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New heart tests for Dobermanns

The Dobermann Breed Council (1) has announced new tests for early detection of heart disease in dobermanns. Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) can occur at any age, but is more common in older dogs. One of the challenges, therefore, is to identify young dogs that are at risk of developing the disease before they are used as breeding stock.

Troponin I is a protein that is present in cardiac muscle tissue. Increased levels of Troponin I can indicate heart muscle cell injury, as researched by Gerhard Wess and colleagues (2). This could be caused by a number of problems, not just by DCM, but a raised level of Troponin I indicates that echo and Holter testing are needed to test more specifically for the presence of DCM. As the tests only identify whether there is any heart damage at that time, it is important to retest regularly throughout the dog’s life. The Troponin I test is a simple blood test, so it is clearly more feasible to start young and repeat regularly than with echo and Holter testing.

Another possible marker, but with less clear evidence at present, is lactate levels. Lactate is a form of lactic acid, which is produced naturally by animals and increases during exercise or severe illness. If lactate is produced at a faster rate than it is being cleared from the dog’s body, even when it is not being exercised, there is some evidence from Bitten Jönsson’s work in Denmark that this may be a very early marker indeed of the dog’s potential to develop DCM later in life. At present, this assay is for research more than for diagnosis.

The Dobermann Breed Council (DBC) is working with Dr Jo Dukes-McEwan at Liverpool University to carry out Troponin I and lactate assays and the DBC will pay up to £50 towards costs for breeders who are member of a breed club affiliated to the DBC.

© Sue Thorn 2011

(with thanks to Dr Jo Dukes-McEwan and Rebecca Barber)


1. Dobermann Breed Council announcement,

2. Wess, Gerhard et al, 20I0, Cardiac Troponin I in Doberman Pinschers with Cardiomyopathy, Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, vol 24, pp 843-849

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