Perhaps because of the very selective breeding programs used in the origination of the breed, the modern Weimaraner is normally a very healthy dog. With the rapid surge in popularity in the breed in the United States in the 1960s and 70s there was some indiscriminate breeding, which led to an increase in some health related issues. Selective breeding by knowledgeable and reputable breeders has virtually eliminated most of the controllable genetic issues within the breed.
Unlike many dog breeds within the sporting group, the Weimaraner has a relatively low incidence of canine hip dysplasia or CHD. It is estimated by the testing facilities for hip dysplasia that less than eight percent of all tested Weimaraners actually have the condition, a real tribute to dedicated breeders. Since CHD is very prominent in many of the German breeds of dogs, as well as any of the larger breeds from around the world, this is indeed a remarkable accomplishment.
One condition that can occur in the Weimaraner that is difficult for owners to deal with is hypertropic osteodystrophy. This is unusual because this disease is typically only found in giant breeds, but it may have been introduced to the Weimaraner breed through the use of mastiffs and Bloodhounds in the early foundation stock breeding programs. Hypertropic osteodystrophy may also be known as Moller-Barlow's Disease and it typically strikes puppies at about the three to six month mark. It is more common in males than females, and there is not a strong genetic factor that has been identified as causing the condition.
In most cases of hypertropic osteodystrophy the puppy experiences mild to severe pain in the legs, often resulting in swelling and lameness that seems to come and go. It can occur in the front or back legs, typically affecting both legs, either the front or back, at the same time. In some dogs the pain and swelling is relatively mild and causes no serious complications. In other dogs it is pronounced and profound, often combined with fevers of up to 106 degrees that may last for significant periods of time. The puppy typically will be very lethargic, may stop eating and may have neurological problems associated with an elevated body temperature. In severely affected puppies permanent damage to the growth plates on the long bones of the front or back legs can result in permanent movement problems and structural malformations. In some cases significant and lengthy fevers that are not treated can result in death.
There is no cure for hypertropic osteodystrophy, however most puppies will grow out of the symptoms provided the pain, fever and inflammation is treated. Non-steroid treatments to reduce inflammation and pain have been successful, as has adding supplemental Vitamin C to the diet. Some vets and researchers believe the disease may have a nutritional deficiency component, similar to scurvy seen in humans. Feeding a high quality diet with lower fat and protein components may also help in preventing the conditions from becoming worse. Slowing down the growth rate of the puppy is key in stopping any damage to the growth plates of the bones. Still other researches believe this may be a bacterial infection in the bones, and in some cases antibacterial drug therapies are successful in reducing the duration of the condition.
Persistent right aortic arch is a condition that occurs as a puppy develops incorrectly prior to birth. Normally all puppies, when first at the fetal stage, have a vessel known as an aortic arch that is used to carry blood around the esophagus until the heart is strong enough to actually pump the blood for circulation. Normally these aortic arches then cease to function and are broken down by the body. In some puppies the arch does not cease to exist, but rather it tightens as the puppy grows, pushing the esophagus into the heart and holding it in place. Over time, usually at about three to six months of age, the restriction becomes highly noticeable with the puppy simply not growing, vomiting after eating, and experiencing difficulty in breathing.
The only treatment for this condition is a surgical procedure that removes the old, non-functioning aortic arch. Once removed, the puppy can swallow food normally and can lead a healthy, normal life, provided the surgery is done before any permanent damage to the esophagus occurs. Usually these puppies will not catch up in growth and will remain very small and stunted all through their lives. Puppies that do have a persistent right aortic arch should be spayed or neutered and not allowed to reproduce.
Pituitary dwarfism, like persistent right aortic arch, can occasionally but typically very rarely occur within the Weimaraner breed. Puppies are born very small compared to others in the same litter, although they will be balanced in body and head proportions. The pituitary gland may be damaged, infected, or otherwise incapable of producing enough growth hormone for the developing puppy. The puppy will fail to grow, often will not reach the developmental milestones of the other puppies, and often shows signs of mental retardation. Most puppies with this condition will not live and there is no short or long term treatment that is available. Some research with synthetic growth hormones has been completed, however the results are not positive overall.
As with any of the deeper chested breeds of dogs, the Weimaraner is a candidate for developing bloat. This condition is caused by the full stomach twisting on itself, cutting off blood flow as well as the release of the building pressure. This is a serious and fatal condition if not treated immediately, and it can strike any dog under the right conditions.
Prevention of bloat includes limited the dog's intake of human foods, feeding only premium dog kibble that has been moistened to prevent gulping, limited water intake during feeding and immediately afterwards as well as limited exercise for up to 2 hours after feeding. In addition a key factor in preventing bloat is to feed several small meals per day, rather than one large meal where the dog may eat very rapidly and literally swallow the food whole.
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