The Great Dane Breed Council

Health Officer,

Mrs. M. McGuinness

18th July 2012

The Kennel Club

1 Clarges Street,




Health report; submitted on behalf of the eight Great Dane clubs that are affiliated to the Great Dane breed council and should be treated as part of their annual returns.

In October 2011 our Breed Health Officer of many years Mr A. Pearce retired. Having been a member of the health sub group and working with Mr Pearce for some time I was pleased to accept the opportunity to become the Breed Health Officer.


It was at this time when the Great Dane Breed Council hosted its first Health Day with the main objective of educating and raising awareness of health issues currently in the breed. The event also informed Great Dane owners of how they can assist in all health matters and help improve the health and welfare of this magnificent breed. Our guest speakers were;

 Hannah Stephenson BVMS (Hons) MRCVS- Resident in Veterinary Cardiology.

 Sarah Mason BSc BVSc PhD MRCVS- Resident in Veterinary Oncology.

 Rachel Burrows BVetMed CERTSAS CERT VRE DIPL ECVSS MRCVS- Lecturer in Soft Tissue Surgery.

The day was a ‘sell-out’ and feedback received from both the Great Dane fraternity and many other breeds that attended was very encouraging. It is our intention to continue with “The Great Dane Health Day” in the future and plans are now underway for a Health Day in 2013.

The Breeds co-operation with Liverpool University with the research into DCM continues and the results so far are as follows:   


130 Danes have had some form of screening – 125 Danes have had full echo. Of these:

 24 have been definitively diagnosed with DCM (18%)

 14 are considered likely to develop DCM in the future (11%)

 54 are equivocal

 32 are considered normal (25%)

 1 has been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect

 Overall prevalence in this population may be about 30%

Data from 103 dogs was analysed based on a scoring system for DCM, where a score of 6 or more was considered to indicate DCM. Of these dogs, 37 scored 6 or more. If this scoring system holds true, then the prevalence of DCM could be as high as 36%.

 38 dogs have returned for a repeat scan (5 dogs have had 3 scans, 1 has had 4).

 Approximately 30 dogs have had Holter monitors

 Data from a number of these dogs has been analysed and this shows that ventricular arrhythmias occur in dogs with DCM, that dogs with ventricular arrhythmias go on to die suddenly, and that dogs with ventricular arrhythmias are found in lines with a high incidence of sudden death

 This is summarised in a scientific abstract presented at the American College of Veterinary medicine Forum in May this year.

 Data from about 40 normal dogs has been used to produce updated reference intervals for the breed for scanning. Results include:

 Mildly reduced pumping ability of the heart can be normal in Danes

 Bitches and dogs have different sized hearts, which should be taken in to account when screening for DCM

 This is soon to be published in a scientific journal, but this is not yet available for me to attach for your information

 Post mortem data is available for 5 dogs. 4 of these dogs have fibro fatty infiltrate type dilated cardiomyopathy, usually reported in Dobermans.


 Just a note on the grouping:

1.       In the first bullet point, the following rules apply:

a.       A dog is considered to have DCM if they fit all criteria on a heart scan for DCM, in the absence of other disease. This includes dogs diagnosed with heart failure and dogs identified as having DCM on post mortem.

b.      A dog is considered ‘likely’ to develop DCM if they have some characteristics on a heart scan (e.g. dilated heart, slightly reduced pumping ability) but they do not satisfy all the criteria for our diagnosis of DCM yet.

c.       Dogs are considered equivocal if they have mild abnormalities for which it is not clear if these are ‘normal’ for the dog, or may be an early sign of DCM

d.      Normal dogs are those with strictly no significant abnormalities. In this category we have taken in to account the data that shows that very mild reduced pumping ability can be normal. A lot of these dogs have been scanned more than once, but some are also young dogs and therefore they may not remain normal.

2.       With reference to the scoring system, some dogs can score 6 on this scoring system but still be with our ‘likely’ or ‘equivocal’ groups based on our overall assessment of the scan.


The Assured Breeder Scheme (ABS). With KC agreement to the Breed Council’s request that Hip scoring be changed from a “requirement” to a “recommendation” we would hope to see an increase in the amount of members joining the ABS scheme. The Breed Council will endeavour to promote that health testing where ever possible is undertaken.

ITEM (4) of our 2011 Heath report; The Effective Population Survey (EPS). The results of this survey prompted a list of questions which were sent to Diana Brookes Ward. A reminder was sent in November 2011 however we are still awaiting the answer’s that will then enable us to have a better understanding of those elements of the EPS and make any recommendations to the Great Dane breed that are considered appropriate.

With regard to other ‘problems’ mentioned in the Health Survey of which all come in at 2% or less we would welcome the advice of the Kennel Club regarding at what percentage do the KC feel we need to take action.

Maria McGuinness

Breed Health Officer

On behalf of the Great Dane Breed Council