The Breed History
Weimaraners were developed by aristocrats in the 17th century in Germany; the best known was Grand Duke Karl August of Weimer. Breed ancestors are thought to include Pointers, German Schweisshunds, red Haidbracke, and red Hanoverian Bloodhound (the latter is traced back to the gray Leithunder dog of French deer hunting stock). Weimaraners stayed exclusively owned by the German Weimaraner club members for many years. Official breed recognition in Germany came in 1896, and registration by the AKC occurred in 1943. The first dogs arrived in the US in 1929.
Breeding for Function
This breed was originally selected to be an all-purpose high-endurance hunting dog (fur and feather), bred to hunt, point and retrieve. The most popular use for this dog in modern times is as an obedience dog or hunting dog. They also enjoy flyball and agility sports.
Height at Withers: females 23-25" (58-64 cm), males 25-27" (64-69.5 cm)
Weight: females 70-80 lb (31.8-36.4 kg), males 75-88 lb (34.1-40 kg)
Coat: The short single-layered glossy haircoat is only recognized in the color of silver-gray to mouse-gray with a "metallic sheen"; only one small spot of white is tolerated on the chest. Over the head, and particularly the ears, a lighter metallic gray color is noted. Though the longhaired Weimaraner is not recognized, this subtype was used for waterfowl hunting. This double-coated, medium length water resistant coat is feathered on legs and tail. There are variations in the length, texture and volume of undercoat. A genetic test is available.
Longevity: 10-14 years.
Points of Conformation: This aristocratic, muscular athletic large dog possesses a medium weight mesocephalic skull with a moderate stop and slight median line over the forehead, amber nose, light gray, gray-blue or amber eyes, and fine leathered pendulous large and high-set ears. Note that puppies are born with intense sky blue eyes. They have a medium muscular neck, deep chest and well-sprung rib cage, level loins, and a moderately tucked waist. They possess fine long straight limbs, with small compact feet well knuckled up and webbed. The tail is medium and tapering, but often cropped to 6" (15 cm) adult length. Their gait is long and straight, smooth but elastic.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported to be: Affectionate, keen, gentle and very obedient, but protective. A high amount of exercise should be provided (one hour per day minimum is recommended). High intelligence and fairly high social needs make this dog unsuitable for kenneled life. They should be kept busy to prevent boredom vices such as chewing. Due to their strong chase instinct, they should be raised with, or carefully introduced to smaller pets. They need close contact with their owners, and are devoted, sensitive and loyal. They have low grooming needs and are low to medium shedders. They are loud alarm barkers.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Autosomal recessive longhaired Weimaraners occur. A genetic test is available.
The breed is predisposed to vaccine-induced HOD (see below). Recommend only using core vaccines, preferring recombinant DNA vaccines when available, especially during puppy vaccinations.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 8.5% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 1.8% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Reported at a high frequency by the OFA, but too few Weimaraners have been screened to determine an accurate frequency.
Hyperuricosuria (HUU)/Urate Bladder Stones: An autosomal recessive mutation in the SLC2A9 gene causes urate urolithiasis and can predispose male dogs to urinary obstruction. Weirmaraners have a computed 0.15 frequency of the defective gene. A genetic test is available.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva, more seriously in Weirmaraners than other breeds. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Dorn reports a 1.76x odds ratio versus other breeds. Identified in 26.67% of Weimaraners CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF discourages breeding affected Weirmaraners.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 6.9% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Cataracts: Anterior cortex intermediate cataracts predominate in the breed. Identified in 5.60% of Weimaraners CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Weimaraner with a cataract.
Gastric Dilation/Volvulus (GDV, Bloat): Life-threatening twisting of the stomach within the abdomen. Requires immediate veterinary attention. There is a 9.1% lifetime risk of developing GDV, with 4.8% of all Weimaraners dying from the condition. Odds ratios of 4.6x to 6.2x for developing bloat versus other breeds have been computed. A UK study shows a 5% prevalence of GVD, with it being the cause of death of 11.6% of Weimaraners.
Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD): Immune-mediated disorder causing fever, and painful, swollen joints and bones in young Weimaraners. Occurs mostly within 3-14 days post-vaccination. The disorder is not linked to a specific type of vaccine. Age of onset is 8-16 weeks. Risk factor is 21x that of other breeds, with an incidence of 5.4%. Reported 21.4x odds ratio versus other breeds. One study found distemper virus contained in the affected growth plates. This breed is prone to a severe variant of HOD that can result in death without steroid therapy. Unknown mode of inheritance, but the heritability of HOD in the breed is 0.68. Occurs as a widespread disorder in the breed, with no familial line having a greater risk.
Hormonal Urinary Incontinence: Weimaraners are found to be a breed with increased risk for spayed females to develop urinary incontinence. Treat with phenylpropanolamine.
Corneal Dystrophy: Epithelial/stromal form of corneal opacities. Identified in 2.40% of Weimaraners CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 2.13% of Weimaraners CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Mast Cell Tumor (MCT): Skin tumors that produce histamine, and can cause inflammation and ulceration. They can reoccur locally or with distant metastasis. Weimaraners have a 4-8 times greater risk for developing cutaneous mast cell tumors than other breeds.
Everted Cartilage of the Third Eyelid: A scroll-like curling of the cartilage of the third eyelid, usually everting the margin. Can be unilateral or bilateral, and cause ocular irritation. Identified in 1.07% of Weimaraners CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Follicular Dysplasia: Affected young adult Weimaraners show progressive alopecia of the trunk (head and limbs are spared) associated with recurrent folliculitis/furunculosis. Diagnosis by histopathology. The lesions are similar to mild cases of color dilution alopecia.
Spinal Dysraphism (Syringomyelia, Myelodysplasia): Congenital spinal cord disorder seen in Weimaraners beginning at 6-8 weeks of age. Presents as a bunny hopping gait with loss of reciprocal hind limb movement. There can be varying degrees of loss of proprioception and postural reactions in the pelvic limbs, with a wide based stance. Pain perception is unaffected. Unknown mode of inheritance. In matings between two severely affected dogs, 80% of the offspring were affected.
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency: The Weimaraner breed has a predisposition to maldigestion from exocrine pancreatic insufficiency based on cPLI testing.
Cervical Spondylomyelopathy (Wobbler Syndrome): Presents with neck pain, UMN spasticity and ataxia. Imaging studies suggest that the primary lesion is spinal cord compression at C5-6 or C6-7. MRI is superior to myelography in determining site, severity, and nature of the spinal cord compression. Seen at an increased incidence in the breed. Undetermined mode of inheritance.
Immunodeficiency: Rare, familial disorder expressed as low IgA, IgG, IgM and leading to recurrent infections of skin, GIT, and CNS. Unknown mode of inheritance.
XX-Sex Reversal: Sry-negative XX-sex reversal causes external make characteristics of a prepuce and an enlarged clitoris, in genetically female dogs. A uterus is usually present. Reported as a rare disorder in the breed. Presumed autosomal recessive mode of inheritance.
Immunodeficient Dwarfism: Immunodeficient dwarfism in an inbred line of Weimaraner dogs was characterized by failure to grow, emaciation, growth hormone (GH) deficiency, decreased lymphocyte blastogenic responsiveness to mitogens, lack of thymus cortex, and recurrent infections usually resulting in death.
Corneal Dystrophy, Factor XI Deficiency, Lupoid Onychopathy, Prognathism, and Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Factor VII Deficiency/Hemophilia A: Two males from a litter of Weimaraners were diagnosed with hemophilia A. No other relatives tested as affected or carrier, indicating a recent mutation.
Muscular Dystrophy: A 2-year-old, male Weimaraner presented with a slowly progressive form of muscular dystrophy with organ agenesis. He showed generalized muscle atrophy of the limbs; hypertrophy of the neck, infraspinatus, and lingual muscles; dysphagia; regurgitation; and unilateral renal agenesis, and hiatal hernia.
Immune-Complex (Arthus-Type) Vasculitis: A 7-year-old Weimaraner dog with multiple episodes of neurological illness was euthanatized and submitted for postmortem examination. Lesions in the white matter of the cerebral cortex and cervical spinal cord showed necrotizing vasculitis. More chronic changes consisted of perivascular demyelination.
Pansteatitis: Three unrelated Weimaraners were identified with pyrexia and multiple subcutaneous nodules. Clinical investigation revealed inflammation of subcutaneous, mesenteric and falciform fat, with histopathological findings of sterile pansteatitis. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Hypomyelination: Two litters of Weimaraners developed tremors by 3 weeks of age. Many axons in the brain and spinal cord were either thinly myelinated or nonmyelinated relative to controls, while the peripheral nervous system was normally myelinated. In all areas of white matter evaluated, astrocytes subjectively outnumbered oligodendrocytes, suggesting an abnormality in glial differentiation. Clinical signs in two dogs resolved.
Juvenile Nephropathy: A two-year-old Weimaraner bitch presented in renal failure. Renal pathology consisted of tubular as well as glomerular lesions. There was also an inflammatory left atrial wall necrotizing arteritis.
Endocardial Fibroelastosis: A 9-week-old Weimaraner presented with left-sided heart failure. On necropsy, diffuse fibroplasia over the left ventricular endocardium; small, deformed papillary muscles; and pulmonary congestion were evident, consistent with congenital endocardial fibroelastosis.
Narcolepsy: A 3-year-old male neutered Weimaraner dog presented with acute onset cataplectic attacks, triggered by emotional events such as playing or eating. The diagnosis of narcolepsy and cataplexy was made based on clinical signs and evaluation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that contained a dramatically decreased hypocretin-1 concentration.
Tests of Genotype: Direct genetic test for HUU is available from UC-Davis VGL and the Animal Health Trust.
Direct genetic test for long coat is available from the Animal Health Trust and VetGen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip radiographs, CERF eye examination, and thyroid profile including autoantibodies. Optimal testing includes genetic test for HUU. (See CHIC website; caninehealthinfo.org).
Recommend elbow radiographs, patella evaluation, and cardiac examination.
- Breed name Synonyms: Vorsthund, Vorstenhund, Weimar Pointer, Grey Ghost
- Registries: AKC, CKC, UKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 31 (8,732 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Weimaraner Club of America: weimclubamerica.org
Weimaraner Association of Canada: weims.ca
Weimaraner Club of Great Britain: weimaranerclubofgreatbritain.org.uk
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