Dobermans are at risk for dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a disease of the heart muscle that causes the left ventricle to enlarge and cease functioning correctly. In the early or later phase of the disease, bad arrhythmias may develop that can be life threatening. As the disease progresses, an affected dog may faint, lose weight, exhibit shortness of breath, cough, or retain fluid that causes his belly to distend, Tyrrell says.
DCM occurs more frequently in male Dobermans, says Dr. Pamela Lee, assistant professor of cardiology at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington.
If you know your Doberman’s family history and it includes incidences of DCM, tell your veterinarian so he or she can watch for symptoms, especially a heart murmur or abnormal heart rhythm. Tyrrell says annual exams should be ramped up to twice yearly when your dog reaches 4 years of age. Annual screening by a board certified cardiologist via electrocardiogram and echocardiogram should also be considered in all Dobermans, especially those with a family history of DCM, Tyrrell says.