I admit it: I’m a dog person. That’s not to say that I’m not also a cat person, but dogs really are my favorite. Big dogs, little dogs, in between dogs—I love them all. Old dogs, young dogs, old young at heart dogs—my heart goes pitter patter for each of them. When I started thinking about this blog, which will eventually be about a disease specific to the Weimaraner breed, I was intending to say that Weimaraners are one of my favorite breeds. But then, like little angels sitting on my shoulder, other dog breeds started nudging me, asking “What about me?” Beagles, German Shepherds, Labs, Greyhounds, Dachshunds…suddenly I felt terribly guilty thinking that I could even begin to call any one breed my favorite. Because I really do love them all, and of course I have a special place in my heart for mixed breed dogs, like my own late pup, Kate.
So, I’ll just (finally) start this blog by saying that Weimaraners are great dogs. From their striking ghost-like appearance to their spirited attitudes, these large, strong dogs are easy to love. However, this breed can be affected by a condition called Weimaraner immunodeficiency disease. Luckily for dogs and their owners, though, the condition is quite rare.
Weimaraner immunodeficiency disease was first reported in 1984 in Melbourne, Australia. Since then, the disease has been seen in dogs in the United States, Europe and Israel, as well.
As the name implies, Weimaraners with immunodeficiency disease have one or more defects in their immune system, making them more susceptible to infections than dogs with normal immune systems. This disease is inherited, but the exact defects are not currently known. It is thought that affected dogs don’t produce normal concentrations of antibodies and may have a functional defect in their white blood cells, rendering them unable to adequately respond in the face of infection.
Affected dogs can start showing signs as early as three months old. The antibodies that these pups got from their mother’s milk start to wane around this time, and as this happens, various infections can start to affect them. Because their immune systems cannot fight the foreign invaders (bacterial, fungal, or otherwise), recurrent infections plague these puppies.
Infections can affect any body system, including the skin, gastrointestinal system, bones and joints, eyes, and the central nervous system.
Weimaraner immunodeficiency disease is diagnosed by your veterinarian based on your dog’s breed, age, and clinical signs. Recurring infections in a Weimaraner puppy will certainly raise concerns about the presences of immunodeficiency disease.
Treatment centers on relieving clinical signs by treating the current infection. Oral or topical antibiotics are used to control bacterial infections. The prognosis for Weimaraners with immunodeficiency disease varies greatly. Some puppies die or are humanely euthanized prior to their first birthday, while other dogs live into adulthood chronically affected by infections.
Because the disease is inherited, affected dogs should not be bred. There is some evidence that the onset of disease may be associated with vaccination, so affected dogs (or those at risk of infection) may benefit from a modified vaccine protocol. If you have a Weimaraner puppy, talk to your veterinarian about the best way to protect your puppy.