Greyhound athlete

Racing greyhounds have a unique physique. Sleek and muscular, they also possess a gentle and affectionate temperament.

These true athletes are known for their incredible speed and remarkable agility. However, their racing careers can expose them to various health issues.

Greyhounds, Whippets, Borzois... High-Performance Athletes

Different types of sighthounds share common characteristics such as speed, agility, and endurance.

Among them, the Greyhound remains the undisputed champion of speed racing, dominating professional racing circuits worldwide. Capable of reaching speeds of up to 70 km/h, its sleek body, long legs, and powerful muscles make it perfectly suited for sprint races on short tracks.

The Whippet is often considered a mini Greyhound. With speeds reaching up to 56 km/h, they are seen much less frequently on race tracks compared to their larger cousin.

The Saluki (Persian Greyhound) is primarily found in Middle Eastern countries.
The Borzoi (Russian Greyhound) is favored for lure coursing.
The Italian Greyhound, a small-sized dog, can participate in lure coursing and agility competitions.
The Azawakh is native to West Africa, where it originates.

Whippet
Saluki
Borzoï
Italian Greyhound
Azawakh

Common Health Issues in Greyhounds

Greyhounds can be prone to specific health issues due to their morphology and the physical demands of their sporting activities.

 

Among the musculoskeletal conditions affecting racing greyhounds are:

 

  • Fractures and dislocations: Racing Greyhounds are particularly susceptible to limb fractures, especially in the toes, due to the extreme forces during races.

 

  • Soft tissue injuries: Sprains, strains, and muscle injuries are common due to rapid accelerations and decelerations.

 

  • Arthritis: Joint wear, especially in older dogs, can lead to arthritis, causing pain and stiffness.

 

  • Hip dysplasia: Although less common than in other breeds, some greyhounds may suffer from hip dysplasia, affecting their mobility.

 

Certain types of greyhounds may frequently present cardiac conditions such as dilated cardiomyopathy, for example, in the Irish Wolfhound.

Racing Greyhounds can exhibit health issues typical of their sporting activity, as highlighted by Donna Wills, a physiotherapist :

Most commonly seen are knocked-up toes, corns, and gracilis rupture. Both are due to running around the track at great speed, creating a huge strain on the body in an unbalanced way. Knocked-up toe affects one digit, usually D5, but can involve others.

The ligament can go into spasm, becoming so rigid that it may cause a digital fracture or ligament rupture. I typically only encounter this in advanced stages, as most trainers resolve it themselves. This holds true in most cases. I often assess greyhounds from rescue settings after they have been rehomed, so I rarely deal with acute cases.

Gracilis strain and rupture are painful conditions. They often manifest as lameness but are relatively easy to identify, as the gracilis muscle is prominently visible on a greyhound's hind legs. The primary function of the gracilis is to keep the limbs under the body during speed; it acts as an adductor. Excessive strain on this muscle can occur on the track.

About corns, Greyhounds are predisposed to corns. While they can occur in other breeds, it's rare. The exact cause of corns is uncertain, leading to various theories. Owners can manage them, but they are painful and akin to walking with a stone in one's shoe. I frequently encounter greyhounds and whippets with corns.

Some opt for a procedure to release the tendon in the affected digit, which often resolves the corns remarkably well. I've had a patient undergo this procedure on multiple digits, with successful healing in all but one. The digit that didn't respond well also had severe arthritis, which hindered the expected improvement in posture."

Gait Assessment with Tendiboots™ Canine - Donna Wills, Animal Physiotherapy LTD

Donna Wills

Specializing in mobility assessment, Donna's examinations combine a thorough evaluation of the entire body with objective data.

"During my consultation, I do a full exam from top to toe, putting all joints through ROM.
I feel all the muscles to assess tone, spasm, atrophy, tension trigger points etc.

While I observe gait, but often that is not a clear indication if they are excited or pulling on a lead etc.
I also watch other functional movement, like getting into lay, sit, stand, tunring a corner, going over an obstacle. for any signs of discomfort during palpation.

Depending on the patients, I might also do a neurological exam and look at reflexes, speed of response to movements etc. I discuss body condition and muscle condition scores, and where possible, I assess strength with a strength test." - Donna Wills

Donna shares with us the case of a former racing greyhound named Ellie, who is now enjoying a peaceful retirement. Donna's clinical examination revealed only a slight discomfort in Ellie's right hind leg, which was not significant to the practitioner. To quantify her observations and monitor the progression of this asymmetry in the coming months, the use of Tendiboots™ Canine is a helpful tool for professionals, as attested by the canine physiotherapist :

"I decided to put the Tendiboots gait analysis machine on Ellie. It’s new! It picks up more detail than you can see with your eyes. We can see a lot with our eyes, and we can use slow mo videos too, but it’s really lovely to have these tools to back us up.

Many people wonder whether the device will make them walk differently simply by it being in place. The answer is yes, but only for a few seconds. They very quickly adapt and get used to it as they go on a few little walks.

The next thought people have is, “What does it matter if they are just a bit lame?” The answer here is context. It might not be much of a worry, and it might not be “that bad.” As a human, you might choose to ignore it if you had it. But in context….is it impacting on the individual? Is it changing how they load the body? Is it causing other problems with compensation? Is it impacting their life and the things they want to do? In seeing a therapist, you will be asked these and many other questions, and they will help us work out the context and try to find the reason behind the limb.

Ignoring a small problem will lead to a bigger problem, and if we can address and issue early, it might be that we can avoid it being a bigger problem later. We also know that long term chronic niggling pain only progresses and its harder to manage the longer it goes on for, so addressing it early also delays that problem."

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