Doberman Eye Diseases

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Editor’s Comments: The following information was abstracted from an email from Dr. Mervi Ihantola of Nastola, Finland, a veterinarian and Doberman breeder. We are fortunate here in the United States that very few Dobermans are affected with this disease. However, with the larger numbers of dogs of European bloodlines being imported recently into this country we must maintain a high degree of vigilance. Here we have an expert resource in CERF-certified veterinary ophthalmologists. We strongly recommend that all dogs be examined and registered with CERF to avoid the dilemma now faced by our colleagues in Europe.

Dr. Ihntola’s comments: The problem we have in European bloodlines is called PHTVL/PHPV (Persistent Hyperplastic Tunica Vasculosa Lentis and Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous). In 1980 and 1983, this anomaly first found in the Dutch Dobermann population was described in detail in the veterinary literature. PHTVL/PHPV is a congenital eye anomaly, which in most cases leads to formation of a cataract. It is present at birth and can be detected in young pups. The problem in the eye goes back to the time of embryonic development when the growing lens needs a blood supply. A. hyaloidea comes from the retina through the primary vitreous to the posterior area of the lens. From the gestation day 45 onwards, these blood vessels should start to disappear; this is not the case in affected Dobermanns. There remains fibrotic tissue left from the vessel system attached to the lens capsule and sometimes other problems. The spots are situated behind the lens, on the posterior lens capsule. They are remnants of the hyaloid artery, and when grade 1, ONLY SMALL SPOTS ranging from five to one hundred can be seen; these will be scattered in the periphery of the lens if only a few are present. Normally spots are found in both eyes. If there are only a few and in only one eye, it is considered a “questionable or borderline case”. When spots are more numerous, they are also evident in the central area, and are also easier to detect. Dr. Stades, a prominent researcher into the disorder, says it “looks like a sky with stars”. In grade 2 eyes, the spots form more clear plaques and little cataracts can be seen. In grade 3 eyes, the plaque is combined with persistent parts of the hyaloid vascular system. In grade 4, plaques are also present and the lens formation itself is abnormal (lenticonus posterior). In Grade 5 there are both severe type 3 and 4 changes. Grade 6 is a totally blind animal with severe changes of the lens shape, free blood in the eye, etc. There is a strong suspicion that the disease had existed for sometime before veterinarians and breeders recognized it. We know previous stories about blind Dobermanns from Germany. At about the same time it was recognized in the Netherlands, PHTVL was found in Dobermanns in Sweden and in Finland. First only some individuals with PHTVL were found. As veterinarians became more expert, it was discovered that grade 1 was as common in Finland as in Holland. (At the beginning in Holland -51
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Grade 1 however. There may be only five to ten spots and maybe only in one eye (borderline case).p65 Feb. Until then. because the dogs in question are too valuable to be discarded only because of the eyes but try not to do combinations grade 1 x grade 1. Grade 1 is VERY difficult to see at first and can be seen only with a microscope. HC). Maybe not all grades 1 were important. If not outright blindness. why the heredity didn’t work. So at the moment there are open questions. Because of the problems with the results and the large number of otherwise excellent grade 1. then at least they can make the dog unsure and frightened because of the impaired vision). One other good point is that PHTVL is CONGENITAL. there are now additional doubts as to the significance of Grade 1. More healthy animals that appear clear were produced than could be expected. breeders in Finland still use grade 1 for breeding. never seems to progress further. The obvious conclusion that affected animals should not be bred has some practical difficulties resulting from difficulties in reliably detecting Grade 1. (I’m quite convinced that grade 2 or 3 will not cause blindness either. Furthermore. Grade 1 is so difficult to detect that a free puppy may later be found to have grade 1. Bad cases are very few. -52 Breed01-1. If this conclusion is correct. animal breeders have decided in Finland (and in Holland as well) to breed with them. It can be found by a skilled ophthalmologist at a very early age!! So normally a breeder can have the eyes of his puppies examined before they are sold. The good thing here is that Grade 1 doesn’t progress. The offspring will be affected to varying degrees however. RD. Dobermanns in Europe do not suffer from other eye problems (PRA. 26. At the moment.as long as the vets know what they are looking for and dare to say it to their clients. The hereditary basis has been studied in Holland by Dr. Why? He couldn’t tell.it was nearly 30%!!). an animal affected at any grade will always pass the defect to its offspring. but further grades surely cause problems. All breeding material in Finland has to be examined for PHTVL but only once in their lifetime. Stades using test matings who has concluded that it is autosomal incomplete dominant. Grade 1 is more typical . The severe cases were fewer (10%). That is because PHTVL is seen from the puppyhood. What is grade 1? Stades himself was a little unsure some years ago when he reported that they had a lot of peculiar results in Holland when mating grade 1x grade 1. 2001 .

and the eye itself may be smaller than normal. Those affected with grades 3 to 6 have increasingly poor vision sometimes manifested by increased aggressiveness. Although most of the eye diseases found in dobermans are rare. Persistent hyperplastic tunica vasculosa lentis (PHTVL) is also an integral part of this syndrome. and retinal detachment. The severity is graded from 1 to 6. Both eyes are usually affected. In some Dobes. In most dogs. it becomes progressively more severe. The white pupil associated with PHTVL/PHPV must be distinguished from intraocular cancers. the presence of a great deal of pigment on the lens. PHTVL/PHPV begins during the 25th to 35th day of fetal development. Carriers with no visible defects do occur and should also be eliminated from breeding programs. grade 6 consists of a combination of findings present in lower grades including severe degeneration of the lens. 26. and the presence of fetal vascular structures around the lens. the presence of a cataract keeps the ophthalmologist from seeing the pigmented dots on the posterior lens capsule (covering). PHTVL/PHPV is an ocular defect in the Doberman Pinscher. A defect in the formation of the covering of the lens in the eye is followed by a failure in the regression of fetal eye lens blood vessels. The condition is referred to as PHTVL/PHPV. other problems related to the lens removal have appeared several months later. persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous (PHPV) is one part of a dysplastic disease process of the lens and posterior lense capsule of the eye. fear of being out of control causes increased reactions to stimuli. when this was published. congenital cataracts. especially in dogs of close European ancestry: PHTVL/PHPV In the Doberman Pinscher. almost all cases in Dobes have been restricted to the Netherlands [editorial comment—of course we’ve learned since 1986. Generally specialized ophthalmic examination equipment is required to assess the degree of involvement. In most cases. occurring equally in both sexes. 2001 . To date.EYE PROBLEMS We recommend that all breeding stock be examined on an annual basis by a CERF (Canine Eye Registration Foundation) -certified veterinary ophthalmologist. At the other end of the scale. inherited through an incomplete dominant gene. The clinical signs are only apparent to the naked eye when the eyes are severely affected. Since PHTVL/PHPV is a hereditary eye defect in the Doberman Pinscher. If treatment is attempted. there is one which has been found on a consistent basis. Dobes having grade 1 PHTVL/ PHPV are able to see well. that this is no longer true]. As vision decreases. affected stock should not be used for breeding. retinal dysplasia. In cases where the lens was removed.p65 Feb. The pupil of the eye looks white. the lens must be removed. All possibly affected dobes should be examined by -53 Breed01-1. Only those dogs with Grade 1 and very slight cataract involvement may not progress with age. the degree of blindness is progressive. Grade 1 is very slight and consists of a slight posterior lens capsule cataract with small pigmented dots in the same region.

p65 Feb. 2001 . 26.a competent veterinary ophthalmologist any time after four weeks of age. -54 Breed01-1.