With the increasing number of Retired Greyhounds being placed in
homes, it is important to be knowledgeable in the unique medical
conditions that can and do occur in this breed.
Some of these conditions are unique to the racing Greyhound, but
most are diseases present due to poor management and lack of general
The “Bald Butt” syndrome seen in many Retired Greyhounds, is in
most cases due to “cage rub.” Hypothyroidism is often blamed as the cause,
however, this is seldom true. Many dogs regain their haircoat with time, others
The normal hematocrit of a healthy Greyhound is significantly higher
than other canines. A PCV of 55-60% is considered normal; a PCV of 45% may
indicate anemia. Greyhounds often normally have a moderately low WBC. A
WBC of 5,000 – 6,000 may be a consistent finding, sometimes even lower levels
are found in dogs with Babesia or Ehrlichia.
This is a relatively common disease found in Retired Greyhounds.
A blood parasite, transmitted by the bite of a tick, a positive titer is found in
approximately 75-80% of retired racers. Even dogs brought in from more
Northern states are at risk due to the constant travel and shipping from track to
track, with most tracks located in Southern states. A low titer, indicates exposure
to the disease, whereas a high to moderately high titer may indicate active
disease (even without clinical signs). Treatment consists of one or two
treatments with Imizol (Imidocarb), based on the recheck titer. Failure to treat,
even while asymptomatic, may result in a hemolytic crisis.
Amazingly enough, bloat is not that common in the Greyhound.
However, due to their deep-chested conformation, bloat and Gastric Dilitation –
Volvulus can occur.
Many Greyhounds come off the track with broken toes or
amputated toes. These are often old injuries that are beyond repair.
Due to the poor diet fed these dogs at the track,
Campylobacter jejuni is an extremely common parasite found in the stool. They
are often fed raw, diseased meat, which may be the origin of this parasite.
Certain antibiotics are more effective at eliminating this parasite; constant
sanitization is essential to prevent spread.
Due to the lack of adequate medical care in many
instances, dogs may suffer from chronic untreated infections. Otitis, Cystitis,
Prostatitis, and Conjunctivitis are examples of common infections.
Many female dogs suffer from clitoral hypertrophy
due to the steroid injections received on the track. This may become less
prominent over time. This may lead to vaginal infections, or show no obvious
signs of problems. Surgical resection is not usually recommended.
A relatively uncommon immune-mediated corneal disease
is found in some Greyhounds. This condition can result in total corneal opacity and blindness without proper, aggressive treatment.
Dogs with thin or patchy hair may develop small bloodblister like lesions on various areas of the body. Most often appearing on the
belly and thighs, these small raised lesions are exacerbated or even due to
sunlight. This is the benign precursor to a cancerous condition, so it is
recommended that dogs that develop this condition be protected from sunlight
with skin block and protective clothing.
Due to the poor sanitary conditions they are kept
in, many Retired Racers suffer from Pyoderma or Allergic Skin Diseases.
Comedones are common on the ventrum (Biore’ patches may be helpful).
Seborrhea is also common, and is often responsive to diet alone. Other products
may be helpful for topical (Resisoothe, EFA Bath Oil) or parenteral (DermCaps,
EFA Caps, 3V Caps) assistance.
Many Greyhounds show extreme sensitivity to dietary
changes, and many suffer from constant diarrhea if not fed the appropriate food.
Most thrive on premium lamb and rice diets. If chronic diarrhea in the absence of
parasites persists, a change in diet may be warranted.
A blood parasite transmitted by the bite of a tick, Ehrlichia canis
is the most common form to infect dogs. This disease tends to have a chronic
relapsing nature. Many dogs have an elevated titer without showing symptoms;
others may have multiple symptoms. Low titers indicate exposure, however, any
elevation should be treated. Imizol is often very helpful in treatment, antibiotics
don’t often control the disease or the symptoms. A hemolytic crisis is a real
possibility with this disease.
Fractures may occur on the track, which often result in the
euthanasia or retirement of the racing dog. However, fractures can occur in the
retired racer. The Greyhounds bones are slim, and hence are more susceptible
to fractures, even when they’re only racing around their back yard. Some of the
more common racing fractures are those of the calcaneous/talus and tarsal
bones. Fractures of the metatarsals and metacarpals are common in the pet
Another extremely common parasite in Retired Greyhounds.
Approximately 75% may carry Giardia upon adoption. Giardia often causes
diarrhea in people too.
Due to their often lack of preventive medication,
Greyhounds are often exposed to heartworm disease.
IDIOPATHIC CUTANEOUS AND RENAL GLOMERULAR VASCULOPATHY
This is a disease unique to the Greyhound breed, which may manifest itself as an
ulcerative dermatosis, which can also progress to a serious renal disease leading
to severe renal compromise and often death. Treatment can be successful,
however the disease can be rapidly fatal.
A somewhat conspicuous increased frequency
of immune-mediated diseases has been seen in these dogs.
Greyhounds have very thin skin and are extremely susceptible
to lacerations. Many simple lacerations result in degloving due to the thin skin
and virtually non-existent subcutaneous layer.
Another tick-borne parasite, Lymes is more likely found in
Retired Racers from the Eastern states. Chronic arthritis and renal disease may
be sequelae of this disease.
Probably the most common problems seen
in racing dogs and often even in backyard racers, are musculoskeletal injuries.
Strains, sprains, ruptured muscles, and avulsions and tears of tendons and
ligaments are frequently found. Some of the more common injuries are those of
the superficial and deep digital flexor tendons leading to a “dropped toe” or the
gracilis muscle, known as a “dropped back muscle.”
Most Greyhounds on the track suffer from chronic parasitism.
Fleas, ticks and every possible intestinal parasite are common occurrences.
Giardia and Campylobacter are frequently seen.
Due to the poor diet and the constant muzzling, many
Greyhounds suffer from dental decay, worn and broken teeth, abscesses and
gingival recession. Owners should be instructed that constant dental care may
be necessary. Multiple antibiotics, metronidazole, and Stomadex patches are
often of assistance in controlling the disease.
Usually not a pathologic condition, many dogs eat their food
so fast that they regurgitate it immediately. This problem can often be alleviated
by elevating their food or using a larger bowl with a thin layer of kibble, so that
they do not gobble their food.
Often due to eating too fast or minor throat irritation, reverse sneezing often sounds like gasping for breath.
Occasionally a parasite called Paragonimus can be the cause of chronic, frequent reverse sneezing.
This parasite is also known as a lungworm, and lives in the air passages leading
to the lungs, thus causing irritation and coughing or reverse sneezing. This
parasite rarely shows up on routine stool exams, so treatment is often
recommended if any symptoms are present.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN SPOTTED FEVER
A tick-borne parasite, Rickettsia
rickettsii, that can produce serious disease in humans and animals, this disease
is more commonly found in dogs from the Western states and also near the
This is a condition seen quite frequently in the Retired
Greyhound. Excessive vocalization, destructive behavior, and inappropriate
elimination are the classic signs often seen. Retired Greyhounds often become
extremely attached to their new owners, frequently following them around the
house constantly. Clomicalm (Clomipramine) is often very useful, along with
behavioral conditioning, in the elimination of these frustrating destructive
behaviors. Some of these or similar type issues may be seen in doga suffering from storm phobias
Many Retired Racers suffer from chronic or recurrent
sesamoiditis. Some show periodic lameness, possibly requiring non-steroidal
anti-inflammatory medications and rest.
This is a term used to describe torn interdigital tissue. This
condition can occur on the track and in the backyard. This injury is best treated
by debriding and suturing together the two portions. Bandages must be kept on
for at least two weeks. If this is not successful, the dog can manage with the tear
as long as it heals properly.
Like other large-breed, long-tailed dogs, Greyhounds often
sustain injuries to the ends of their tails. Proper bandaging, (syringe cases work
great) is usually sufficient to allow healing. Amputation is rarely necessary
except in long-standing injuries.
Besides Babesia, Ehrlichia, Lymes and Rocky Mountain
Spotted Fever, there are other more recently discovered diseases transmitted by
ticks, which can affect many dogs. Bartonellosis and Hepatazoonosis are two
tick-transmitted diseases which can elude the most extensive diagnostician.
These diseases require specialized diagnostic tests only performed in limited
facilities. Chronic, persistent disease despite treatment of other tick diseases,
and chronic mucoid ocular discharge are two prominent features of these
recently discovered conditions.
Hyperthermia and Hypothermia are both very
common diseases in the Greyhound due to their minimal level of insulation.
Owners should be cautioned that this breed is more susceptible than most others to hot/cold extremes.
Other Important Information
Greyhounds, being sighthounds, are susceptible to severe side
effects from certain anesthetics. It is not recommended that barbiturate
anesthetics be used, due to the Greyhound’s commonly idiosyncratic reaction.
Tranquilizers may be used, but the dose should be decreased by about half
when used as a pre-anesthetic. Ketamine/Valium, as well as Propofol as
induction agents are recommended, as is Isoflurane or Propofol for maintenance.
Malignant Hyperthermia has been seen in Greyhounds, thus dogs should be
carefully monitored during any anesthetic procedures. Local anesthetics are
often helpful in the repair of minor lacerations, as most Greyhounds will
FLEA PREVENTIVES AND INSECTICIDES
Be aware that Greyhounds are very
susceptible to toxicities due to insecticides. Organophosphates are often lethal
to the Greyhound. Compounds with pyrethrins or flea pheromones are preferred.
Examples of safe products are: Adams products, VetKem products, Mycodex
products, Frontline, Program, Sentinel, and Advantage. Examples of unsafe
products are: Zodiac products, Blockade, Raid, Flea collars, Proban, Breakthru
and Biospot (the latter two have too high a level of pyrethrin).