The Greyhound Show

3.9.2022

Results of the International Greyhound Health Survey

Filed under: Gesundheit,Literaturtip — admin @ 09:08

Between February 2019 and June 2021, a health survey was run, initially initiated by the German Sighthound Association (DWZRV) and later circulated in internationalised form via the website www.greyhoundshow.de. The survey, available in three languages, was aimed at Greyhound owners and breeders from all over the world, but especially those who keep or breed Greyhounds as pet dogs and not for professional racing or coursing.

Data structure
In order to collect information on the health status of Greyhounds kept as pets, a questionnaire was put online by the DWZRV in February 2019, the content of which was largely the same as the health surveys for other breeds managed by the DWZRV. This questionnaire is in German language, Greyhound owners from Germany, Austria and Switzerland participated in the survey. In February 2022, the same questionnaire was additionally published in French and English, so that Greyhound owners from Norway, the USA, Sweden, Slovenia, Italy, Great Britain, Canada, Finland, France, Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands and Guadeloupe also participated. The German questionnaire yielded the highest response rate with 205 entries, the English 99 and the French 55.

The questionnaires were completed for a total of 369 Greyhounds, of which 197 were female and 172 male. Of these, a good 1/3 each are neutered, and only 48 females and 24 males are used for breeding. Half of these dogs come from show lines (50.1%), just under 43% from racing lines and the remaining dogs from Irish coursing lines or combined matings.

Origin of the Greyhounds
A good half of these Greyhounds had already been adopted from the breeder as puppies, while just under 20% had been adopted from animal welfare organisations as adult dogs. In this respect, however, there are differences between the three language groups: In the German FB, the distribution was 46.5% to 31%, whereas in the French participants, the majority of dogs (47%) were „home-bred“, and another 40% came directly from the breeder as puppies. In the English survey, the majority of Greyhounds described came as puppies from the breeder (just under 70%), and a good 16% were homebred by the participant. Also, in both the English and French surveys, the clear majority of dogs came from show lines (90% and 85% respectively).

Common causes of death
Almost a quarter of all Greyhounds from the survey have already died, more than 85% of them were euthanised. The average age of dogs that had already died was 9.78 years, but if you consider only the subgroup of show Greyhounds, it was only 8.56 years. The five most common causes of death were:

  • Tumour diseases (incl. 6 x splenic tumour, 8x osteosarcoma): 24 / 26.30%.
  • Weakness due to old age (+ 6x supplemented by „can no longer walk“): 21 / 23,10%
  • Neurological diseases: 12 / 13.20%
  • Heart diseases (excl. tumours): 10 / 11%
  • Kidney disease: 5 / 5.50%

The result for the clearly identifiable show greyhounds looks like this:

  • Old age / „can no longer walk“: 14 / 26.40%
  • Neurological diseases: 10 / 18.90%
  • Heart disease (excl. tumours): 8 / 15,10%
  • Tumour diseases: 7 / 13.20%
  • Kidney disease: 4 / 7.50%

In the dogs from show lines, tumour diseases play a lesser role. Whether the apparently lower life expectancy of this breeding line contributes to this (in that the dogs do not become so old that they develop typical age-related tumour diseases) remains to be seen.

What is striking, however, is the higher proportion of „neurological diseases“. In addition to one case of the classic „Greyhound neuropathy“, this group also includes four (suspected) cases of the new „Greyhound hypersensitivity syndrome“. But also other neurological problems like herniated discs and unspecific paralysis. This in connection with the dogs that were euthanised primarily because of old age weakness with the reason „can no longer walk / hindquarters too weak“ (6 of 14 show Greyhounds) AND with the findings from the series of examinations on the new neurological disease, where in several patients a compression of the spinal cord due to disc protrusion was found, makes one sit up and take notice. The JTO, recently published by the Finnish Greyhound Club, also recommends the „consideration“ of spinal lesions in breeding – and there are at least a few X-ray results available.

Common diseases
The most frequently mentioned ten diseases of all Greyhounds in descending order:

  1. Laceration/cut of the skin (32.2%)
  2. Tartar (29.8%)
  3. Sprained / Bruised (27.9%)
  4. Bald thigh / Bald thigh syndrome (17.3%)
  5. Tumour diseases (11.7%)
  6. Kennel cough 9.8%
  7. Spinal problems (spondylosis, herniated disc, cauda equina) 7.3%
  8. Bladder infection 8.4%
  9. Feed intolerance 6.5%
  10. Heart valve insufficiency 4.3%

As „gender-specific“ problems, pregnancy / false motherhood was mentioned most frequently for the bitches (8.6%) and cryptorchidism unilaterally or bilaterally (5.8%) for the males.

Sorting these results by breeding line, the result for the clearly identifiable show greyhounds looks like this:

  1. Laceration/cut of the skin (31.7%)
  2. Tartar (22.7%)
  3. Sprained / sprained / strained (16.9%)
  4. Tumour diseases 8,4%
  5. Spinal problems (spondylosis, herniated disc, cauda equina) 7.9%
  6. Kennel cough 7.9%
  7. Anal gland problems 6.9%
  8. Bald thigh syndrome 4.8%
  9. Feed intolerance 5.3%
  10. Heart valve insufficiency 4.2%

The fact that skin injuries are by far the most common health problems with Greyhounds is not surprising due to their special „build“ (tight-fitting skin, hardly any subcutaneous fat tissue, short coat and high speed). This result is also in line with data from Agria Insurance in Sweden, according to which „Trauma_Skin“ is the most common reason for a vet visit with Greyhound.

The same explanation also fits the high number of musculoskeletal injuries (muscle strain, ligament stretching). Here, too, we find a correspondence in the Agria data, where the complex „Pain / Symptom_Locomotor“ is in 2nd place, and the complex „Trauma_Ligaments_Tendons_Muscles“ is also in 6th place.

The vast majority of these injuries (64%) occur when the dog is running off-leash or at home (24%). The racetrack (19 %) and the coursing field (7 %) play a rather subordinate role as the „place of injury“.

By the way, almost half of the Show Greyhounds (47.9 %) do not take part in dog sports at all, while only about one third of the Racing Greyhounds are „sports muffleurs“.  While most racing Greyhounds, according to their nature, are/were mainly used on the racetrack (49.1%), the owners of show Greyhounds prefer to go coursing (20.5%). But also sports like agility, cani-cross, obedience or tracking were mentioned. Therefore, non-participation in wind-and-sport does not necessarily mean that the Greyhound does not pursue any „regular occupation“ at all.

The high prevalence of dental problems (tartar) may be due less to anatomical features of the Greyhound such as the narrow jaw. It may be more due to the fact that 20% of the Greyhounds in the survey are „Retired Racers“. These dogs often have a higher tendency to build up tartar due to the way they are kept and fed during their racing career and often arrive at their new owners already burdened in this respect. Comparing the numbers of all Greyhounds from the survey with those dogs from show lines (without an active racing past), the probability of occurrence of tartar is still high here, but significantly lower compared to the entire sample. In the Agria data, the diagnosis complex „Teeth“ only comes in 7th place. However, according to an Agria employee, the treatment of tartar, dental or gingival inflammation is only taken over under certain conditions, so that the actual occurrence of this problem may well be stronger in the Swedish Greyhounds.

Another „Greyhound-typical“ problem is bald patches in the coat, mainly the „Bald Thigh Syndrome„. This is a localised hairlessness on the back of the thighs, which is often reversible when the dog retires from active racing. The symptomatology occurs predominantly in Greyhounds from racing lines, but can also be found in Show Greyhounds. However, out of 64 affected dogs, only nine were from show lines.

A study conducted by the University of Bern in 2019 discovered a missense variant in the IGFBP5 gene in Greyhounds and other sighthounds, which was not or rarely found in other dog breeds. This gene is associated with cell proliferation and therefore also influences the processes in skin cells and hair roots. In the skin samples of affected dogs, however, „down regulations“ (i.e. reduced effectiveness) were found in several genes that encode structural proteins for hair growth such as keratins (23 genes) and „keratin-associated proteins“ (51 genes). In plain language, this means that all Greyhounds (i.e. also the „completely hairy“ ones) carried two editions of the „mutated version“. In addition, there were many other „suspicious genes“ that were altered in their activity to varying degrees in the affected dogs. Therefore, one can assume with some certainty a genetic cause for this problem. However, what was ultimately responsible for its high prevalence within the population and what could be done about it remains to be investigated.

We find a similar distribution with the so-called „corns„, painful plantar warts on the paws, which are mainly noticeable by distinct lameness. Of the 30 cases mentioned, seven are Show Greyhounds, i.e. less than a quarter. This condition can make life very difficult for affected dogs – in the case of one Racing Greyhound, it was even cited as a contributing factor in a decision to euthanise: „corns on each toe…could barely move…“.

A study is currently underway by the Greyhound Health Initiative to examine the DNA of affected and unaffected Greyhounds for a possible genetic cause of the occurrence of corns.

Among the tumour diseases we find something surprising: The osteosarcomas, which are actually only „said“ to occur in racing lines, were found in five of eight registered cases in Show Greyhounds. On the other hand, six out of six (partly ruptured) spleen tumours occurred in dogs from racing lines.

In 6th place we find the mixed infection „kennel cough„, which appeared in almost 10% of all Greyhounds in the survey. This is an astonishingly high rate. If we compare this to the study „905,543 dogs under veterinary care in 2016“, where only just under one percent of all dogs presented received the diagnosis „kennel cough“, this becomes obvious. In the group of all Greyhounds, we find another infectious event, cystitis, in 8th place. Here, too, the probability of occurrence seems to be significantly higher than in „all dogs“ („Urinary tract infection“: 0.59 %, source: „905,543 dogs under veterinary care in 2016“).

Whether the cause is a particular sensitivity of the respiratory system or the urinary tract in Greyhounds or whether this increased susceptibility to ubiquitous pathogens is rather due to a generally weak immune system remains to be investigated.

It is interesting that all reported cases of Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus / torsion spleen occurred in dogs from show lines.

We have already written something about spinal problems (spondylosis, herniated disc, cauda equina, transitional vertebrae) above in the causes of death. This problem should be given more attention, especially in Show Greyhounds.

Feed intolerances seem to occur more frequently in Greyhounds from both racing and show lines. However, this information should be treated with caution, as it is often only the result of owner observation, but not confirmed by appropriate veterinary diagnostics.

The relatively high prevalence of anal gland problems in Greyhounds from show lines makes one wonder at first sight. But perhaps the question was too imprecise, and participants also noted dogs whose anal glands had to be manually emptied only once or several times. The percentages would almost correspond to those from „905,543 dogs under veterinary care in 2016“: „Anal sac impaction“ 4.8% and „Anal sac infection“ 0.9%.

With 4.3%, mitral valve disease was the most common heart problem. However, overall 7.85% of the dogs had heart disease – apart from valvular insufficiencies, dilated cardiomyopathy, cardiac tumours and sudden cardiac death were mentioned. In Show Greyhounds, „heart disease“ was mentioned as a cause of death or euthanasia in more than 15% of cases. However, only 45 dogs had a detailed heart examination (with ultrasound and ECG) – for comparison: there are 72 breeding dogs in the sample. It would certainly make sense and be desirable if (as recommended in the Finnish JTO, for example) at least all breeding animals were regularly examined.

A word about hypothyroidism: In total we find 11 Greyhounds with hypothyroidism, that is 3% of all dogs in the pool. Of these, seven Greyhounds come from show lines (3.8%), three from racing lines and one is an Irish coursing bitch.

Reproduction
The high rate of instrumental inseminations is striking: 31.3% of the females and 25% of the males reproduced exclusively by AI. Again, it is striking that almost 2/3 of the instrumental semen transfers in the females were made with fresh semen, and in each of the males that reproduced by instrumental insemination, a fresh semen transfer was made at least once. It can therefore be assumed that AI in the Greyhound is not primarily carried out because of large spatial or age distances between the mating partners, but for other reasons of a hygienic or practical nature – or because a natural mating act cannot or should not be carried out…!

Additionally interesting in the area of reproduction is that only for nine out of 48 breeding bitches problems during birth are reported (of which „weakness in labour“ is the most frequent). However, a total of 15 breeding bitches had a caesarean section (11 of them once, four twice – 31.25% of the breeding bitches!). This raises the question whether elective caesarean sections were performed here so that no birth problems could occur at all. Or whether circumstances leading to the induction of an incisional birth (such as a secondary weakness in labour) are not perceived as a birth problem at all by the breeders.

Assessment of the health status by the Greyhound owners

Finally, the survey participants could rate the overall health of their Greyhound.

Only one heart („Very ill (most of his life major health problems, quality of life significantly reduced„) was (fortunately!) awarded to only four dogs. Nevertheless, somewhat surprisingly, the verdict on the health status of the respective dog in relation to its entire lifetime was 4 or 5 hearts for more than 86% of the participants:
4 hearts: Healthy (sometimes small, temporary health problems).
5 hearts: Completely healthy (totally fit most of his life, without any limitations).

However, only very few candidates are really „disease-free“. Apparently, Greyhound owners are quite tolerant when it comes to the health status of their dogs.

We would like to thank all Greyhound owners and breeders who participated in our survey. Although there are certainly weaknesses in the way the data is collected and the sample is relatively small, this is at least a start. For comparison, the Finnish Greyhound Club conducted a health survey in 2008. Only for 18 dogs, the questionnaire was answered. In the national survey conducted by the Finnish Kennel Club in 2015, answers were submitted for only nine Greyhounds. And in the last health survey conducted by the British Kennel Club, there were exactly five responses for Greyhounds.
Therefore, we will continue to keep our survey open. Anyone still wishing to enter information for their dog is welcome to do so. If anyone would like to update information already entered for their Greyhound, this is also possible – just email info@greyhoundshow.de!

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