Cardiovascular Page

Heart Disease



Heart disease is seen in all dogs, pure breed and mixed bred. We have a small incidence of heart problems in this breed. We will outline briefly, different conditions, how they are inherited, and links to articles which elaborate on them more completely.

Heart Murmur- is a term used to describe a "sound" that the heart makes in the process of pumping blood. All of the below conditions can cause "Heart Murmurs". When a murmur is heard, further testing is required to determine it's underlying cause. While some murmurs in puppies are innocent and might disappear, only growth and time can determine this. Adult onset murmurs should always be followed up with testing and possible treatment.

Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) occurs when the ductus arteriosus-a vessel in the unborn fetus that allows blood to bypass the lungs remains open after birth. The result is a leak from the aorta through the open ductus into the right side of the heart, causing the left ventricle to work harder to maintain adequate blood flow. Inheritance is complex.                                         

Sub-Aortic Stenosis is also known as sub-valvular aortic stenosis, is a narrowing of the connection between left ventricle and the aortic artery. This increases the resistance to blood flow from the left ventricle out to the body. This is a polygenic dominant disease, although some of the data might vary among different breeds. 

Pulmonic Stenosis, which usually affects small breeds, is a narrowing of the connection between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery, increasing the resistance to blood flow and making it more difficult for the right ventricle to pump blood through the lungs.   Pulmonic stenosis appears to be a polygenic threshold trait.

Valvular Disease, While any of the valves in the heart can be diseased, we will discuss the most commonly seen problem here. Pulmonic Stenosis, which usually affects small breeds, is a narrowing of the connection between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery, increasing the resistance to blood flow and making it more difficult for the right ventricle to pump blood through the lungs. Pulmonic stenosis appears to be a polygenic threshold trait

Mitral Valve Dysplasia is a condition where the leaves of the Mitral Valve are deformed, are present at birth, and can allow blood to leak backwards,decreasing blood flow through the heart. The amount of deformity of the valve, will dictate the size of the leak, and further complications. A mild deformity, might not produce a murmur, while more severe deformities with large leaks will and at a young age. Inheritance is complex and unknown at this time.

Mitral Valve Degeneration is the most common cause of Congestive Heart Failure of all elderly dogs. It appears to be more prevalent in small to moderate size breeds, and more often seen in the male.  The age of onset is of most importance in the  medical prognosis for the individual dog. Inheritance is complex and different with different breeds.

The ACVIM recommends a referral to a cardiologist for diagnosis, and treatment for any cardiac condition. Screening evaluations are done by OFA and ARCH registries. Clinics are offered for screenings by both these these registries. Clinic information can be located on their web sites. Each of these registries have their own guidelines for screening, and inclusion in to their registries,

*As of 2016, the OFA Cardiac Database indicates 236 screened German Pinschers, with a 1.7% incidence of cardiac problems found in those tested.


Blood Disorders


Von Willebrand's disease (vWD) is the most common inherited bleeding disorder of animals and man. The most frequent symptom of vWD is prolonged bleeding. Dogs may require transfusions. Many dogs never develop severe problems.

We have no documentation that indicates that any German Pinschers has tested  "affected." The testing results from Labotklin and VetGen indicate the following:


Tested 358 German Pinschers  299 clear   59 carriers  0 affected   16.4 carrier*


Tested 204  German Pinschers  169 clear   35 carriers  0 affected  17.1% carrier* 

*Figures as of June 2011

Testing may be done with blood tests (ELISA) or DNA swabs (VetGen).  Elisa blood testing sometimes will return flawed results. DNA testing is less intrusive, more exact and done only once. GPCA recommends the DNA test.  

*The following from VetGen Breeding Strategies

*Interpreting Your DNA Test Results for Autosomal Recessive Diseases

There are three possible test results: Clear, Carrier, and Affected. Below is a description of what each result means to you as a breeder.
This finding indicates that the gene is not present in your dog. Therefore, when used for breeding, a Clear dog will not pass on the disease gene.
This finding indicates that one copy of the disease gene is present in your dog, but that it will not exhibit disease symptoms. Carriers will not have medical problems as a result. Dogs with Carrier status can be enjoyed without the fear of developing medical problems but will pass on the disease gene 50% of the time.
This finding indicates that two copies of the disease gene are present in the dog. Unfortunately, the dog will be medically affected by the disease. Appropriate treatment should be pursued by consulting a veterinarian.
Affected (In the case of vWD Type l**)
This finding indicates that two copies of the disease gene are present in the dog. These dogs always have a potential to bleed given the right circumstance and will always pass on the disease gene (mutation) to their progeny. Please see the following page, for more detailed information. vWD Report Also, inform your veterinarian and consult with him/her regarding this test result.


** In the case of Type l vWD - All puppies will be genetically Affected (see "Notes" below).

Helpful Canine Breeding Chart

The chart provided below outlines the implications of various breeding pair combinations. Remember, it is always best to breed "Clear to Clear". If followed by all breeders, these strategies will ensure a significant reduction in the frequency of the targeted disease gene in future generations of dogs. However, to maintain a large enough pool of good breeding stock, it may be necessary for some breeders to breed "Clear" to "Carriers" (see below).

Clear Male Carrier Male Affected Male
Clear Female 100% Clear 50/50 Carrier/Clear 100% Carrier

Carrier Female

50/50 Carrier/Clear

25/50/25 Clr./Carr./Affctd.

50/50 Carrier/Affected

Affected Female

100% Carrier

50/50 Carrier/Affected

100% Affected

Ideal Breeding Pair - Puppies will not have the disease gene (neither as Carrier nor as Affected).

Breeding Is Safe
- No Affected puppies will be produced. However, some or all puppies will be Carriers. Accordingly, it is recommended that Carrier dogs which are desirable for breeding be bred with Clear dogs in the future, which will produce 50% carrier and 50% clear animals, to further reduce the disease gene frequency. These offspring should be tested by VetGen's test for this defective gene, and if possible, only the clear animals in this generation should be used.

High Risk Breeding

<> - Some puppies are likely to be Carriers and some puppies are likely to be Affected. Even though it is possible that there will be some clear puppies when breeding "Carrier to Carrier", in general, neither this type of breeding pair nor "Carrier to Affected" are recommended for breeding.

Breeding Not Recommended - All puppies will be genetically and medically affected *

**From VetGen Breeding Strategies

NOTE: We urge all German Pinscher breeders to get their breeding stock tested to help control the spread of this disease. We have the opportunity to eliminate vWD in German Pinschers.

Call VetGen’s toll free number 1-800-483-8436 to find out how to take advantage of this month’s reduced fee health clinic. The folks at VetGen are friendly, helpful, and easy to contact.

click for VetGen website.