It is easy to see the appeal of the Weimaraner breed. Also referred to as the “Grey Ghost,” Weimaraners are full of energy, gentle, and intelligent. Although originally bred in Germany as fierce hunters, Weimaraners ranked in 44th place by the American Kennel Club in breed popularity in the United States in 2022. Weimaraners are a large breed, with males averaging between 75–90 pounds, and females averaging between 55–75 pounds.
If you have fallen in love with this beautiful breed, there are a few health concerns you should know about. Continue reading below to learn more about common health issues the Weimaraner breed faces.
The 6 Weimaraner Health Issues
1. Gastric Torsion/Bloat
Gastric torsion, or gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV)is a condition in which the stomach becomes over-expanded (bloat) and can twist upon itself. Once the stomach twists, there is a risk of vascular compromise leading to poor perfusion of organs in the abdomen. This is a painful, life-threatening situation that needs immediate surgical intervention.
Bloat and GDV tend to occur more often in large-breed dogs with a deep chest. Individuals predisposed to this condition can have a gastropexy surgery done that minimizes the chances of torsion by adhering the stomach to the muscle of the abdomen. Older, underweight, and anxious dogs are more predisposed to bloat and GDV in their lifetime.
Warning signs that your Weimaraner may be experiencing this condition can include an enlarged abdomen, repeated stretching that looks like a play bow, and retching without production. If you suspect your pet is suffering from bloat, seek veterinary care immediately.
2. Weimaraner Immunodeficiency Syndrome
Weimaraner Immunodeficiency Syndrome (WIS) is only recognized in Weimaraners and is defined as a recurring illness, inflammatory or infectious in nature, due to a faulty immune system. This syndrome is still not well understood and more needs to be learned; however, WIS does appear to be hereditary.
The altered immune system in affected dogs allows for chronic infections and inflammatory conditions to occur which can impact any organ system. Clinical signs of WIS vary depending on what organ system is impacted. Signs may include diarrhea, lethargy, fever, and discomfort.
This syndrome is generally first noted in young Weimaraner dogs around 12–15 weeks of age and is often coupled with a high white blood cell count and low levels of antibodies called immunoglobulins. Treatment of WIS is supportive care; however, the prognosis of affected dogs is poor due to the chronicity of the illness.
3. Spinal Dysraphism
Spinal dysraphism or myelodysplasia is typically an inherited condition in which the neural tube does not form correctly during early embryonic development. The neural tube goes on to form the brain and spinal cord during development. In patients with spinal dysraphism or myelodysplasia, the abnormality leads to an unusual gait, that is described as “bunny hopping,” which generally is noted in the hindlimbs.
Dogs with this condition may appear uncoordinated or weak in affected limbs, which is generally recognized in early puppyhood. Fortunately, this is a non-painful condition that does not worsen as the pet matures. Dogs with spinal dysraphism can go on to live full lives, with some adjustments needed to accommodate their distinctive gait. It is recommended that dogs with this condition are not bred.
4. Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD)
HOD is a condition impacting large breed dogs, typically less than 8 months of age. This is an autoinflammatory disease that causes pain and swelling of bones, typically long bones of limbs. The discomfort occurs secondary to reduced blood flow to bones which alters bone strength, size, and growth.
Puppies suffering from this condition often experience diarrhea, fever, lethargy, visible swelling, and pain. Diagnosis is made through history, physical exam findings, and radiographs. Radiographs can illustrate changes to the bone that are diagnostic of HOD. Fortunately, this condition is treatable, although some dogs will experience a relapse. Treatment is overseen by a veterinarian and geared toward pain relief. Unfortunately, some dogs will succumb to HOD if their quality of life becomes severely impacted.
5. Elbow and Hip Dysplasia
Elbow and hip dysplasia are commonly seen in Weimaraners. Elbow and hip dysplasia occur when the bones of the associated joint don’t form appropriately. This leads to laxity or instability within the joint. As a result of poor joint confirmation, friction of bones and movement ensues, which leads to degenerative changes of the bone called osteoarthritis.
Dogs may not show signs of discomfort in younger years, but signs may become more pronounced as the animal matures. Lameness and weakness may be noted within the affected limb. Radiographs, or X-rays, can be used to help identify dysplasia.
Treatment varies depending on the patient. In some, surgical intervention may be recommended. Additional treatment options may include physical rehabilitation, pain relief, and joint supplementation. You should speak with your veterinarian as soon as lameness is noted in your pet so that appropriate diagnostics and care can be initiated.
Some Weimaraners may have an abnormal “scrolling” appearance to the eyelid, called entropion, in which either the upper or lower eyelid folds inwards towards the eye. This is generally first diagnosed in puppies. When entropion is present, irritation to the eye may occur secondary to the friction of the lid onto the surfaces of the eye.
Signs of entropion may include redness of the eye and associated structures, discharge, increased tearing, or squinting. Some dogs outgrow this condition; however, for those who don’t, corrective surgery is available. The surgical correction involves removing skin from the affected eyelid to prevent the lid from rolling inwards.
In general, the Weimaraner is a loveable dog breed that fits the mold as a hunter and a family companion. Disease predispositions are not necessarily a reason to steer away from the Weimaraner, but it is helpful to know what hurdles your companion may face throughout their lifetime.
If you have concerns regarding your pet’s health, please seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Veterinarians are equipped with knowledge and resources to diagnose and support your beloved companion.