A Short Guide to Diets and Dietary Supplements for New Owners of Doberman Pinschers
As all owners of Doberman Pinschers know, I think, there is a concern in the breed about heart health and risk to life. That is because a high proportion of these dogs develop DCM, dilated cardiomyopathy - commonly known as an enlarged heart. The division of the condition between the sexes is fairly equal, but the males show symptoms earlier in life. It occurs in both the American and to a greater extent in the European lines of the breed. The consensus of opinion is that prevalence is rising because of the relatively small gene pool available for breeding.
There is a known genetic factor; two faulty genes have been identified. There must be other unknown factors to be found as well. I say this because not all dogs that carry the faulty genes go on to develop CDM. Gene tests are available at a reasonable cost that will identify if your dog has either or both the faulty genes; however, that information is generally not helpful because the presence of the faulty gene is not a 100% predictor.
Why am I writing about diet? Because diet is known to influence this disease, but it is probably not the primary causal factor. Possibly the Doberman is one of the most sensitive to diet as regards heart health. I am not a vet or dietician so as a scientist, I have approached this article by identifying a number of scholarly research and veterinary papers (listed below). From these, I have extracted the salient information that I think Doberman owners, especially new ones, should find useful.
It is natural therefore that owners want to give the very best diet in these circumstances to give their dogs every chance to enjoy a long life.
Owners by and large have control over only one factor, the diet.
The American FDA (Food & Drug Administration) has collated reports of the incidence of DCM in Dobermans in relation to feed brands. Surprisingly the “non-grain” brands seem to show a higher incidence of DCM. It begs the question is the lack of grains causing the problem or is whatever has been added instead of grains the culprit? Most scientific opinion is heavily weighted toward the substitution option, with increased potatoes and legumes/pulses being linked.
If you feed a dried kibble, look for a good quality one with a balance of grain, meat, fish, and some vegetable content. Avoid brands with potatoes and high levels of peas, beans, and lentils.
Inclusion of exotic meats such as Kangaroo and Aligator is something to be avoided according to the FDA’s report. No opinion is expressed as to why, but it does reinforce the need to be careful and perhaps conservative with this breed. Stick to common meats like chicken, lamb, beef etc.
Raw, BARF, Home
Tempting as these alternatives are, because they are a logical choice in offering a “closer to nature” approach, professionals urge caution. Their view is that there is a higher risk that these diets are not well-balanced with all the nutrients needed. After all, they say, we are not in a “natural” position with this breed; the diet must address the need for a specific profile of nutrients.
Maybe a good compromise is a 50:50 with kibble and raw.
But home prepared is really not recommended because the list of necessary nutrients is just too long for the average owner to manage.
Definitely not – this diet will cause a catastrophic shortage of many essential nutrients for a Doberman
Keeping your dog’s teeth clean is important for heart health generally, so it makes sense not to ignore this for Dobermans. Excessive plaque leads to excessive bacterial risk in many parts of the body but particularly the heart muscle. The same correlation is found in human medicine.
Supplements play a meaningful role in most of the breeds that are prone to DCM. This is true to some extent in Dobermans, though the lack of research is noticeable when compared to other breeds.
Generally, in dogs, it has been found that there are correlations in susceptibility to DCM with low levels of blood and plasma concentrations of some amino acids; notably Taurine and L-Carnitine amino acids. Even with good levels of these two amino acids in the diet and bloodstream in susceptible breeds, analysis of the heart muscle itself shows a deficiency of them. Supplementation with them is then a cost-effective addition to the diet.
DCM in Dobermans can lead to arrhythmia (a racing heartbeat) and sudden death. The heart muscle’s mineral balance which plays a large part in controlling the heartbeat needs to be at optimum levels.
Potassium, calcium, and magnesium are the main minerals. It would be helpful to ensure that magnesium levels in particular are kept high.
Finally, a word on biotics. There has been no research in this area but what is emerging is the profound effect they have both on overall health and the immune system in particular. I think they are well worth considering here, especially the newer category of postbiotics, as they are more reliable than pro-biotics.