Breed Group:
Hound Dogs

Middle Age: 6 years

Senior Age: 9 years

Geriatric Age: 12 years

Life Span: 12 to 15 years

Health Issues Associated with this Breed:

Greyhound Breed Info/Background:

Greyhound-like dogs of sighthound build have been depicted in hunting scenes since the days of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. However, Greyhounds were not the original sighthounds. These Middle-eastern dogs were more likely Salukis.

  • It’s unknown how these Middle-Eastern dogs gave rise to the Greyhound of Greece and later, Britain. Genetic studies show a relationship to several European herding breeds, but whether they had a role in creating Greyhounds or vice-versa is a matter of debate.
  • Britain is where the Greyhound as we know it evolved. The dogs became closely associated with the ruling class. In the Middle Ages the Forest Laws prohibited anyone but nobility from keeping Greyhounds near royal forests unless they had been lamed so they couldn’t hunt.
  • Hare coursing became popular in the 1700s. In the 1800s it was so popular that trainloads of spectators would arrive to watch the most prestigious events.
  • Italian Greyhounds came to America with the Spanish conquistadors and later with English settlers. They were extensively used to hunt deer and coyotes in the Midwest.
  • Racing on tracks began in 1907 with the invention of a mechanical lure. This began the selection of Greyhounds for short bursts of speed.
  • AKC Greyhounds were bred primarily for appearance while track (now known as National Greyhound Association, or NGA) greyhounds were bred for racing. Today the AKC will accept NGA dogs for registration but the NGA will not accept AKC dogs.
  • As many as 35,000 NGA Greyhounds were bred annually in the United States in the late 1900s. That number has been reduced dramatically, but retired racers still outnumber available homes.
  • Because almost all pet owners opt for a retired NGA Greyhound, the AKC Greyhound has an alarmingly small population and is among the rarer AKC breeds.

Family:  The AKC places the Greyhound in the Hound group. They are in the sighthound family, that group of fast dogs that chase game by sight. Sighthounds have in common long legs, streamlined body and great speed.

Body:

  • The Greyhound is the fastest dog breed over distances up to almost a half mile, running between 35 and 40 mph.
  • They run using a double suspension gallop in which all four legs are off the ground twice during each full stride. All dogs, like horses, have a phase with all four feet off the ground when they are tucked under the dog. The second phase of suspension, which not all dogs share, is when the dog is extended—like the Greyhound on the bus logo.
  • The Greyhound’s body is built for speed: It has long legs, narrow body, slightly arched and flexible topline to enable it to add to its stride, small waist to enable it to reach forward more with its hind legs, large muscle masses especially on its thighs, and small bone on its extremities.
  • The Greyhound’s heart is larger than other dogs and pumps a much higher volume of blood. A racing greyhound has the highest blood volume compared to body size of any athlete (4%, compared to 10.5% for a racehorse, 9.5% for a human sprinter and 7.2% for an average pet dog). It has the highest packed cell volume of any dog (60% compared to 35%), and higher than a racehorse (40%).
  • Greyhound Race Info – These dogs are sprinters and must slow down after a half mile. In fact, their large muscle mass makes them prone to overheating if they continue to run.

Greyhound Temperament:

  • Greyhounds are mellow, quiet and laid back. Adopters have dubbed them the “40 mph couch potato” because they love to sleep.
  • Greyhound personality traits typically get along well with other dogs.
  • Many are not good with cats because they’ve been raised to chase small prey. It varies from dog to dog.
  • Like most sighthounds they are independent. However they are also eager to please.
  • They are not great at coming when called.
  • They do not make good watch dogs.

Maintenance:

  • Coat care is minimal, consisting of brushing once a week.
  • Greyhounds have a tendency to form plaque on their teeth, so brushing the teeth is advised.
  • Because they have little fat covering, a soft cushion is appreciated.
  • They should wear a coat in cold weather. The ears can be prone to frostbite, so they, too, should be covered in extremely cold weather.

Activities:

  • Greyhounds love to sleep and to run. Their running tends to occur in short bursts so it doesn’t take long to exercise them.
  • They also enjoy longer walks and jogs. They should be kept on leash as they will chase any wild mammal they see.
  • Many retired NGA Greys excel in the sport of lure coursing. However, make sure the dog wasn’t retired because of a running injury. Also, because of their large muscle mass compared to small extremities, and their reluctance to slow down even when hurt as long as there is something to chase, Greyhounds are the most likely breed to injure themselves while running the lure, with foot injuries especially common.
  • Some Greyhounds enjoy swimming, but more prefer to wade.
  • Retrieving is not likely.
  • Several Greyhounds have done extremely well in agility competition.
  • A few Greyhounds have even earning tracking titles.

Greyhound Health and Longevity:

Typical greyhound lifespan is 10 to 12 years.

  • Greyhounds have several physiologic traits that may be mistaken for abnormal but are normal for the breed. Greyhound health issues include the following: The heart is larger, and often has a systolic murmur that is not related to disease. Blood pressure is higher. Blood hematocrit (percentage of red blood cells) is higher, and platelets are lower. Creatinine levels are higher. Typical of sighthounds, thyroid T3 and T4 concentrations are lower.
  • Greyhounds are sensitive to barbituate anesthetics, and may also be slow to clear propofol.
  • Greyhounds have a tendency to bleed more than other dogs.
  • Osteosarcoma, a malignant bone cancer, occurs in Greyhounds more than almost any other breed. Any large long-legged dog is more likely to get osteosarcoma, but Greyhounds get it at an even greater rate than expected.  One study showed about 6% of Greyhounds developed osteosarcoma, with average age of almost 10 years. It is thought to be more common in NGA Greyhounds.
  • Greyhounds tend to form corns (digital keratomas) on their feet, which can be painful and hard to remove. About 6% of Greyhounds in one survey were reported with corns.
  • Bald thigh syndrome is common in Greyhounds, occurring in as many as 20% of NGA dogs. The hair is lost from the thigh area. It is not related to thyroid as many assume, and appears to be more a cosmetic problem.
  • Greyhounds have a higher than normal incidence of periodontal disease. They also have a much higher chance of having extra teeth.
  • Polyneuropathy occurs in AKC Greyhounds causing progressive weakness in puppies. It is caused by a simple recessive gene. A DNA test is available.
  • Cataracts occur in young Greyhounds at a higher incidence.
  • Although still rare, a condition in which the toenails fall off (called symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy) occurs in Greyhounds more than in most breeds.
  • NGA Greyhounds have one of the highest incidence of babesiosis, a tick-borne disease that causes anemia and low platelets.
  • NGA Greyhounds also have been reported with Alabama Rot (cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy) that affects the skin and kidneys. There has been speculation that outbreaks in racing kennels is due to pathogens in the diet but this has never been proven.
  • Greyhound health problems also include vitreous degeneration, progressive retinal atrophy, chronic glomerulonephritis, allergic dermatitis, cardiac arrhythmias and autoimmune hypothyroidism.
  • Greyhounds have one of the lowest rates of hip dysplasia of all tested breeds.
  • As a large deep-chested dog, Greyhounds should be prone to bloat. However, the condition appears to be rare in the breed, with the few cases reported in AKC Greyhounds.

The Greyhound Club of America advises breeding stock be checked for congenital heart defects before a greyhound adoption.

Related Links:

Greyhound Club of America

Greyhound Rescue