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Understanding Blue Doberman Syndrome

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.

The blue Doberman coat color is the result of a gene that inhibits full pigmentation, resulting in an attractive grayish hue.

The blue Doberman coat color is the result of a gene that inhibits full pigmentation, resulting in an attractive grayish hue.

About the Blue Doberman

Most of us are familiar with the Doberman dog breed—the attractive black and tan dogs known for making great guardians. But not many of us may be familiar with the blue Doberman, a color variation of this breed.

No, these dogs are not blue in the real sense of the word, so don't imagine them as being Smurf blue or electric blue. The word blue, in this case, refers to the dilution of the black coat color, which gives these dogs an attractive grayish hue that draws the attention of many people in search of an unusual-looking Doberman.

Dobermans are known to come in several coat colors. The American Kennel Club lists four coat colors for this breed: black and rust, blue and rust, fawn (isabella) and rust, and red and rust. The rust markings are typically found above each eye, on the muzzle, throat and fore chest, on all legs and feet, and below the tail. While Dobermans can also come in a white color, this coat color is not accepted as standard.

The blue Doberman coat color is the result of a gene that inhibits full pigmentation, which causes dilution. Therefore, instead of appearing black with rust markings, Dobermans with the dilution gene will appear blue with rust markings. According to the Doberman Pinscher Club of America, dilution is a recessive gene. Every Doberman is equipped with a pair of color genes (black B or red b) and a pair of dilution factor genes (dd). A blue coat color is possible when a "black" Doberman (BB or Bb) has both dilution genes present (dd).

While the blue and fawn coat color (which is also a diluted color, in this case, a dilution of red) were considered in the past to be undesirable gene mutations, nowadays, these coat colors are fully accepted. Today, many blue and fawn Dobermans are successfully registered and are shown in the show ring, even though they might not be as common as other coat colors due to the difficulties in maintaining their coat. Read on to learn about what troubles these coat colors are prone to.

Symptoms of Blue Doberman Syndrome

Blue Doberman syndrome, also known as blue balding syndrome, or more generally, color mutant alopecia, is a condition that affects blue Dobermans but can also be found in many other breeds with diluted coats. But exactly what is blue Doberman syndrome?

Blue Doberman syndrome is a hereditary condition that tends to show up in dog breeds with diluted coats. The term alopecia is the medical term for hair loss. This condition is caused by a structural defect that causes the abnormal distribution of melatonin in the dog's hair shafts. Affected dogs, therefore, develop hair loss over the diluted colored areas. The tan areas remain unaffected. The hair loss may start on the topline and then spread to the back.

Affected pups are not born with this condition and therefore may not show signs right away, but signs may show up later on once the puppies have left the breeder's home and are settling in their new homes. Generally, this condition is noticed between six months and three years of age.

The affected dog's coat may start turning dry and scaly, and there may be several papules pustules. The presence of broken hairs may be noticed. Soon, there are bald areas that may be unsightly. The condition does not typically cause any itching, but occasionally, opportunistic secondary pyoderma may set in and cause pruritus if widespread, according to veterinary dermatologist Dr. Michele Rosenbaum.

Blue and fawn Doberman pinschers are highly predisposed to color dilution alopecia. The frequency of this condition can be as high as 93% in blues and 75% in fawns.

— Ross Clark, DVM

Blue and tan Doberman vs. black and tan Doberman

Blue and tan Doberman vs. black and tan Doberman

Treatment of Blue Doberman Syndrome

If your blue Doberman starts developing skin problems and hair loss, see your veterinarian. There are chances that you are dealing with blue Doberman syndrome, but there are many other conditions that can cause similar hair loss in dogs.

Your vet may want to rule out low thyroid levels (a common cause of hair loss in dogs) and other hormone-related problems with blood tests. He may then take a skin biopsy to rule out other possible skin conditions. A definitive diagnosis is made by microscopic evaluation of the hair, which may be sent off to be reviewed by a dermatohistopathologist, a specialist who studies cutaneous diseases at a microscopic level. Complicated cases do best with a visit to a veterinary dermatologist.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive treatment for blue Doberman syndrome, in the sense that hair loss is often permanent. If there are secondary skin infections, these are often treated with a course of antibiotics. Treatment options include supplementation with products that aim to improve the skin. According to Animal Dermatology Clinic, essential fatty acids and Vitamin A supplements may occasionally help. Consult with your vet for appropriate treatment options.

Fortunately, other than developing hair loss, dogs suffering from blue Doberman syndrome can still lead happy, healthy lives. Doberman blue syndrome, therefore, remains, for the most part, a cosmetic issue, rather than a health one.

The rate of hair loss is progressive, and lighter-colored dogs with color dilution alopecia are almost completely bald by the time they are two or three years old.

— Ross Clark, DVM

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: What causes SDS (sudden death syndrome) in Dobermans?

Answer: I am looking at some studies on this affecting Dobermans and this appears to be due to some defect of the heart having narrowed arteries and leading to an ischemic attack due to a shortage of oxygen. The condition seems to be inherited, but more studies are needed to come to conclusions.

© 2017 Adrienne Farricelli


Jennifer R. on September 07, 2020:

My Blue Doberman is now 3 months and I've noticed some areas of her skin are balding and she is also getting red bumps. My vet has given vitamins and an antifungal soap to help with dry spots. I know this condition is genetic but I wanted to know if anyone had some tips to help me improve her coat.

Please and thank you!

Lauren Sperling on August 28, 2020:

Will cytopoint injections help blue dobie syndrome?

Lisa Ellis on March 03, 2020:

I am 65 years old and i desperately want a black and tan doberman. But...i am terrified of all the things they could have. When i had my first and only Dobie back in 70's i did not know of any of these diseases. I guess ignorance is bliss because she lived to be 15. I never worried about her health except to take her to the vets every year for her exam and shots. She went everywhere with me...even to work..because i worked at Warner Bros. Studios and sometimes had long days and it was a chance to see her parents who were the starring Dobies in the Doberman Gang movies. So does anyone have any encouraging words for me to help me decide about getting another dobie now that i know all the things that could go wrong? I am really having a hard time with this one.

Thank you.

Lisa Ellis

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 27, 2019:

Hello, and happy national dog day to you too! I hope that your Dobermans' alopecia stays in check. You are right, dobies are such great dogs. I grew up with my neighbor's Dobies and they were very sweet dogs.

Lauralie85 on August 26, 2019:

Happy National Dog Day! I must say, I am pretty obsessed with my Doberman. He is blue and rust, and his name is Bleue...not the most clever of names, but it does suit him well! He is showing signs of mild Alopecia, the vet said to just keep an eye on it for now and to let her know if it becomes any worse. He is 8 years old, and we have just noticed the mild hair loss a few months back. These are truly wonderful creatures. I’ve owned quite a few dogs in my 33 years of life, and while I have adored them all, there is just something extra special about a Dobie! I will always have a Doberman companion as long as I’m alive.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 10, 2019:

Dobermans are wonderful dogs! As a child, I grew up with my neighbor's Dobermans who were very nice and loved to be pet.I wanted one badly when they had a litter of pups. I hope there is a way to reduce the incidence of blue Doberman syndrome in this breed once and for all.

Mary on April 09, 2019:

Yes, the Doberman breed is, in my opinion, the next best thing to having a child.

Adopted one & would have done that many years before had I known the degree of love, intelligence, protection, companionship this beautiful creature is capable of. Had nine years of togetherness that words cannot express. The loss is almost unbearable! The bond we shared was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’ve heard of love that even death can’t separate— I’ve been blessed to share that joy!

Drea on August 08, 2018:


That’s a perfect description of these amazing creatures called Dobermans. I will never be the same after having our incredibly kind, smart and loving dobie.

Mary on July 03, 2018:

Adopted a blue Dobie eight years ago & it’s been the happiest, most rewarding

8 years I’ve ever known. He is loving, protective, obedient, & yes, has a bad skin condition. He has numerous coats for winter wear & those to protect him from the sun. He doesn’t seem to notice all my health problems any more than I dwell on his. I only wish we’d both been younger so we could count on more years together. Anyone looking for a unique, above intelligence, loyal companion, think about adopting or selecting a Doberman! Anyone who truly loves dogs will think of them as their child. If you treat this breed with love & respect, your life, like mine, will find happiness words can’t describe!

jacquie bullock on September 02, 2017:

fostering a blue dobe with this syndrome and wanted some helpful hints about her diet

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 06, 2017:

Jack, thanks for the tips for blue doberman skin issues.

Jack F on July 09, 2017:

My blue dob named jake started loosing hair at about 2 yrs. It got worse he is now 7 and i have found that a daily dose cod liver oil seems to have the condition improving nothing dramatic but he has a layer of fuzz.

I must say he is an amazing dog, very intelligent to a fault and at 110 lbs a very intimidating animal.