Racing Career






J.F. Dee and L.G. Dee

Fractures and dislocations of the racing greyhound can be of any type, but certain injuries are more common. Many of these injuries are rare in other breeds. The following compilation is from a small animal practice in south Florida. Although a few puppies are seen, most of the greyhounds treated are adult racing dogs. Injuries have been seen in the following frequencies:




In summary, it can be stated that the fractures that are common to the racing greyhound occur primarily through indirect forces, while those injuries that occur in companion animals are usually a result of direct trauma. When direct forces injure the greyhound, it is generally due to a spill, hitting the wall, or hitting the catch curtain.

The best success in greyhound practice is "a return to form," that is, the injury does not hinder the patient in later races. Less favorable is "a return to win," although the "win" may be in a lower caliber race or smaller track with smaller purses. Thus, a grade A (top grade) might drop down to grade D (lowest grade), and still win a race, albeit at a lower grade. The lowest form of success would be to "return to racing," which means the dog comes in third or fourth, at least paying its way. Complete failure is to lose money for the owner by not racing again. Some patients are operated, however, with the understanding that they are going to be retired for breeding stock.



Greyhounds are sensitive to anaesthesias since they have such little body fat content.  If your vet is not familiar with greyhounds, make sure that they avoid the short acting thiobarbiturates (that contain sulfur) such as Pentothal.  This is due to the delayed metabolism of these sulfur containing drugs, resulting in the prolongation of anesthesia and the excitement phase of recovery. (Robinson, 1986)


The greyhound is not immune from degenerative joint disease - a problem shared with all other breeds.  The clinical signs are first observed as a reluctance to move from a position of rest and a stiff or stilted gait, progressing with time to an actual varying degree of lameness and swollen joints.

Bloat (Gastric Dilation/Torsion Syndrome)

A very serious life-threatening condition in which the stomach first becomes dilated (enlarged), then twisted within the abdominal cavity. The twisting or torsion results in a rapid increase  of gas together with fluid (leaking in from the blood vessels) which has no way to empty from the occluded stomach. The twisted stomach starts to die due to an inability of the compressed blood vessels to get blood to or away from the stomach and adjacent parts of the digestive tube.  Blood pressure falls and the greyhound goes into shock and dies within hours of the start of the problem. Clinical signs are a distended abdomen, rapid panting, pain, restlessness and excessive salivation.

Kennel Cough (Bordetella Bronchiseptica)

Kennel cough (KC) is a common term used to describe infectious tracheobronchitis in dogs. Kennel cough is the most common cause of sudden-onset, paroxysmal, "honking" or hacking cough (often in association with gagging and retching behavior) in dogs.  Recent contact with a single or group of infected dogs (with or without clinical signs) predisposes your dog to developing KC. The disease is usually mild and self limiting and often resolves with no, or minimal, medical intervention. Under certain circumstances such as immunocompromised dogs, dogs with chronic abnormalities of the respiratory tract, or dogs with increased exposure to infectious agents outside of the KC complex, the disease can be more severe and necessitate a thorough physical examination and diagnostic evaluation of the animal.. Bronchiseptica produces proteins on it’s exterior that allow it to adhere to the surface of the respiratory tract tissue and it secretes toxins that destroy or inhibit functions of normal cells within the respiratory tract and the immune system. Bronchiseptica can also invade cells. This ability to enter host cells can offer bacterial pathogens several survival advantages and may be of special importance in the pathogenesis of canine bronchiseptica infections. Bordetella bronchiseptica is the most common bacterial isolate from dogs with KC and can be responsible for causing the disease in the absence of any prior or concurrent viral respiratory tract infections.

Canine Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome

Streptococci are a family of gram-positive bacteria which cause either localized or systemic infections in humans and animals. While some strains rarely cause disease and are often considered to be commensal inhabitants of the skin and mucosal surfaces (oral, nasal, intestinal), other strains are capable of causing life-threatening primary infections. In dogs, Streptococci are known for their ability to occasionally cause septicemia in puppies and a range of localized diseases in adults.

Approximately 10 years ago, new strains of Streptococci (Group A, beta-hemolytic) emerged as the cause of a previously unrecognized disease in humans. The clinical disease became known as Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome (STSS) because it closely mimics the better known "Toxic Shock" in women caused by toxin producing strains of Staphylococci. Rapid onset, high fever, hypotension and shock are prominent characteristics of STSS in humans. At approximately the same time, a number of unusual cases of necrotizing fasciitis (NF) caused by Streptococci were also reported in humans. This syndrome relates to a very aggressive and rapidly advancing infection of subcutaneous tissues with extensive tissue destruction and high mortality rates.

Typically, dogs that develop STSS are healthy prior to being found very sick only a few hours later. The course of the disease of initial recognition of disease to death can be as short as 6 hours. Typically, infected dogs are found in lateral recumbence, either being too weak to move or experiencing rigidity with mild convulsions. At an early stage vomiting may occur. Rapid, uncontrolled fine muscle fasciculations are often noted. A consistent and important clinical finding is a very high temperature (greater than 105 degrees F). Treatment at this point with injectable antibiotics (clindamycin or crystalline penicillin-G) is important in order to increase the likelihood of recovery. As the disease progresses a deep, nonproductive cough typical of pulmonary edema develops. Rapidly, spontaneous hemorrhaging typical of disseminated intravascular coagulation develops which is associated with coughing up blood, bleeding from the nose, severe bruising of the skin, and in some cases bloody diarrhea. Profound hypotension and toxic cardiomyopathy may develop. At this point, antibiotics and even with aggressive shock therapy are generally not sufficient to save these dogs.



Hemangiosarcoma is a tumor that originates in the blood vessels. It develops more often in dogs than in any other species. It is a difficult cancer to treat since it spreads readily and usually starts in the internal organs, so it is often well-advanced by the time it is diagnosed. Sometimes, however, it shows up as skin tumors known as cutaneous hemangiosarcoma, which look somewhat like blood blisters. These are more common in breeds of dogs that have thin hair coats, with little or no hair on their bellies, leading to the belief that sun exposure may be a factor. Fortunately, this type seems to be much less aggressive in nature and surgical removal is can be quite effective if done promptly.


While greyhounds can be susceptible to other types of cancer just like any other breed of dog, these two types of cancer seem to occur more frequently. Osteosarcoma is a bone cancer, and will typically occur in the long bones of the leg, with the lower end of the front leg bone near the "ankle" being the most common site. Osteosarcoma occurs mainly in large dogs with long legs. It is a very aggressive and painful cancer and dogs are usually euthanized within a few months of diagnosis if they are not treated. Standard treatment involves amputation of the affected leg and chemotherapy. While it sounds awful, a greyhound can do well with just three legs. They can still run and they even manage to learn how to balance on two legs so they can hike the third one on bushes and trees.

Alabama Rot

Disease syndrome which is a rapidly spreading skin condition that can progress throughout the body with a resulting kidney failure and death of the greyhound.


Occur on the tips of the ears as itchy irritations, cracks, or ulcers.  Cold weather and poor blood circulation in the ear tips result in a constriction and narrowing of the blood vessels in the margin of the ear. This reduced circulation means less oxygen reaching the cells of the skin and cartilage. Consequently, these tissues die and splits or ulcers develop on the ear tips.


A fungal disease of the hair rather than of the skin.  Attacks the shaft of the hair causing it to break off and leave short bristles protruding from the skin surface.  This distinguishes it from mange infestation which causes complete loss of hair. The fungus moves outward from the central area of the infestation, causing the characteristic round distinct lesions.

Sarcoptic Mange

An inflammatory parasitic disease of the skin caused by Sarcoptes scabiei mites.  When they burrow into the skin, they produce an intensely itchy, reddened skin.  The loss of hair progresses to thickening and wrinkling of the skin, self-trauma, and secondary bacterial infection. It generally affects ear flaps, elbows, hocks, abdomen, and chest.

Laryngeal Paralysis

Laryngeal paralysis is a disease that shows up most often in older large breed dogs, and is the result of the laryngeal nerve no longer being able to efficiently conduct impulses to the muscles of the larynx. This causes the larynx to block the airway, making it hard for the dog to breathe. Most of the time the cause for this is not known. One theory is that as the body ages the nerve is no longer able to work as well as it once did, and as the laryngeal nerve is very long (it runs from the brain down through the neck, around the heart and back up to the larynx), this is entirely possible. Also, a low level of thyroid hormone in has been implicated in some cases. Greyhounds, and sighthounds in general, tend to have a lower level of thyroid hormone than other breeds of dog, but it is not known whether this has a special significance in the rate of laryngeal paralysis in greyhounds or not. Regardless of the cause, surgery to tie one flap of the larynx back out of the way is the standard treatment.

Canine Distemper

A highly contagious viral (paramyxovirus) disease that can affect the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of Greyhounds.  It is the most common viral disease of dogs.  Canine distemper is most often seen in young greyhounds, three to six months of age, a time frame that corresponds to decreasing maternal antibodies.  When susceptible animals are exposed to Canine Distemper Virus, up to 75% will become ill and 50% to 90% will die from the disease.  Clinical signs include and increase in temperature (fever) above 103˚F around days 4 to 7.  At this time, there is also a decrease in the number of white blood cells in the blood. Physical signs include weeping eyes (conjunctivitis), runny nose (rhinitis), coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, increased hardness of foot pads, reluctance to eat, dehydration, and weight loss.

Pannus (chronic superficial keratitis)

Pannus is an auto-immune disease, meaning that it occurs when the body's immune system for some reason goes haywire and starts attacking healthy normal cells. It is most common in German Shepherds, but greyhounds are also seem to get their share of this condition. Pannus is limited to the eye and is treatable with eye drops. Prompt attention is important, however, because it can lead to blindness if left untreated. It is also suggested that the dog's eyes be protected from the sun.

Hot Weather / Heat Stroke

Signs of heat stroke are panting excessively, anxiety, bright red gums and possibly bloodshot eyes. The signs are subtle. Get the greyhound into cold water and ice to get their temperature down. If you are in the car, stand the greyhound in front of the air conditioner on full blast until you can quickly get to ice and water. Aspirin will help get the temperature down.


Hypothyroidism is the result of low production of hormones by the thyroid gland.  The symptoms can include skin and coat problems, sudden onset of aggressive behavior, itching lethargy, musky odor, among others.  A simple blood test will diagnose this condition.

Canine Parvovirus

Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract resulting in a bloody diarrhea which causes death.  The virus is very resistant, surviving in the environment for months to years. Common household bleach or several commercial parvovirus-specific antiviral disinfectants are the best disinfecting agents for destroying the virus.  Susceptible greyhounds pick up the virus orally from the feces of infected dogs.  The virus then multiplies in the nearby lymphoid tissues such as lymph nodes and tonsils of the throat. If left unchecked, the virus will spread throughout the body. Clinical signs are vomiting and diarrhea.

Canine Coronavirus

Causes a highly contagious diarrhea that is most severe in young greyhounds and spreads rapidly through a susceptible kennel.  The virus is obtained from the feces of an infected greyhound which can shed the virus for several weeks after apparent recovery or from the environment in which a sick greyhound has defecated. Clinical signs include sudden onset of diarrhea with or without vomiting.  The vomiting, if present, usually only lasts 24-36 hours.  The diarrhea results in orange colored manure (feces) that very in consistency from soft to projectile, water material containing mucous and blood.

Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases

Exposure to tick diseases are unfortunately rather common in  greyhounds, mostly due to the fact that they live in kennels, where it can be easy for ticks to flourish. Tick diseases can be very serious, and the symptoms can be vague, leading to misdiagnosis. In recent years, however, both veterinarians and greyhound owners have become much more aware of tick diseases, resulting in quicker diagnosis and more rapid treatment.  Blood testing for exposure to tick diseases, known as a tick titer, can be done by a veterinarian.

Canine Ehrlichiosis

Transmitted by tick bites in tropical and subtropical countries where brown ticks are present.  Clinical signs include fever, reluctance to eat, discharges from the eyes and nose, a tendency to bruise or bleed easily, enlargement of the lymph nodes, anemia, and difficulty in breathing.

Canine Babesiosis

A tick-borne protozoal disease of the blood of greyhounds and other canines that results in anemia.  The parasite, Babesia canis, has worldwide distribution, but is more prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions such as the southeastern United States. Clinical signs include pale gums, fever, yellowish color to the mucous membranes of the mouth, eye and vagina (in females), weakness, depression and reluctance to eat.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

A tick-borne disease with clinical signs of fever, weakness, depression and loss of appetite.

Lyme disease

Initially attacks the joins and can cause inflammatory problems of the heart and the nervous system.


A major parasitic danger to Greyhounds in those geographical locations where high temperatures, humid conditions and certain species of mosquitoes are predominant.  The parasite is a roundworm (nematode) whose infective larval stage is passed from Greyhound to Greyhound by mosquitoes.  When a mosquito with infective larva bites a greyhound, the larva goes into the tissues.  There, in approximately 100 days, the larvae go through maturation stages before they enter the small pulmonary arteries carrying blood from the heart to the lungs.  The larvae grow into adult worms that measure between 12 to 30 centimeters (4 to 12 inches) long.  A greyhound may be infected for 9 to 10 months without showing any clinical signs.  However, in the later stages of infestation, the performance is often decreased due to inefficient delivery of blood by the blocked heart to the required tissues during exercise.  Greyhounds will develop a chronic cough and may collapse or show weakness after a trail or race.


Nematode that infests the intestines of the greyhound if the greyhound ingests the worms off of the contaminated ground.  Clinical signs include coughing labored breathing due to lung damage and often, secondary bacterial infection of the lung damage (pneumonia), vomiting, diarrhea, possible obstruction of the digestive tube (constipation) and malnutrition.


Long nematodes that infect greyhounds once they are ingested from the ground.  Heavy infestations can cause clinical signs of diarrhea (that may contain blood), abdominal paid, weight loss, and "poor doing" as the worms irritate and suck blood from the inner lining (mucosa) of the large intestine.


Belong to two groups, Taenia species and Dipylidium caninum. Infestation of the former results from the greyhound ingesting rodents, carcasses of infected sheep or cattle, squirrels, hamsters or wild ruminants. Greyhounds obtain the Dipylidium caninum tapeworms from biting at and ingesting fleas and lice.  Clinical signs include intermittent gas (flatulence), mucus coating around the stool, or diarrhea.  When the greyhound is infested with the adult Dipylidium caninum tapeworms, they may excessively lick the anal region or drag their hindquarters along the ground due to irritation of this area by the worms.  Tapeworms reproduce by releasing segments with eggs (proglotids).  These can often be seen at the anus or around the hindquarters of the affected greyhound or found in fecal matter.  Weight loss and poor hair coat may be caused by heavy tapeworm infestations.


One of three species, Ancylostoma caninum, Ancylostoma braziliense and Uncinaria stenocephala.  Ancylostoma caninum is found in tropical and subtropical areas while Ancylostoma braziliense is found worldwide in temperate climates. Uncinaria is found in the colder regions of Europe, North America and Australia.  They are small worms which can produce ulceration in areas of the small intestine causing diarrhea. The greyhound becomes infested by ingesting the larvae off the ground, by eating a rodent who has ingested larvae, or, in the case of Ancylostoma, by penetration of the hookworm larvae through the skin of the greyhound lying in a contaminated area.  Clinical signs are most severe in the young pups.  They can cause severe blood loss and anemia and can result in death within 2 weeks after birth in pups with heavy parasite load. Pale gums, weakness, weight loss, dark colored manure (due to the blood in it), poor hair coat, and sudden death are the prominent clinical signs.

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