In a study about “Morbidity and mortality in a Dutch Dobermann population born between 1993 and 1999”, (Mandinguers et al., 2006, Veterinary Record 158:226)
the survival curve of the sample of 340 Dobermanns was compared to that of two other breeds: one higher risk breed (Bernese mountain dog) and a lower-risk breed (Beagle). Based on this curve the Dobermann can be regarded as a high risk breed
In total 81 (24%) Dobermann dogs were reported to have died and 259 (76%) were still alive. The Dobermann develop breed-specific diseases. Three diseases with a probable hereditary nature have been described. Dobermann dogs have a higher risk of developing and dying from cardiac disease, cervical spondylomyelopathy (Wobbler syndrome) and chronic hepatitis. Other diseases with a breed tendency for Dobermann dogs include behavioural problems and an increased risk for accidental injury.
Heart failure was indicated as cause of death in 12 dogs (4 females, 8 males) and acute heart failure was suspected as the cause of sudden death in a further 6 dogs (all males). The proportional mortality for heart failure is 14.8%. This is comparable to 14.4% for a Swedish population and 9.7% in the Danish population.
16 dogs (11 males, 5 females) were euthanized because of behavioural problems, 13 because of aggression towards people and 3 because of sheep-worrying. Studies in the UK and Denmark have a much lower mortality for this category at, respectively, 3.8 % and 9.7%. The difference between the UK population, the Danish population and the Dutch population is remarkable. A possible explanation for this difference could be the difference in genotype from selection for temperament.
Tumours were found in 11 dogs: 4 had a non- specified bone tumour; 2 had a liver tumour, and various other tumour types occurred in the remainder. Old age was indicated as a reason for euthanasia in only three dogs. The proportional mortality of cancer is 13.6%.
In the canine world many people talking about the poor health of the Boxer. But scientific data give 1 year of advantage in the life expectancy above the Dobermann (Van Hagen M.A.E., 2004, Thesis, Utrecht University, Chapter 2)
. The integration of data for the Boxer in the survival curve of Kaplan-Meier for the Dobermann is shown in the figure below:
Why? Collaboration between breeders of the Dutch Boxer Club and the scientists of the Utrecht University it has enabled to develop a genetic counselling program for the longevity EBV in Boxer. The effective heritability is 0.076. This means that an estimated 7.6% of the observed variation in life expectancy could be attributed to genetic differences among dogs that were passed from parents to their offspring and life expectancy can be improved by use of selective breeding applying EBV. The survival differences between the 10 best choice dogs and the 10 worst dogs progeny for ten years are 65% and 40%.
In another study about the longevity in dogs on a populations of Rottweiller, (Cooley et al., 2003, J. of Gerontology, V58A, 12, 10078-1084),
authors has been showed that the group of exceptional longevity dogs (lifetime>13.3 years) was accompanied by a significant delay in the onset of major life-threatening diseases and cancer resistence
: 76% of extreme aged dogs remained free of all major diseases during the first 9 years of life. Only 19% of extreme aged dogs died of cancer versus 82% of dogs with usual longevity (lifetime 9.4 years).
Waters et al. 2009 (Aging Cell. 8, pp752–755),
have observed a female sex advantage for achieving exceptional longevity and show that lifetime ovary exposure
Is the longevity related with the degree of inbreeding?
To my knowledge there is no scientific data for the Dobermann, however, evidence in the literature for Bernese mountain dog, Standard poodle and Rhodesian ridgeback. These data show that mortality increase with the degree of inbreeding
. For instance for the Bernese mountain dog –a breed with high risk of mortality as the Dobermann- for every 1% (COI+0.01) increase in inbreeding a dog lives on average 20.6 days shorter (p=0.0007) (Inbreeding and Longevity in Bernese Mountain Dogs, Long and Bert Klei PhD)
. For the Standard Poodles 1% increase in inbreeding results in 1 month shorter life span (Armstrong, Longevity in the Standard Poodle, 2000)
. For the Rhodesian ridgeback (J. Smid, 2001, Increased Mortality in Rhodesian Ridgebacks: The Consequences of Inbreeding Depression, Department of Biology -University of Ottawa)
author analyse the correlation between inbreeding coefficient and the longevity, including the cause of death:
Do you remember anything? Look at the first table on main causes of death for Dobermann; the pattern is very similar.