Compared with other purebred dogs, greyhounds are remarkably healthy and free from genetic disorders. They do have a few problems, of course, and some quirks which you may find useful to know. Below you will find a selection of links and short pieces on one or two topics related to the health and well-being of greyhounds.
Clicking on the blue text will take you to a link, which will open in a new window.
Dr Suzanne Stack DVM – website archive of specialist greyhound articles on health matters, with particular reference to the differences between the physiology of greyhounds and other dogs. Lab tests, blood values, heart size, chemical sensitivities, etc. Essential reading – and free. Dr Stack is a well respected American veterinarian.
Grassmere Animal Hospital – A well-respected ‘greyhound practice’ gives an overview on corns and available treatments.
Greyhound Idiosyncracies, by Dr Bill Feeman DVM – Bill Feeman has a special interest in greyhounds and is a member of the Greytalk forum. He has written this useful article to explain some of the things you may like to know. He is American, and therefore there are one or two things which do not apply to dogs in the UK: for instance the sections on Alabama Rot and Tick Borne Diseases, and the information about osteosarcoma. Alabama Rot is, to the best of my knowledge, unknown in the UK, and our only common Tick Borne Disease is Lyme Disease. Osteosarcoma occurs in greyhounds here, but only in the same percentage as any large, long-boned dog breed. Pannus is known, but not particularly common, and clitoral hypertrophy is not a problem here in the UK. However, all of the rest is good, solid information.
Greyhound Blood Values – another Suzanne Stack article. Purely on the difference between normal laboratory test results for greyhounds compared to other breeds.
Anaesthesia and pesticides (flea treatments) – because of one of two greyhound ‘differences’, they do not do well with certain anaesthetic agents, or pesticides. I can’t go through the whole list of chemicals here, but as an example, some things they don’t tolerate well are some of the older anaesthetics like the barbiturates, and organo-phosphate based flea, tick and mange treatments. Please check with your vet.
For some reason, greyhound teeth are often not the best. It is therefore a good idea to get into the habit of inspecting them and brushing on a regular basis. It is often possible to train a dog to accept an electric toothbrush, and of course these do an excellent job – I tend to use a children’s electric toothbrush.
To accustom a dog to having his teeth brushed, you need to go slowly and gently. The first stage is to get him used to having your hands in his mouth – a useful thing anyway, for when you need to give him tablets. For the first few days, simply lift his lip and look, maybe touch his gums or the inside of his cheek. Once he’s happy with this, put a dab of toothpaste on a finger and smear it on his back teeth by inserting your finger between the teeth and the cheek. Do this for a few days and the next time put the toothpaste on his brush and let him lick it off. The next stage is to spend a few days simply tapping a tooth with the bristle end of the toothbrush. A few days later, again when he’s happy to progress, insert the toothbrush gently into the same space between the teeth and gum that you used when you smeared paste on his teeth with your finger. Once he’s happy to have the brush in his mouth, it’s simply a matter of increasing the time it’s in there, and using it to actually brush some teeth. Don’t be hasty, though, and never force the issue, because you won’t win, and may hurt him. In any case, you’ll certainly lose his trust.
it usually takes me around a fortnight to be able to brush a new dog’s teeth. However, some dogs are very resistant, and need more patience.
Something tough to chew, like a pig ear or dried green tripe, will be welcomed and will help to keep your dog’s teeth clean, and you can of course buy specially designed dental chews and toys.
Some people like to give dogs bones.
A word about bones
Most vets will tell you not to feed bones at all. If you do decide to feed bones, remember that as a general rule, cooked bones are dangerous and should never be fed to your dog, and raw bones are generally OK. You must, however, use common sense.
Do not feed a toothless dog, or one who bolts his food, any bones at all.
If you choose to feed raw bones, remember that weight-bearing bones (leg bones, knuckle bones, ‘postman’s legs’ etc) are very, very dense and may break your dog’s teeth. Remember also that bones which splinter are to be avoided, bones small enough that the dog will be tempted to swallow them whole are dangerous, and that you should never leave any dog – or dogs – alone with bones. Remember too, that if you are unlucky, any bones, even the ‘safe’ ones, can cause serious problems leading to surgery.
If your dog is an ex-racer, he was a hard-working athlete. Like all athletes, he will probably have suffered an injury of some kind, at some point in his career. For this reason, it’s advisable to give your dog joint supplements when he reaches senior status. I normally begin supplementing with a good quality product like Cosequin DS when they are about eight years old.
Most other breeds either do not get corns at all, or do not suffer with them if they do. Greyhounds are different. Their feet have very little fat between the pad surface and the bone, and corns can easily make them dead lame. Some vets do not look for corns, because most dogs do not suffer pain from them, so if you suspect a corn you may have to bring it to his or her attention. Corns look like pale – or dark – hard circular areas on the pad surface. Occasionally, they occur on the sides of the pad (between the toes). They may have a dark or pale raised centre. If you follow the link to Grassmere Animal Hospital, you can see a couple of pictures of corns which will help you to understand the problem.
There are many treatments available, from covering the corn with a circle of duct tape (yes, surprisingly, this is a legitimate treatment and can sometimes work well), to creams, filing or dremelling the corn to a concave shape, or surgery. Consult your vet and do some online research before trying a treatment. The forums in the ‘Useful Links‘ section both have many threads on corns in the greyhound, written from personal experience.
You may also join the Greyhounds With Corns group on Facebook, where you will find pictures of corns, and free discussion about treatment options and success rates etc. Please bear in mind that this is a public group and you should always check with your vet before trying anything invasive. Everyone has an opinion on Facebook, but not everyone has a degree in Veterinary Medicine!
Bloat or Gastric Volvulus
This is actually quite rare and is not exclusive to greyhounds, though deep-chested breeds are more at risk. I have worked as an animal nurse, and owned six dogs of my own, but I have never seen a case of bloat. However, when it does occur it is a medical emergency. I don’t care if you have the Queen at your dining table, or you’re suffering from flu, it’s 3am, and it’s blowing a storm; your dog needs the vet. Now.
Bloat, or gastric volvulus is caused when the dog’s stomach does a flip and the entrance and/or exit become blocked. The blood supply is also in danger of being cut off. Once this happens, you have a very short time indeed to save your dog from certain death.
Signs to watch for:
Abdominal discomfort. The dogs stomach may appear to swell and become tight. He may pace and whine, and even paw at himself. He can’t lie down comfortably.
Unsuccessful attempts to vomit. Repeatedly. This is a major warning sign. He may eat grass, and immediately throw it back up again. He may produce stringy white froth. He drool. He may grunt. It looks painful, because it is.
Significant restlessness, often accompanied by a ‘hunched’ or ‘tucked’ appearance.
Heavy panting. Coughing, gagging.
Drinking excessively, followed by vomiting.
Unsuccessful attempts to defecate: squatting without production, and in obvious discomfort.
Standing in an unnatural and stiff legged posture.
Other signs of discomfort may occur, like uncharacteristic behaviour: hiding in corners, huddling in a ball, licking at the air, eating sticks and small stones.
If you observe carefully with this list in mind, you will know if you are looking at a dangerously ill dog.
No vet worth his salt will complain about you calling for suspected bloat, whatever time of the day or night. The ONLY hope for your dog’s survival is surgery, as quickly as humanly possibly. Don’t dither, and don’t wait for the vet to come to you: take the dog to the surgery and meet your vet there, where he is best able to help your dog.
To avoid bloat, do not exercise your dog immediately before, or immediately after a meal, or after drinking large amounts of water. Some people suggest leaving half an hour before and after meals, some prefer to say an hour each side. We are not talking about a short gentle walk, but running, playing, or wrestling with other dogs.