"What we found was a gene mutation that results in a missing protein necessary for cells to be pigmented. Some defects in this same gene cause a condition called oculocutaneous albinism in humans," explained Paige Winkler, a doctoral student at University of Michigan's college of veterinary medicine.
This type of albinism has certain characteristics that are evident in both humans and dogs.
With an albino Doberman, you see a white or lighter-coloured coat, pink noses and lips, along with pale irises in the eyes.
"These traits are very similar to the characteristics humans display with this particular condition causing light-pigmented skin and hair, along with eye discolouration and vision disturbances," Winkler informed.
The canine breed and people also experience the same skin sensitivity to sunlight which results in an increased risk of skin tumours.
Winkler along with co-author Joshua Bartoe studied 20 dogs and discovered that more than half of the albino dogs had at least one tumour while only one of the regular-coloured dogs possessed a tumour.
"Because Dobermans can carry the defective gene, but show no signs of the disorder, this has posed serious problems among breeders," said Bartoe.
But now that we have identified the mutation, "we can look at the genetic makeup of these dogs and determine if they might be carriers", he noted in the study appeared in the journal PLOS ONE.