Whilst there is a good amount of basic information contained on this page, it should be taken relative to the fact that the Health of the German Pinscher is in general very good, and the health conditions are those which have been known to affect the breed but does not necessarily do so.

GP’s are naturally subject to the same afflictions as most other breeds, but not to any great extent. The Finnish Kennel Club database Koiranet is an invaluable source of information to view the overall health status of the breed. Pinschers are generally a very healthy breed usually reaching at least 12 years of age with very few, if any problems.


German Pinschers can suffer from Hereditary Cataracts, usually starting to develop by the age of four years of age. In Europe and the US , it is common to practice to have breeding dogs, tested annually. A recent Finnish study found that around 15% of tested dogs are affected. This means that most of the population are carriers*. The problem is found internationally.

Hereditary cataracts are usually, but not always, bilateral and may or may not, progress to total blindness. The condition is pain free and many dogs have cataract operations, as do humans, however, the resulting blindness from HC may naturally affect the quality of the dog’s life.
The mode of inheritance may be recessive or dominant and autosomal (carried on one gene), or polygenetic (carried on multiple genes), and inheritance of the disease has variable penetrance – ie no fixed pattern . With no DNA marker as yet, it is very difficult to accurately predict which dogs will be clear, carriers or affected.
Although some hereditary eye diseases can be treated it is ideal to control these diseases and ultimately eradicate them by breeding from dogs free of serious eye disease, therefore annual eye examinations are recommended.

Eye testing has led to the reduction of hereditary eye diseases in some breeds, examples being cataracts in the Golden Retriever and Afghan Hound and Collie Eye Anomaly in the Shetland Sheepdog. However, it is important to consider that the above breeds have a considerably greater gene pool than the German Pinscher, and removing dogs from the gene pool, who for instance carry Grade 1 HC could be extremely damaging for the breed as a whole. It may be up to the individual whether or not they breed in a small gene pool from mildly affected dogs. Most hereditary eye diseases are due to recessive genes and the carrier status cannot be diagnosed by eye examination. Over the past couple of years, gene markers have been identified for other eye conditions, and it is therefore hoped that a gene test for HC will be available in the not too distant future.


Von Willebrands

Von Willebrands (VWd) is an recessive bleeding disorder (similar to haemophilia) where the blood lacks clotting ability. There is a specific DNA test now available (Finnzymes – Finland or Vetgen US). There are 3 status’ ~ Clear, Carrier and Affected. The chart below details possible breeding pair combinations in order to reduce the significance of the disease in a breed. There is no risk in producing carrier animals (eliminating a large proportion of those dogs from a breeding pool in the short term is extremely deleterious to the breed). Carriers cannot bleed or suffer from VWd complications. Just because a dog is affected, it does not mean they will necessarily bleed. Bleeding depends on other health situations and the levels of Von Willebrands ‘factor’ in the blood.

Figures from the German Pinscher Club of America as of January 2010, show no documentation that indicates that any German Pinschers has tested Affected, however, there have been two cases in past history of the breed from imported Pinschers. Testing data results from Laboklin and VetGen indicate the following:

Laboklin – Tested 307 German Pinschers  236 clear   71 carriers  0 affected  24% carrier *
VetGen – Tested 172 German Pinschers  140 clear   32 carriers  0 affected  19% carrier*

We are in the process of trying to gain statistical information from other countries – if anyone has relevant details, we would be very grateful for any information.

Breeding Pair Combinations for eradication of Von Willebrands Disease

                 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 clear/carrier/affected   50/50 carrier/affected
Affected Female  100% carrier          50/50 carrier/affected            100% affected

Ideal Breeding Pair: Puppies will not have the disease gene either as carrier or 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 dogs, and 50% clear animals, to further reduced the disease gene frequency. These offspring should be tested for this defective gene, and if appropriate (alongside other considerations), 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. Although 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 medically affected. The only option for breeding from an affected animal is to a clear animal as the ultimate goal has to be to produce clear animals. However, each time a dog is eliminated from a breeding program it minimizes the genepool and with a gene pool and numbers as perilously small as the German Pinscher, it would be genocide to the breed. The purebred population of a breed cannot afford to avoid carrier animals completely, as other serious problems would quickly arise by restricting breeding to a small selection of only clear dogs. If a small genepool of affected animals is frequently bred from, the lower the clotting factor in the offspring therefore producing greatly increased risk of bleeding.

 Heart and Cardio

Although there have been cases of heart problems in Pinschers, there is no substantive detail of the exact Cardio problem and it is therefore unclear how much of a problem this is in the breed overall. Figures from the GPCA (German Pinscher Club of America), show that as of February 2009, the OFA Cardiac Database indicates 61 screened German Pinschers, with a 3.3% incidence of cardiac problems found. Given the average lifespan of the Pinscher, it is unlikely to be a notable problem in the breed.


In Europe and the US, hip testing is a requirement for dogs used in breeding. new procedure, Pennhip, is gaining wide acceptance as another good indicator of hip joint health. This can be done at any age. The incidence of Hip Dysplasia in German Pinschers is low but is not unknown. There is no average breed score for Hip Dysplasia from the BVA (British Veterinary Association)/KC schemes, but a recent Finnish study showed that the HD situation is quite good in GP’s , with only 8% of tested dogs having a score of C and just 1% with a D. 

Adverse Vaccination Reaction

2007 – AVMA ( American Veterinary MedicineAssociation) has finally acknowledged that, just like humans, animals remain at full immunity for life once properly immunized with a series of shots during infancy. This means that yearly booster shots, which can cause serious illness to a fully immunized adult dog, can be eliminated under the advice of your veterinary surgeon. Most primary vaccine manufcaturers have changed their protocol to 3 yearly vaccination protocols. Another option is annual titre count (antibody testing).

Post-vaccinal reactions in German Pinschers –preliminary report, Minna Leppänen DVM Ph.D. minna.leppanen@orionpharma.com, Specialist Diploma in Small Animal Medicine and Surgery

Since early 1980s breeders and puppy owners have noticed unexpectedly high number of postvaccinal complications within the breed. The only published information of the syndrome is the work of Hillgen and Koivisto (1996) that was based on the information collected by the breed club in Finland. The rest of the knowledge is based on the author’s unpublished data of own cases and information I have collected from other veterinarians, breeders and dogowners. In Hillgen and Koivisto=s (1996) survey 33.2 % of owners reported that puppies had symptoms after distemper-vaccination in Finland. Some annual variation has been noticed. In Great Britain some breeders estimate that about 50% of all puppies show similar symptoms (Morrison D., personal communication); cases have been reported also in Sweden, Norway and Denmark (Kuisma I and. Nilsson, S., personal communication). Recently I found descriptions of some American dogs having similar symptoms in German Pinscher fanciers internet mailing list. Typical symptoms start usually 9-12 days after vaccinations and may include tiredness, fever, occasionally vomiting and eye discharge. These primary symptoms usually start 1-2 days before neurological signs. Severity of neurological signs has been variable. Some dogs have had only mild tremors, but in severe cases dogs various degrees of ataxia (=disturbances in equilibrium) and seizures have been noticed. In all known cases the symptoms developed after distemper-vaccination and usually after the first vaccination (the vaccination given when the puppy is 12 weeks old as is the routine in Finland). No correlation between the vaccine types and brands with the incidence or severity of the symptoms could be shown (Hillgen and Koivisto, 1996).

Of all known cases one dog was euthanized with suspected diagnosis of epilepsy without any treatment. No post mortem is available. Another dog died three days after the seizures begun. The most prominent postmortem finding was acute, allergic encephalomyelitis (=brain inflammation) No distemper inclusions or distemper virus could be shown. Laboratory findings from other cases have been unremarkable: the only finding has been mild leucocytosis (=elevated white blood cells) in some dogs. (Hillgen and Koivisto, 1996; Leppänen, unpublished data. The therapy has been based on the presumption of allergic background. Most cases have been treated with various doses, types and routes of administration of corticosteroids. Breeders even advise puppy-owners to give a dog small doses of oral hydrocortisone (available prescription free) as soon as they notice any symptoms. In addition to corticosteroids some dogs have got seizure medication (mostly diazepam or phenobarbital) and in some also sedatives have been administered to dogs with serious seizures. Also, vitamin B-supplementation or antibiotics have been used as well as antiemetics for vomiting dogs. Some cases got no medication. Excluded the two above mentioned cases all dogs have recovered totally in 1-5 days and none is known to have similar symptoms after next vaccinations (Hillgen and Koivisto, 1996; Leppänen unpublished data). Until now no exact pathogenesis and etiology of post-vaccinal complications in German Pinschers have been found; also reports of cases and effects of treatment trials base mostly on personal experience with own patients or information reached from breeders or other veterinarians who have treated the cases.

It is assumed that due a very small population and high degree of inbreeding the German Pinscher breed has some type of immunological defect, which makes the dogs unusually sensitive to distemper vaccines. The presumption of familiar disorder is supported by the finding that dogs that have had symptoms themselves more commonly produce puppies with symptoms than unsymptomatic animals. It is however possible that unsymptomatic dogs have puppies who react after vaccination. The exact mode of heritability is however unclear. Controversially the breed is otherwise very healthy and no reports or experience of other common immunological problems could be found. Also, it is unclear, why these dogs recover so well unlike in other reported breed-specific or suspected immune-mediated encephalitis (Oliver et al., 1997, Vandevelde, 1998).

Because we do not know the exact pathogenesis the treatment was based partly on clinical findings and previous experience with these cases. In order to prevent complications caused by lengthened seizure activity the treatment and doses normally recommended for status epilepticus were used. The use of corticosteroids in these cases is based on assumption that we deal with allergic reactions. No recommendations of exact doses have been made. The cases the author has knowledge about have been treated with various types and doses; I personally prefer short-acting corticosteroids and low doses in order to prevent possible side effects from corticosteroids. It might be also possible that mild cases can recover without treatment: this is supported with the information from owners who tell that their dogs have had symptoms, but got no treatment. Also, some owners probably do not regocnize mild symptoms at all. On the other hand the possibility of preventing seizures or minimizing morbidity with early corticosteroid-administration has been discussed. Unfortunately we lack any controlled studies from the effectiveness and usefulness of different treatment regiments.

Hillgen J., Koivisto M.: Vaccinations and postvaccinal complications in dogs. Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki 1996
Oliver JE, Lorenz MD, Kornegay JN: Handbook of Veterinary Neurology. W.B. Saunders Company, Philadelphia, 1997
Vandevelde M.:Neurologic diseases of suspected infectious origin. In Infectious diseases of the dog and cat. Ed. Greene CE W.B. Saunders Company, Philadelphia 1998

 Cracked Ear Tips

The below was kindly written by Marisa Koti (Ceriinan) who I asked about cracked ear tips on some Pinschers:

Some Pinschers have this that tip of the ear is very dry and can crack open in young dogs when they are so active (who shake their heads more powerfully than older dogs).  This is usually problem in their first Autumn. When the weather is moist they shake their heads more. On young dogs the arteries/veins on the ear tips are very fine. They get stronger as the dog grows and gets stronger structure in general. The ear tip can crack open when they shake head strongly and the tip is crashing against the top of their skull. One of our dogs at home used to rub his ears against the carpet when he came in and weather was moist or cold. This can occur on young dogs even if both parents have no problems with ear tips.

It is very important to keep the tips of the ears moisturised, thus soft and clean.  Sometimes it is caused by the dirt on the ear tips that comes from the wax like debris that comes from ear and really small and fine hair that they have on their ears. This starts to build up on tips and if not removed becomes a thick layer that makes the tip rigid and more vulnerable to cracks when they shake their head. It would be most beneficial if one starts cleaning and moisturizing as soon as there is any dryness or build up of that ‘dirt’ on tips.  None of our dogs at home has had tips crack but one of ours had tendency to build up this ‘dirt’ and sometimes tips were dry. I used to rub them with oil and then the ‘dirt’ became soft/soaked and was easier to remove. I believe it is common that tips are dry (40% of those who returned the questionnaire sent out in Finland), the dog is otherwise perfectly healthy (like humans having dry cracking heels).

The National German Pinscher Club is the first and only Breed Club to insist on health testing for dogs bred by members of our Club. This way we can assure buyers, that Pinschers bought from a member of the NGP Club have all been tested to the minimum standard of Hips, Eyes and vWD. *As a caveat, no responsibility can be taken by either a breeder or the Club for a health problem that may develop, purely that our members have done their best to ensure good health in so far as possible. The only exception to that being DNA test of vWD where breeders can guarantee status of the condition.