Dilated Cardiomyopathy 1 and 2 in Doberman Pinschers

Quick Summary

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the heart has a decreased ability to pump blood. Two mutations associated with dilated cardiomyopathy in Doberman Pinschers have been identified. Testing for these mutations can identify individuals at risk for developing clinical symptoms of disease.

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Phenotype: Dilated cardiomyopathy is a heart condition in which the muscles degenerate, causing the walls of the heart to become thin, resulting in reduced contractibility. This can lead to congestive heart failure.

Mode of Inheritance: Autosomal dominant with incomplete penetrance

Alleles: N = Normal, DCM1 = dilated cardiomyopathy 1 variant present, DCM2 = dilated cardiomyopathy 2 variant present

Breeds appropriate for testing: Doberman Pinscher

Explanation of Results:

  • Dogs with N/N genotype do not have either of the known DCM variants.
  • Dogs with N/DCM1 or N/DCM2 genotypes are at risk to develop cardiomyopathy. If two heterozygotes with the same mutation are mated, approximately 75% of the puppies are at risk of developing disease. Dogs heterozygous for both variants, N/DCM1 and N/DCM2, are at greater risk to develop clinical symptoms relative to those with only one variant.
  • Dogs with DCM1/DCM1 or DCM2/DCM2 genotypes are at risk to develop cardiomyopathy. All puppies produced from matings of dogs with either of these homozygous genotypes are at risk for developing dilated cardiomyopathy.

Results of this test can be submitted to the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals)

Turnaround Time
At least 15 business days; may be delayed beyond 15 business days if sample requires additional testing, or a new sample is requested.

$55 single test per animal ($5 discount on 3 or more dogs)
$25 as additional test on same animal

Note: DCM1 and DCM2 are two separate tests. To test for both mutations, please make sure to select both tests on the order form. Alternatively, both DCM1 and DCM2 are included in the Doberman Pinscher Health Panel.

Sample Collection

Dog DNA tests are carried out using cells brushed from your dog's cheeks and gums. The preferred cytology brushes are sent to you by mail, or you may provide your own brushes. For accepted alternative brushes, click here

We recommend waiting until puppies are at least three weeks old before testing.


Dog having its cheeks and gums brushed for DNA samples
Cheek and gum brushing technique for canine DNA sample collection


  1. Make sure the dog has not had anything to eat or drink for at least 1 hour prior to collecting sample.
  2. When swabbing puppies, isolate each puppy from the mother, littermates and any shared toys for 1 hour prior to swabbing. Puppies should not have nursed or eaten for 1 hour prior to collecting sample.
  3. If collecting samples from more than one dog, make sure to sample one dog at a time and wash your hands before swabbing another dog.
  4. Label brush sleeve with name or ID of dog to be sampled.
  5. Open brush sleeve by arrow and remove one brush by its handle.
  6. Place bristle head between the dog’s gums and cheek and press lightly on the outside of the cheek while rubbing or rotating the brush back and forth for 15 seconds.
  7. Wave the brush in the air for 20 seconds to air dry.
  8. Insert brush back into sleeve.
  9. Repeat steps 5 - 8 for each unused brush in sleeve on a fresh area of cheek and gums. Make sure to use and return all brushes sent by the VGL. In most cases, it will be 3 brushes per dog. If using interdental gum brushes, please note that the VGL requires 4 brushes per dog and only moderate or wide interdental gum brushes are accepted.
  10. Do not seal brushes in sleeve.
  11. Place all samples in an envelope and return to the address provided.


  • Do not collect saliva/drool – the key to obtaining a good sample is getting cheek cells on the swab
  • Do not rub swab on the dog’s tongue or teeth – this will result in poor quality sample
  • Do not collect a sample from a puppy that has recently nursed – the mother’s genetic material can rub off on the puppy’s mouth and contaminate the sample
Additional Details

Dilated cardiomyopathy is an inherited, potentially fatal heart disorder. In affected dogs, the left ventricle is often dilated, resulting in a progressive thinning of the wall and irregular heartbeat, thus decreasing overall cardiac function and output. This lack of adequate circulation can lead to fluid accumulation in the lungs as well as other parts of the body. Affected dogs can show progressive deterioration leading to death or can be relatively asymptomatic and then die suddenly.

In humans, over 60 different genes have been identified that result in inherited cardiomyopathy. Dr. Kate Meurs and colleagues at North Carolina State identified mutations in two independent genes that have been associated with dilated cardiomyopathy. Specifically, a deletion of 16 DNA bases in pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 (PDK4 g.20,829,667_20,829,682del), known as DCM1, results in a gene product suspected to cause cardiac issues. The DCM1 variant is predicted to alter the mitochondrial PDK4 protein assembly pattern because it eliminates a splice site. Since mitochondria are one the major sites of energy generation within a cell, the resulting negative impact of reduced energy generation within cardiac tissue is hypothesized to result in cardiomyopathy.

The second associated variant is a missense mutation in titin gene (TTN, g.22321955C>T, p. 8898G>R) known as DCM2. The DCM2 variant, which changes an amino acid conserved across mammals, is predicted to alter one of the gene products (protein) immunoglobulin -like (Ig) domains. The Ig domains function like springs within a muscle fiber, and the variant is predicted to reduce the elastic nature of the protein, negatively impacting cardiac function.

For DCM1 the risk of developing cardiac disease is 7 fold for animals with one or two copies of this variant. The relative risk for DCM2 has not been determined. Dogs with both DCM1 and DCM2 have been reported to be at the highest risk for developing disease.

A single affected copy of either gene is necessary to develop symptoms, but not all dogs with DCM1, DCM2, or both mutations will develop disease. Since a single copy of either mutation can increase risk for disease, this trait is considered a dominant trait. However, since not all dogs with these mutations go on to develop disease, these mutations are thought to be incompletely penetrant. Other factors likely explain the incompletely penetrant nature of this disease, and studies to investigate additional genetic and non-genetic risk factors are ongoing. Recently it was noted that in a European Doberman Pinschers sample set, the DCM1 mutation was not as correlated with disease risk as it is in the original Doberman study cohort.

Further, not all Doberman Pinschers with dilated cardiomyopathy have either of these mutations. Therefore, it is also likely that additional as of yet unidentified variants in these or other genes are involved in disease presentation and progression. Continued research is needed to identify additional genetic and non-genetic risk factors.

However, these DNA tests can help owners and clinicians identify at-risk dogs for careful clinical evaluation. Further, breeders can use the results of this test in assisting with mate selection.

Note: These tests are specific for the autosomal dominant mutations present in the Doberman Pinscher. Other as of yet unidentified variants that cause dilated cardiomyopathy are thought to be present in this breed.