Understanding Blue Doberman Syndrome

Updated on February 22, 2017
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Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinary hospital assistant, and the author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

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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 causing 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 also the 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 even 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 dogs breeds with diluted coats. The term alopecia, is the medical term for "hair loss." This condition is caused by a structural defect which 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 though 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 6 months and 3 years of age.

The affected dog's coat may start turning dry and scaly and there may be several papules pustules. 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, explains 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

Treatment of Blue Doberman Syndrome

Blue and Tan Doberman versus Black and Tan Doberman

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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. 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 2 or 3 years old.

— Ross Clark, DVM

Did your blue Doberman develop alopecia?

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Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Adrienne Janet Farricelli

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      • profile image

        Drea 

        2 months ago

        Mary,

        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.

      • profile image

        Mary 

        3 months ago

        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!

      • profile image

        jacquie bullock 

        13 months ago

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

      • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

        14 months ago from USA

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

      • profile image

        Jack F 

        15 months ago

        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.

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