Dancing Doberman Disease (DDD) can mimic many other conditions such as lumbosacral disc disease, cervical vertebral instability (CVI), inflammation of the spinal cord, spinal arthritis, cauda equina syndrome, some nervous system maladies, and spinal tumors. It is likely the condition is more prevalent than previously recognized because there is a general lack of awareness on the part of veterinarians and breeders, and therefore, the condition is often overlooked as a diagnosis.
The Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Ettinger and Feldman, 4th Edition, contains a description of this disease if you want to look it up at your library, or ask your veterinarian about it. A simple description would be that of a progressive disease, usually presenting with a holding up of one rear leg while standing. The age at onset can be anywhere from 4 months to 10 years. Both males and females are affected. Most affected dogs have normal findings on other tests, including blood counts, biochemistry, x-ray, and thyroid function. Over several months the condition progresses with a wasting of rear leg muscles, and a more constant shifting of weight on the rear legs to resemble a dog “dancing”, hence the name “Dancing Doberman Disease”. Frequently these dogs will knuckle over with their rear paws and ultimately prefer to sit or lie down rather than stand. The dogs show no sign of pain and are perfectly capable of running in the yard, chasing a ball or a squirrel, etc. Generally they live out their lives comfortably as pets although the condition is progressive, incurable, and at present, untreatable. It must be considered a genetic disease because it has never been reported in any mammal, let alone any dog breed other than the Doberman Pinscher.
Just because most breeders and many veterinarians are unaware of DDD doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Although it may not be wide-spread at this time, it represents a diagnostic conundrum because its symptoms are easily confused with other diseases stated above. Recognition that there is a condition known as DDD is important so that a proper diagnosis can be made. Accurate diagnosis of any disease is the key to treatment and prognosis and can only be made if there is an awareness of all possibilities.
Dr. Jan Steiss, in a grant funded by Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine and the Doberman Pinscher Foundation of America, has completed the most recent research on DDD.