as to heart disease.”

If you are interested in more information regarding breeds and their average life spans, you might want to check out Dog Longevity created by Dr. Kelly M. Cassidy. On the site you will find information on life spans of dog breeds, including information from the US, Canada, and the UK. You will probably notice some variance in breed life span between the different countries. I would attribute this to statistical noise and probably not habits of dog owners by nation. None of the differences in life spans between the countries seems to be statistically significant.

I realize there is so much more information that could be covered but, I just wanted to give you all a brief overview of dog breed longevity and some interesting facts. There is just an overwhelming amount of information and a multitude of variables when it comes to the life spans of all the different breeds of dogs. Selective breeding has given us a wide variety of dogs and a wide variety of health concerns for these dogs. Future posts about health issues, selective breeding, designer dogs, diet and other posts will hopefully provide more information about the life spans of our dogs.

Do you have any stories about the life span of your dog or a dog you know? Any anomalies you have witnessed in the age of a dog?