A 501(c)3 not for profit charitable organization that finds forever, loving homes for retired Greyhound racing dogs in the Kansas City area.

Health Information

Anesthesia

With any species of animal, the greatest risk in elective or non-elective surgery is the anesthetic. The Greyhound can be considered an exception because of their physiologic adaptions for stamina and speed. The following is a brief summary of why Greyhounds are “unique” when it comes to choosing a safe and effective anesthetic regimen.

Anesthetic techniques should allow for prompt pain-free recovery. Greyhounds are performance animals that rely on intact muscle and skeletal systems and therefore long excitable recoveries from anesthesia could result in bruises, cuts or other serious injuries.

Because of their small amount of body fat, thin hair coat and large body surface area, Greyhounds are prone to low body temperatures during anesthetic procedures. This can prolong the post-op recovery period due to lengthened anesthetic duration.

Most anesthetic agents result in a slowed cardiovascular system which can lead to low blood pressures during anesthesia. Because the Greyhound’s cardiovascular system is adapted to strenuous exercise their blood pressure at rest are higher than other breeds of dog. Therefore, anesthetic agents that cause a drop in blood pressure have a more pronounced effect on Greyhounds. This is also true of certain tranquilizing and sedating drugs. Reduced doses of these agents are adequate to achieve the same effect as compared to other breeds.

A commonly-used anesthetic regimen incorporates a thiobarbiturate followed by gas anesthesia. Using thiobarbiturates in sighthounds can be potentially dangerous, even fatal. Thiobarbiturates are extremely soluble in fat therefore they are absorbed almost immediately into fat after an injection into a vein. Secondly, they are then broken down by the liver and excreted in urine. Lastly, any remaining thiobarbiturate will redistribute to fatty tissues where it “retires” and the animal then recover from anesthesia. Because Greyhounds have little or no fat, thiobarbiturates remain in their bloodstream causing lengthy, prolonged states of anesthesia. Sometimes full recovery is not obtained for up to 24 hours. In additional it seems the liver of Greyhounds is unable to effectively metabolize thiobarbiturates as other breeds.

One very potentially life-threatening condition called Malignant Hyperthermia can result in Greyhounds under anesthesia. This can be fatal and is associated with a rapid rise in body temperature that their body is unable to regulate. The rapid onset of changes in their metabolism as a result can lead to a shock-like state. Aggressive treatment with steroids, fluids and methods to reduce core body temperature as needed. Fortunately, this is a rare problem But one that should not be ignored or overlooked.

Greyhounds are quite normally very quiet, cooperative, tractable dogs that rarely need deep levels of sedation for restraint and control. Clinically, they appear to respond normally to anesthetic agents (other than thiobarbiturates) as long as hypotension and hyperthermia are prevented.

In summary, one should be aware of these differences between Sighthounds and other breeds of dogs concerning which anesthetic protocol to use. For practitioners in general, using those agents which are most familiar, in which we have confidence and which are known to be safe for use in Greyhounds is of utmost importance.

Bloat

Gastric Dilation-Volvulus (Bloat) is a life-threatening abdominal disorder that requires immediate veterinary attention. While or just after eating, the dog’s stomach swells from gas or fluid, sometimes causing it to twist. If it’s just a mild dilation of the stomach due to gas, it can be treated at home. If the stomach twists, however, the dog is in a life-or-death situation and must be taken to a vet immediately. Large, deep-chested dogs are particularly susceptible to bloat.

Signs of acute stomach swelling (but not a twisted stomach):

  • excessive salivation and/or drooling
  • extreme restlessness
  • attempts to vomit/defecate
  • abdominal pain (he whines and groans when you push on his stomach)
  • abdominal swelling

If your hound is able to belch or vomit, his stomach probably is NOT twisted.

Signs that the stomach has twisted are similar to those above but more acute. The dog breathes rapidly, his mouth membranes are cold and pale, and he collapses. These signs are due to strangulation of the blood supply to the stomach. This is an EMERGENCY–rush your dog to the vet. Surgery will be necessary to relieve a twisted stomach.

In nearly every case of severe bloat, the dog had a history of overeating, eating fermented foods, drinking excessively after eating, or vigorous exercise within 2-3 hours of a meal.

Measures that may help to avoid bloat include the following:

  • Some experts recommend raising food and water dishes about 6 inches off the ground.
  • Do not allow strenuous exercise immediately before or after eating.

Fleas & Ticks

Greyhounds are especially sensitive to toxic chemicals because of their thin skin, low body fat and fast metabolism. There are certain substances you must watch out for. If you don’t have a flea or tick problem, don’t use a flea or tick product on a greyhound. Be especially careful of flea and tick products. What is fine for another breed may be highly toxic for a Greyhound. Products that are safe for greyhounds are: Revolution (fleas, ticks and heartworms), Frontline, Frontline Plus and Advantix and Advantix II (fleas and ticks), Advantage and Advantage II (fleas only). These are once a month topicals. Food-grade diatomaceous earth can also be sprinkled on their coats as a natural, non-chemical flea preventative. Flea collars are not recommended for greyhounds. They contain chemicals, which go directly into the greyhound’s bloodstream. They can cause severe illness or possibly death. The only flea and tick shampoos that are safe for greyhounds are those with Pyrethrins as the main ingredient. Pyrethrins are natural organic compounds derived from chrysanthemums. Never flea dip your greyhound. The chemicals in the dips are too strong, even when they are pyrethrin-based.

If you use lawn-care products on your yard, be sure to check the chemicals contained in these products. Whenever possible, use organic products in areas where your greyhounds will wander. Also be sure to wipe their paws if the greyhounds were out in the yard soon after it was treated, or tracked through newly treated lawns while on a walk.

Greyhounds, as a breed, seem to be unique in their susceptibility to tick-borne diseases primarily because of travel to and residency in a variety of states and the potential widespread infestation of ticks at greyhound breeding, training and racing kennels. Because Greyhounds are transported across state lines for racing and training purposes and to adoptive homes, and the fact that they are used as blood donors, there is a much greater possibility for widespread transmission of these diseases, that were once thought to be more geographically isolated. Moreover, the greyhound breed is known to be very sensitive and easily stressed, increasing their susceptibility to these diseases.

Some greyhounds can be silent, asymptomatic carriers of at least one or more of the tickborne diseases. Your dog may have been infected with, or exposed to, a number of tick-borne disease agents which could be uncommon to our area. In many cases, greyhounds may actually appear perfectly healthy, with virtually no symptoms of disease, but be in a carrier state. In the acute stages of the disease they can experience any of the following: high fever, depression or lethargy (which may be hard to spot in a greyhound since they sleep 90% of the time,) anorexia, anemia diarrhea or constipation, loss of appetite or loss of body weight, vomiting nose bleeds, skin hemorrhage or other unusual bleeding, swollen legs or lymph nodes, nervous system disorders, such as stiff gait, head tilt, seizures or twitching, pale gums and/or inner eye membranes.

Unfortunately, we as a rescue group cannot financially afford to do this test as part of our pre-adoption medical on every Greyhound. What we would like to highly recommend is as part of your greys next physical is to have a tick panel done on them. The charge will vary depending on your vet but, it is well worth knowing and catching it in early stages rather than waiting until the above symptoms occur which could be too late! We do test dogs who display signs and/or symptoms of a possible tick-borne disease. Some have tested positive and some have not. We have treated the ones that tested positive, and up to now have had positive results with no resulting deaths. The treatment will vary from weeks of antibiotics to a special series of injections depending on which disease they test positive for.

The tick diseases are Canine Ehrlichiosis, Canine Babesiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease, and Valley Fever. These are all covered in a basic “Tick Panel.”

Heat Illness

Greyhounds are very HEAT SENSITIVE dogs. Not only do you need to exercise them early in the morning or late in the evening, you need to cut their walks back to a fraction of what they can do in normal or cool temperatures. Also make sure their visits outside are short and then get them back into the air conditioning and fan cooled room quickly. Of course, leaving your dog outside any time is not an option. You have signed contracts agreeing to this because this is a life threatening situation in which you would be placing your greyhound.

If they do become overheated (which means panting very heavily, feeling very warm to the touch or anything out of the ordinary), here are a few tips to keep them hydrated and to cool them down:

  • Fill a tub with cool water and have your greyhound sit, lay or stand in it. Splash water on their stomachs and place a cold wet cloth on their heads. You can also pack them with ice and towels. Be careful to not change their temperature too dramatically, which could cause them to go into shock.
  • When walking, put a cold wet towel around their necks. There are also tubes you can freeze and place in a sleeve with Velcro on both ends and wrap it around their necks (joggers use these).
  • To get their electrolytes up, sprinkle powdered Gatorade on their food, or mix a small amount in their water, or give them a bowl of Pedialyte
  • Carry a squeeze container with ice water and squirt your dog occasionally on the forehead and back.
  • All of these are tips to help with the heat, but most of all USE CAUTION AND WALK MODERATELY!! NO jogging in the heat! Heat stroke can and does happen!

    And by all means, if your greyhound doesn’t recover quickly from your walk or acts at all “suspicious,” call your vet IMMEDIATELY. Some things to look for with heat stroke are excessive panting, anxiety, bright red gums and possibly bloodshot eyes. The signs are subtle. The best thing you can do if they seem overheated is get them into cold water and ice to get their temperatures down. If you are in the car, stand them in front of the air conditioner on full blast until you can quickly get to ice and water.

    None of these ideas can stop heat stroke, only common sense and moderation can prevent that.

Pancreatitis

The pancreas is a gland in the abdominal cavity that produces enzymes which aid in digestion, and hormones such as insulin which regulate the metabolism of sugar. When the pancreas becomes diseased or injured the resulting condition is known as pancreatitis. Disorders or the pancreas are common in dogs and cats. An unhealthy pancreas will literally begin to digest itself causing severe illness and pain to your pet.

Feeding a high fat meal, including table scraps, to your pet can cause the pancreas to go into overdrive. Obese animals seem more prone to developing pancreatitis. This is probably due to the high level of fat that is already present in the blood. Also, it is a little known fact that feeding your dog popcorn can cause pancreatitis. The stomach cannot digest the popcorn kernels. They become embedded in the lining of the stomach, irritating it, which in turn overworks the pancreas.

If your greyhound develops pancreatitis, the symptoms to look for are:

  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain, varying from mild to intense (manifested as restlessness, panting, trembling, hunched up abdomen, praying position of relief, seeking of cool surfaces, and pain on palpation)
  • diarrhea, sometimes with blood
  • fever, due to inflammation not necessarily infection
  • weakness or, in severe cases, acute collapse from shock

If your greyhound exhibits any of these symptoms they should be taken to your veterinarian immediately. The best way to prevent this from ever happening is to avoid giving your greyhound any type of table scraps or people food.

Nutrition

What does it take to meet the AAFCO (American Association of Food Control Officials) regulations? Pet foods can meet approval by AAFCO in one of two ways. First, the food can be put through laboratory analysis and compared to minimum values established by the AAFCO Nutrient Profiles for Dogs and Cats guidelines based on the best available knowledge of the nutrients cats and dogs need to stay healthy. Because that knowledge is not firm for all nutrients, the numbers are somewhat arbitrary. There is also no guarantee that an animal will be able to absorb the nutrients in that food. According to Richard Markham, DVM, PhD, of Hill’s, “A food composed of shoe leather, motor oil, vitamins, and minerals will analyze (in a lab) to meet AAFCO nutrient recommendations for dogs or cats, but obviously would not be a good diet for dogs or cats.” Thus, the claim “balanced, complete, adequate, or guaranteed to meet or exceed all AAFCO nutrient recommendations” has little meaning. Second, the food can be put through a feeding trial in accordance with AAFCO protocols. The feeding trial need take place for only six months in order for a food to claim it can maintain an adult animal’s health, which may not be long enough for certain deficiencies or excesses to show their effects.

How can you tell if a dog food is of good quality if the AAFCO requirements aren’t an adequate indicator? A general rule of thumb about pet food would be price. Wal-Mart’s Ol’ Roy? You might as well feed them the bag, because it’s just poor- quality food, says Dr. Joseph L. Cook, a Topeka veterinarian (Pitch Weekly). The best way for the consumer to evaluate and compare dog food quality is to understand some of the ingredients and their possible sources.

Dog Food Ingredient Definitions:

The list of ingredients used in the production of commercial dog foods is almost endless. We don’t have enough space to print them all here, but you really only need to know the ones to watch out for and avoid:

  • Meat and Bone Meal Rendered meal made from animal tissue and bone. At the rendering plant, slaughterhouse material, restaurant and supermarket refuse, dead-stock, roadkill, and euthanized companion animals are dumped into huge containers. A machine slowly grinds the entire mess. After it is chipped or shredded, it is cooked at temperatures of between 220 degrees F. and 270 degrees F. for twenty minutes to one hour. The grease or tallow rises to the top, where it is skimmed from the mixture. This is the animal fat seen in the ingredients of some pet foods. The remaining material is then put through a press to squeeze out the remaining moisture, and titled meat and bone meal.
  • Meat By-Product Clean, non-rendered parts other than meat of slaughtered mammals. This can include lungs, kidneys, brain, spleen, liver, bone, blood, stomach, and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, teeth, hooves or horns.
  • Poultry-By-Products Clean, non-rendered parts of slaughtered poultry, such as heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, feet, abdomen, intestines, and heads free of fecal content and foreign matter except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice.
  • Poultry By-Product Meal Round, rendered, and clean parts of slaughtered poultry, such as undeveloped eggs, necks, feet, and intestines. It does not contain feathers except those which are unavoidable during processing.
  • Animal Digest A powder or liquid made by taking clean under-composed animal tissue and breaking it down using chemical means.
  • Animal Fat Obtained from the tissues of mammals and/or poultry in the commercial process of rendering or extracting. Also sourced from restaurant grease. Often preserved with BHA, BHT and Ethoxyquin.

  • Tallow The hard white fatty substance which is rock hard and looks like a bone. Most dogs have great difficulty digesting this substance. In general, ingredients that are listed with a generic source (animal digest, meat and bone meal, etc.) have been rendered or derived from 4D meat, roadkill, zoo animals, euthanized pets, etc., and should be avoided. Ingredients that list specific sources, like chicken by-product or lamb digest will contain only chicken or lamb, and are likely to be safer for your pet.
  • Quality Concerns One of the best indicators of quality is the digestibility and availability of proteins and nutrients in the food. Premium dog food companies conduct extensive testing to ensure the protein sources used in their foods are easily absorbed by your dog’s system, while less expensive dog foods do not. Dr. Anne Hickman, formerly a clinical nutritionist at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University said, one difference between the super-premium pet foods and the grocery store brands is that the super-premium brands are highly digestible, meaning more of the pet food actually stays in the animal’s body. The animal doesn’t have to eat as much to maintain it’s body weight and excretes less waste.

How much more does it cost to feed a premium food versus a grocery store brand? For not that much more per year, you can feed a premium food versus a grocery store/discount store brand dog food, and you can give your Greyhound it’s best chance at a longer, healthier life, and pick up fewer pounds of dog poop each month. Lower yearly vet bills due to a reduction in illnesses such as allergies, skin problems, and intestinal problems make the feeding of premium dog foods even more financially attractive. Julie Morrison, RD

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is an important issue because it is the second most common reason that dogs are euthanized or given up by their owners. Many dogs react to the stress created from being left alone by becoming destructive, barking continuously or eliminating in the house. Separation anxiety occurs in dogs of all ages and breeds. It is most commonly seen in dogs who have particularly close relationships with their owners and who are rarely left alone.

Attachment to the pack is a normal canine behavior that is necessary to a dog’s survival. In domestic dogs this attachment becomes transferred to people. When deprived of their human “pack” or primary attachment figure some dogs become so frantic that they display a variety of severe and unacceptable behaviors. Most typically these behaviors include those mentioned above, however, generalized depression, diarrhea and self-mutilation can also occur in dogs who are extremely stressed.

The behaviors associated with separation anxiety follow a somewhat predictable course. Many dogs bark excessively when they are left alone. Some dogs continue barking for hours while others go on to choose another behavior when barking does not bring about their owners return. Many owners inadvertently reinforce increased vocalization by returning to console their unhappy pet.

Some dogs become very destructive when left alone. Their high level of stress causes them to dig, chew or scratch doors, rugs or household furnishings. An otherwise well trained dog will suddenly chew or shred anything left in its path in an attempt to find relief from the anxiety it feels from being left alone. It is very common for these episodes to also include urination and defecation in the house. Usually this occurs in well housebroken dogs and happens within minutes of their owner’s departure, even if the dog has recently relieved itself.

There are several effective ways of correcting or at lease minimizing these objectionable behaviors. The first involves adopting a matter of fact and calm attitude when preparing to leave the house. Emotional and lengthy good-byes will only serve to heighten your dog’s anxiety. Ignore any display of stress related behavior in your pet and reward only those behaviors that are desired and appropriate. You may need to change your routine to throw the dog off so he/she is not anticipating your departure.

Dogs who become destructive should not be given the opportunity to do so. Chew toys or rawhide strips can be provided for tension release. If possible, exercise your pet before your departure as this will encourage rest.

Discipline for dogs suffering from separation anxiety should consist of behavior modification (unpleasant consequence for objectionable behavior followed by reward for appropriate behavior). Ideally the goal for dogs suffering from separation anxiety should be anxiety reduction. When this is achieved the undesirable behaviors will automatically also be reduced. Sometimes the addition of another pet can be very helpful providing both companionship and distraction for dogs who are unhappy when they are alone. Other families have had some success with playing the radio or TV while they are out to provide pets with normal household sounds.

Frequent practice departures with rewards for appropriate behavior will help condition dogs to stay calm. As your dog becomes more comfortable with this you can gradually increase the time that your dog is alone.

Many cases of separation anxiety are misinterpreted. People often think that their dogs are being destructive or bad on purpose. It is helpful to learn that this behavior is sparked by instincts that are necessary to pack survival and cannot be considered spiteful. Punishing a dog who suffers from separation anxiety will only make things worse.

If your dog is having a problem being left alone, it is time to consult your REGAP volunteer. Professional advice will greatly improve your chances of successfully correcting this difficult behavior problem.