UF to study fatal heart disease in Doberman pinschers

November 27, 2018

The influence of genetic mutations on the development of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in Doberman pinschers is the focus of a new study.

A potentially fatal heart disease, dilated cardiomyopathy affects nearly half of all Doberman pinschers, and strikes this breed more than any other. The inherited disorder can cause sudden death, or can eventually lead to congestive heart failure.

Conducted by researchers at the University of Florida (UF) College of Veterinary Medicine[1], the trial will follow 300 dogs over their lifetime, with screening tests, owner surveys, and outcomes recorded for each dog.

In addition, the study will evaluate the effect of environmental factors, diet, dietary supplements, and the amount and type of daily activity on the expression of this disease.

So far, almost 200 dogs have been enrolled in the trial. The team expects to reach full enrollment by February 2019.

“Although there are two known genetic mutations associated with DCM, dogs without either mutation have developed the disease, and dogs with one or both mutations might not ever develop the disease,” said Amara Estrada, DVM, professor of cardiology at UF College of Veterinary Medicine.

“We have multiple projects happening simultaneously designed to understand why some of these Doberman pinschers develop the disease and others do not.”

Although genetics determine a risk for developing a disease, scientists don’t really know much beyond that, said Ryan Fries, DVM, one of the researchers and a specialist in veterinary cardiology and assistant professor at the University of Illinois (U of I). Nancy Morris, DVM, of Mass Veterinary Cardiology Services in Agawam, Mass., is also part of the research team.

“If you look at a population and all you know is the genetic status, you can make a statement such as 80 percent of dogs with this mutation will develop the disease,” Dr. Fries said.

“But what is unique about those 20 percent? What factors influence the 80 percent? Maybe our study will shed some light on those factors in addition to providing basic information about the entire population.”

Estrada and veterinary cardiology collaborators across the country have spent almost a decade studying the disease.

“Important questions have arisen during these evaluations, and we have now launched a prospective clinical trial enrolling 300 Dobermans who have been screened for DCM and followed longitudinally at our respective veterinary practices, national, and regional shows,” Estrada said.

The Doberman Pinscher Club of America (DPCA) will be funding the study, which is expected to cost $12,250.


  1. University of Florida (UF) College of Veterinary Medicine: https://www.vetmed.ufl.edu/

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