German Pinscher Health


A CERF (Canine Eye Registration Foundation) examination is a painless examination completed by an A.C.V.O. (American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists) Diplomate.  After the diplomate views the dog’s eyes, they complete the CERF form, marking any diseases they have found.  When a dog is found to be free of inherited eye disease, the owner can send a copy of the CERF form with the appropriate fee to CERF in order to obtain a CERF number, though it is actually the A.C.V.O. Diplomate who determines the status of your dog’s eyes, not CERF.  The certification is good for 12 months from the day of the exam.  After that time, a dog must be reexamined in order to remain registered with CERF.  The information found in the exam by the A.C.V.O Diplomate is entered into the database for the specific breed, regardless of the outcome of the exam and regardless whether or not the owner obtains the CERF number. 


Cataracts cause a loss of transparency in the lens of the eyes, which causes interference in the dog’s vision.  This interference can be mild or severe depending upon the location.  Cataracts are the most common disease of the lens, though their pathogenesis is not yet fully understood.  Cataracts can be congenital – present at birth, developmental – appearing sometime after birth, but before adulthood – many inheritable and nutritional cataracts appear in this stage, or degenerative – appearance after normal development.  The causes of cataracts are varied and numerous, including nutrition, diabetes and other diseases, exposure to chemicals, exposure to UV light, injury, as well as genetics.    In addition to cataracts, there are many other diseases which can affect the eye.  Of the 153 German Pinscher who were examined between 2000 and 2005, 21 have been found to possess some time type of cataract. Of the 153 German Pinscher who were examined between 2000 and 2005, only 1 was found to have this disorder.


Entropion is a rolling in of the eyes which causes the hair on the surface of the eyelid to rub on the eyeball.  This is both painful and often causes corneal ulcers or erosions.  The corneal damage can also result in corneal scarring, which can interfere with vision.  Dogs with inherited entropion should not be bred, as they can pass the trait on tot heir offspring. 


Ectropion is a defect of conformation in which there is a sagging or rolling out of the eyelids.  This results in abnormal exposure of the eye, which often leads to irritation.  It is very likely that ectropion is influence by several genes that affect the skin and other structures that make up the eyelids, and that affect the way the skin covers the face and the head. 


Distichiasis is when the eyelids of dogs can grow abnormal hairs.  These hairs grow from the oil glands of the lids and are called distichia if the hair protrudes from the oil glad opening onto the edge of the eyelid.  Distichia are often irritating, especially if the hairs are long and stiff.  An inheritance pattern has not yet been determined for this disease.  Of the 153 German Pinscher who were examined between 2000 and 2005, only 1 was found to have this disorder. 


Ectopic cilia occur when a hair or a bundle of hairs that emanate through the palpebral conjunctiva usually near the base of the Meibomian gland.  The inheritance pattern of this disease has not yet been determined. 


Eury / Macroblepharon is an abnormally large eyelid opening.  This condition may lead to secondary issues that are associated with corneal exposure.  This issue is thought to be related to extreme facial features, such as those of the Bulldog or Bullmastiff.


A cartilage anomaly is a scroll-like curling of the cartilage of the third eyelid.  This condition may occur in one or both eyes and may cause mild ocular irritation.  The mode of inheritance is yet unknown. 


A prolapsed gland is when there is an abnormal “flipping out” of the tear gland located behind the third eyelid.  This tear gland is responsible fro one-third to one-half of the tears needed to lubricate the eye.  The significance of genetics in this disease is currently not known.


Epithelial corneal dystrophy is known to be inherited.  This disease causes opacity in one or more of the layers of the cornea.  This disorder is usually bilateral.  There has been one German Pinscher found to be affected with this disorder between 2000 and 2005.


Endothelial corneal dystrophy is corneal edema of the lateral or ventrolateral cornea that usually progresses to involve the entire cornea over a period of months to years.  Corneal epithelial bullae and subsequent corneal erosion or ulceration may develop.  Pain and visual impairment are observed in animals with advanced disease.  The genetic link has been proven in some breeds, though the specific mode of inheritance has not yet been identified in German Pinschers. 


The genetic impact on inherited pannus is not yet known, thought the condition is an ongoing inflammation of the cornea.  It begins as a grayish haze.  Gradually blood vessels and pigmented cells move into the normally transparent cornea.  As the inflammatory changes spread across the cornea, vision is affected.  The condition gradually worsens and usually affects both eyes.


Pigmentary keratitis due to exposure generally occurs after prolonged irritation.  It is seen in dogs with bulging eyes.  External irritants, trichiasis or distichiasis, entropion, corneal injuries, pannus and chronic infections of the eye may all produce this result.  Diagnosis can be made by direct exam, cultures, fluorescent staining, Schirmer tear testing and cytology.  This disorder is known to be inherited.


An iris or cilliary body cyst can arise from the posterior pigmented epithelial cells of the iris and remain attached or break free, floating as pigmented spheres of various sizes and pigments in the anterior chamber.  Some cysts tend to adhere to the posterior surface of the cornea.  Rarely, cysts may be numerous enough to impair vision.  The mode of inheritance of these cysts is currently unknown. 


An iris coloboma is a thinking or hold in the eye structure.  It is an indication of the thinness of the iris.  Large holes allow more light to enter the eye through the pupil, resulting in squinting.  The coloboma can be mild or server.  In server cases, there is a sort of notch in the margins of the pupil.  Generally, colobomas are congenital and genetic.  Affected dogs should not be bred.


Persistent pupillary membranes are strands of tissue in the eye.  They are remnants of blood vessels which supplied nutrients to the developing lens of the eye before birth.  Normally, these strands are gone by 4 or 5 weeks of age.  Depending upon the location and the extent of these strands, they may interfere with vision.  They may bridge from iris to iris across the pupil, from iris to cornea (which may cause corneal opacities), or from iris to lens (which may cause cataracts), or they may form sheets of tissue in the anterior chamber of the eyes.  In many dogs, these tissue remnants cause no problems.  The inheritance of this disorder has not yet been defined.  From 2000 to 2005, 3.27% of German Pinschers where found to be affected by this disorder.


Iris hypoplasia is the result of poorly developed iris sphincter muscles.  The pupils of dogs with ISD do not properly contract in bright light.  Dogs usually are uncomfortable and often squint in the sun.  The disorder exposes the interior or the eye to ultraviolet light that may potentially cause serious vision problems, such as cataracts or retinal damage as dogs age.  It is not recommended to breed two dogs affected with this disorder to one another.


Punctate cataracts are incomplete cataracts in which there are opaque dots scatter through the lens.  It is recommended that these cataracts are monitored as they may progress over time to intermediate cataracts, or eventually a diffuse or general cataract.  There is believed to be a genetic factor to this disease process.


The persistent hyaloid artery is when the hyaloid artery remains after birth and is viewable by a doctor when looking into the eyes.  It rarely causes any vision disturbances.  The mode of inheritance for this disorder is unknown.


Vitreous degeneration may be one of several conditions.  It may refer to liquefaction of the vitreous which occurs following some types of inflammation.  This occurs commonly in horses, dogs and cats following episodes of uveitis.  Alternatively, it can occur in certain breeds of dogs as a primary condition.  Between 2000 and 2005, 3 German Pinschers were found to have this condition.


In retinal dysplasia, there is abnormal development of the retina, which is present at birth.  The disorder can be inherited, or it can be acquired as a result of a viral infection or some other event before the puppies were born.  Inheritance has been shown to be an autosomal recessive.  One German Pinscher was found to have this disorder. 


Choroidal hypoplasia is a recessively inherited eye disorder that causes abnormal development of the choroid which is an important layer of tissue under the retina of the eye.


The development of retinal hemorrhage is a result in disruption of retinal blood vessels, most commonly between the internal limited membrane and the ganglion cell layer, as well as in the nerve fiber layer of the retina.  Breeding is not recommended by A.C.V.O.


Micropapilla refers to a smaller than normal optic disc.  It is not associated with the loss of sight.  The mode of inheritance is unclear.


As can be noted, many of the issues known to affect the canine eye have not been found to affect German Pinschers.  Constant diligence on the part of breeders today can help eliminate eye problems for future generations. 


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