Trinity Doberman Pinschers
Bred For Longevity
Faithful, Loving, Guardians for Todays Family

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Dialated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)
Dr. Meurs at Washington State University
discovered a gene mutation
associated with DCM = DCM1(PDK4)

I wrote this several years ago when the first DCM mutation was discovered. I think there is still a lot of good information below and things to consider so I am leaving it here, although for my current thoughts now that a 2nd mutation has been found please see the DCM 2 tab

Trinity Dobermans Pinschers WSU DNA DCM1 PDK4 Test Results (PDF copy available upon request)

                Trinity’s Guardian Angel = Negative

                Trinity V. Wolf = Negative

                Long Gate Sweet Dream Baby = Negative

                Trinity’s Rejoice and be Glad = Negative
                Trinity's Twilight Celebration - Negative

                Trinity’s Twilight Seduction = Negative

                Trinity’s Twilight Anticipation = Negative

                Devenshires’ Gretta Garbo = Heterozygous
                Trinity's Phoenix Rising = Heterozygous
                 Trinity's Sweet Dream Legacy = Negative 

Dr Meurs (Washington State University) has discovered a gene mutation that is consistent amongst all the dobes in her study group.  This finding is huge - and hopefully it won't be the last discovery - Dr. Meurs has stated that she suspects there will be more than one gene that is a player on the DCM stage.  But this first identification of a gene mutation is HUGE to our breed.

The Meurs DCM DNA Test is actually testing for PDK4 which is a specific mutated gene associated with DCM (Dilated Cardiomyopathy Mutation). It is believed that there is more than one gene associated with Dilated Cardiomyopathy in the Doberman. In humans there are over 100 genes associated with Cardiomyopathy. At this time we have the ability to test for just the one in Dobermans.  PDK4 is a "regulator of the entrance of glucose into the heart's mitochondria." This is a quote from Dr. Meurs. In layman's terms, it helps regulate the energy used by the heart cells. When tested, there are 3 possible results: Negative, Positive Heterozygous, or Positive Homozygous.

This gene mutation is genetically autosominal dominant with Varied Penetrance.  There is a DNA test available from WSU  available available at this link   Test results will be one of the following. 

                Negative – no gene mutation

                Positive/Heterozygous – 1 copy of the gene mutation

                Positive/Homozygous – 2 copies of the gene mutation

According to Dr. Meurs, having a test result of Positive (either Heterozygous or Homozygous) is NOT predictive of "when" or even "If" your dog will get DCM - heart disease because of the varied penetrance of the mutated gene.  Dr. Meurs did state that dogs that tested Pos-Homo did "appear" to manifest DCM earlier and have much worse symptoms once DCM was clinically apparent.  Conversely, she also stated that dogs that came back Negative could not be guaranteed that they would NEVER get DCM. 

So as exciting and important as this new discovery is  it is also very frustrating as it is not one bit  predictive of which dogs absolutely WILL or WILL NOT get DCM

This is because she suspects that it is highly likely that the mutant gene she found is probably not the ONLY gene that could cause the Negative dog to develop DCM.  There are also other environmental causal agents like Diet, Virus and exercise that could "cause" DCM to manifest in a Negative dog.  She also felt we could be dealing with two forms of DCM the enlarged heart and the fibrillation type of DCM disease.

So what are we left with - a test that gives us a very small but important piece in a very large complex DCM picture puzzle.  I am going to test all my dogs - even the spayed retired ones - I think in order for this information to have any REAL decision making value - we need to have as much information from the test findings to even know how to process our own findings and make good breeding decisions.

Unless you know your dogs parents are both Negative I want to STRONGLY suggest everyone that can test there dog to test their dog - if you don't want to know the results then you can indicate that when you send the DNA brushes back in.  But consider this - If I were to hazard a guess, I think the percentage of breeding dogs and show dogs are maybe 25% or less of the entire Doberman population.  If most of the tests for this mutant gene come from that small portion of the breed the test results may be totally different than if the tests came from all segments (pets, companions, spayed, rescued) of our breed.  In order for the test results to be really meaningful - those tests need to reflect the entire population of Dobermans.

I am much more encouraged and upbeat today than when this news first broke and we were left with so many questions - we still don't have all the answers, but we have a start.

I am also feeling better because even if I have Positive dogs in my lines – there has to be another causal agent or agents at work that affects the amount of pentrance in each dog..  Otherwise the current dogs and their ancestors would not have enjoyed the longevity validated by  the Bred for Longevity and Longevity certifications in my pedigrees.  I just don’t believe that those (like myself) who have studied pedigrees, bred with health and temperaments in mind and have demonstrated longevity have produced these dogs by accident, luck or incidence.

It is our duty to provide the healthiest pups we can.  Every breeder lives in fear of getting the phone call to advise one of our pups is deathly ill - because your grief is our grief.  In order to meet buyer expectation of us providing you with as healthy a puppy as possible, we are going to need to utilize EVERY dog that tests negative to help retain lines from those dogs that are positive Hetero so the resulting negative offspring can replace the positive parent.  This process is not accomplished in one generation, Dr. Meur’s said it would likely take 3 generations.

Dr Meurs also strongly advised against whole scale culling of every positive dog out of the breeding pool – that would be disastrous.  Breeders need to utilize the heterozygous dogs bred to negative dogs – create retain genetic diversity and increase the number of negative dogs.

Breeders will have to consider retaining the best negative puppies for their respective breeding programs, or place them in homes on breeding contracts to insure the gene pool stays as big as possible.  Buyers will have to realize that responsible breeders may not be able to meet their own breeding program requirements and meet the buyers expectation of purchasing only negative pups.

If the majority of negative pups are placed in pet or companion homes and are spayed and neutered, breeders will not have the dogs needed to make improvements to the gene pool by increasing negative breeding stock and reducing the positive dogs.  The doberman gene pool is already alarmingly small - we must retain as much diversity of good breeding lines as possible or we will allow other more deadly health issues to become prominent.

This test for DCM is just one ingredient in the recipe, I am blessed that my lines to date apparently have a very low or no penetrance for this disease because I have a tremendous amount of longevity in my blood  lines.  For me to have enjoyed demonstrated longevity in my dogs there must be a genetic factor braided into my dogs genetics, that so far has manifested a low to no penetrance of heart disease.  What this  genetic switch or faucet is remains UNKNOWN to us all, but hopefully as the research goes forward it, as another piece to this puzzle will be identified.  I have to believe that there are companion genetics in the bloodlines that plays a dynamic role in allowing longevity to be expressed, no matter what the mutant test result is.  

This is where the knowledge of pedigrees, cause of death, longevity and knowing the percentage of influence each ancestor brings to a planned litter is so important.  In doing this type of research, breeders try and create a recipe that has enough longevity sweetness to over power and dominate the bitterness of DCM.  We are going to have to go forward with these “older tools” in combination with the new test.

Dr Meurs said even a test result of Positive-Homozygous does not mean that your dog WILL get DCM or even DIE of DCM.  And on the flip side having a Negative test result does not mean your dog will NOT get DCM through some other causal genetic or environmental factor.  So lets be perfectly clear!!!! this test in not a bit predictive as to whether DCM is going to deliver a deadly blow to your beloved Doberman.

So now you know why breeding dogs is not for the faint of heart.  For each puppy we sell we assume the responsibility for the length of life of our puppy and for each buyer’s individual happiness.  

What a daunting task to assign breeders when there is no definitive predictor available to ensure if a dog we produce will get DCM.  Nevertheless, undaunted, I am in this for the long haul, I will continue to be a guardian of the breed, research and study pedigrees, work towards matings that will allow demonstrated longevity to DOMINATE the co-efficient percentages in the planned litter’s pedigree and I will test my dogs so I know which dogs going forward not only had longevity first but if there is a correlation to the result of the initial DCM mutant gene test.

Breeding Strategies 

#1 Best combination is Negative to Negative
100% of pups will be genetically Negative unaffected & clear of the gene mutation

#2 Second Best combination is Negative to Positive/Heterozygous
50% of puppies born will be Positive/Heterozygous  -
50% of puppies born will be genetically unaffected & clear of this gene mutation

#3 Third combination is Positive/Heterozygous to Positive/Heterozygous

- 25% of puppies born Positive/Homozygous and genetically affected by this mutation
- 50% of puppies born Positive/Heterozygous or genetically affected by this mutation
- 25% of puppies born Negative or genetically unaffected by this genetic mutation

#4 Fourth combination is Negative to Positive/Homoozygous
100% of puppies born Positive/Heterozygous or genetically affected by this mutation

#5 Fifth combination is Positive/Homoozygous to Positive/Homoozygous
100% of puppies born carrying two copies of the gene and genetically affected by this mutation

I was one of the first in this breed, and am still one of only a very few that give a 6 year health guarantee, 2 years seens to be the hall mark for doberman breeders.  I do not plan to change the length of my guarantee  – I still have the absolute faith and confidence that my dogs can bear the weight of this guarantee as well as they have for the last 20 years – an almost 20 year track record of healthy dogs can’t be a coincidence or just plain luck – I will continue to stand behind the dogs and their past health record by keeping my guarantee at 6 years.  

I will absolutely be mindful of this new genetic test as I make breeding decisions going forward, because if we can, over the next several generations reduce the number of dogs that are positive homozygous and increase the negative dogs that will absolutely be a huge benefit the breed.  By reducing the number of Positive Homozygous dogs we reduce the highest risk for getting DCM – that should be the goal for all breeders.

Once I know the results of the tests on each of my dogs, I will develop a strategy for my family of dogs. I will work toward having a goal of having the dogs I breed be all negative of this single gene mutation over the next 5 to 10 years as suggested by Dr. Meurs. But even with an entire pack of negative dogs a dog breeder will still not be able to guarantee you that any puppy won't get DCM from some other mutant gene or causal agent. Just like your Pediatrician or even God can not guarantee that your child will not get cancer, heart disease or some other deadly disease - there are bad breeders out there. but the majority of us are just trying to do the best we can with the information we have today and praying for more and better information tomorrow.

So I won't be culling or killing any Doberman pups that test positive - when this test is no more predictive of IF they will get DCM, or WHEN they will get DCM. A Positive puppy has as good a chance to live a long life just as the negative puppy does. The good news about the positive identification is that knowing which dogs they are, we can work toward reducing the numer of positive dogs we produce going forward over the next 5 to 10 years,

To me this test is not an end at all but just the beginning, with the goal of greatly reducing the incidence of and hopefully at some point in the future eradicating DCM.

Today’s breeders have to deal with the hand they have been dealt by yesterdays breeders.  Buyers need to remember that it really is not fair to hold todays breeders feet to the fire, making us be irresponsible for breeding decisions that we had no part in  nor control over.

One last thought in closing.  Dog breeders for some reason have been assigned the responsibility for guaranteeing the health of their pups far beyond any other domestic species breeder and I am not sure why this is, and I am not entirely sure it is a fair expectation.

Horses are vetted for that moment in time that the money changes hand. No horse breeder I know of would ever be expected to guarantee a horse would live X number of years and be free of genetic health issues.  In fact as a horse buyer you hope he does not hurt himself in the trailer on the way home cause he was bought As-Is-where-is and you own him for better or worse no matter what happens.  Horses also sell for hundreds and even millions of dollars.

Cats usually have a very limited  guarantee and certainly none that I can find give more than a limited genetic health guarantee and I could find none offering anything past a year

Fish usually have a 7 day health guarantee

Avian health guarantees are from 72 hours to 10 days

I would like prospective puppy buyers to consider just how much power they think a canine breeder really has in being able to guarantee the puppy we sell..  As I explained to one of my puppy buyers about these latest developments with the new DCM Test, ....  I would continue to stand behind the six year health guarantee,but just as before this new genetic discovery, I still could not guarantee genetics – he looked me right in the eye and said – "Don’t appolgize for not being as powerful as God Gail, only the good Lord has any true power over life and death, I certainly don't expect you to play God".  Kind of puts things in perspective doesn’t it?

As always should you have any questions about this or any other information I have put on this website – please don’t hesitate to call me to discuss it.   540-672-7374 or even email me at


Breeders of today have to make decisions based on what we know today - breeders of tomorrow will have the benefit of knowing the past.


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