Narcolepsy is a disabling sleep disorder of unknown aetiology. In humans, the disease is mostly sporadic, with a few familial cases having been reported. In 1973 a sporadic case of narcolepsy was reported in a poodle, and in 1975 familial cases of narcolepsy occurred in dobermanns. As with human narcoleptics, these narcoleptic dogs exhibited excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy. A colony of narcoleptic dogs was established at Stanford University in 1976 to study the pathophysiology of the disease. Between 1976 and 1995, a total of 669 animals of various breeds were born, of which 487 survived. Dobermanns accounted for 78 per cent of the total. The narcolepsy genotype in dobermanns had no significant influence on puppy mortality rate (numbers of stillborn and survival rate). The sex, maternal parity or the age of the sire or dam had no significant effect. The percentage of stillborn puppies increased from 6.1 per cent in outbred litters to 15.4 per cent in inbred litters (P=0.10). Birth season also had a significant effect, and the highest survival rate (P=0.02), and the lowest percentage of stillborn puppies (P=0.09) occurred between April and June.