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Featured Breed: Greyhounds

Featured Breed: Greyhounds

About the Breed:

These tall, slender, lovable pups have been trusty companions all over the globe for thousands of years, with first evidence of their existence dating back to Egypt in 2900 B.C. Today, many people choose to adopt retired racing dogs when they adopt greyhounds.

Some toy dogs are said to be “big dogs in little dog bodies,” and the greyhound is in many ways the opposite. Greyhounds are tall and slender and can weigh anywhere from 50 to 80 pounds if they’re from racing lines, and show-bred dogs are often much larger. But their gentle and somewhat lazy manner makes them quiet presences in the house. In some ways, living with a greyhound is like living with a giant cat. They are, nonetheless, big dogs, and they’re both strong and fast.


  • a long, narrow head
  • small ears
  • dark eyes
  • a long, muscular neck that is slightly arched
  • a broad, muscular back
  • a deep chest
  • a long, fine, tapering tail
  • a short, smooth coat of any color or pattern


Greyhounds are known for being independent, gentle, loving and friendly. By nature, greyhounds are good housemates. They’re quiet and clean, and while they are not great at formal or competitive obedience, they tend to be very tractable dogs with good manners. Greyhound puppies need the same training any other young dog would need, but adult dogs usually only need to understand what’s expected of them, so they need to be given the time and gentle guidance to get used to their new expectations.

The single trait that surprises people most about greyhounds is their low level of activity. Their favorite activity is no activity at all. Adult greyhounds—including dogs with racing backgrounds—are very happy with leash walks, and they might even have to be prodded into exercising as they age. They enjoy the outdoors and some of them become great jogging buddies, but concerns about not being able to give ex-racers enough exercise shouldn’t dissuade you from adopting.

Racing greyhounds are sometimes unpredictable with other animals and dogs that look very different from them. This is because they’ve often never seen other types of animals. If you have cats or other breeds of dogs, discuss your situation carefully with the greyhound adoption group and make sure to choose a dog that will suit your family.

As their prevalence as racing dogs suggests, greyhounds are the fastest dog breed. They have been clocked at 44 miles per hour, which, along with their restful tendencies, has earned them the nickname “40-mph couch potato.”

Blood donations:

Greyhounds are ideal blood donors as many of them have universal blood types. They tend to have the patience needed to complete the blood draw, and their veins are easy to find. DoveLewis in Portland has a superb blood donation program.

Medical conditions:

Race track injuries:
Racing greyhounds routinely experience injuries on the track, and many of them receive inadequate veterinary care until they are adopted. Greyhounds age particularly fast because of their large bodies, poor nutrition and sanitation during their formative years at the track and the general bodily stresses of racing. Therefore, a greyhound is considered to be a “senior citizen” by approximately seven or eight years of age.

While greyhounds may live 13 or more years, they are usually 18 months to five years old when they are retired from racing. Typically, they become injured and are deemed unfit to race or they become too slow to be profitable. Typical track injuries include fractures to carpus (wrist) and tarsus (ankle) bones and ligament tears.

Dental Problems:
The diet of a racing greyhound includes high bacteria food like raw meat. This bacteria-laden food creates tartar and plaque on a greyhound’s teeth which, if not removed, will push back the gum lining and expose the tooth’s root. A root-exposed tooth is a problem. It has no enamel covering, so the tiny rough pores attract plaque, tartar and bacteria.

Signs of dental problems:

  • Bad breath
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Yellow or brown crust near the gum line
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Discomfort when the mouth or gums are touched
  • Possible decreased appetite or weight loss due to difficulty chewing

Professional cleaning and polishing under full anesthesia, using the ultrasonic method, is a must and should be done at least once a year. At our clinic, we routinely perform dental procedure on greyhounds using the safest anesthetic agent available.

Low thyroid levels (hypothyroidism):
Greyhounds’ normal thyroid level is lower than the reference ranges used for other breeds. Typically, greyhounds showing clinical signs of hypothyroidism will be lethargic or will gain weight despite exercise and appropriate feeding. A thin coat is common for greyhounds and is generally not caused by hypothyroidism. However, new, profound hair loss could be a symptom of hypothyroidism, and if you’re concerned, schedule an appointment for blood work.

Arthritis is a common problem for aging greyhounds, and it is caused by a breakdown of cartilage. Cartilage functions as a cushion between bones, so when that cushion is destroyed, the bones rub against each other, causing inflammation and pain. Cartilage can be destroyed from normal weight bearing over time, injury to the joints or malformation of joints caused by poor breeding. Any dog can develop arthritis, but because greyhounds are large and may sustain racing injuries, they have a higher risk of developing the condition. Symptoms of arthritis include stiffness when walking, difficulty rising, reluctance to jump or climb stairs and crying during movements. At any age, greyhounds can take daily joint supplements containing glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate that help decrease the severity of this disease. Prescription medications that decrease inflammation and pain associated with arthritis, such as Rimadyl, are also available to help keep your pet comfortable. If your pet does need this kind of medication, we strongly recommend that you take him in for periodic blood work and that you monitor any of his side effects. Arthritis is painful, but it can be managed if it is detected and treated early and consistently.

Cancer, particularly bone cancer, is another common ailment faced by the aging greyhound. Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer in greyhounds, and it usually occurs in carpus (wrist), shoulder or stifle (knee) joints. Bone cancer symptoms can look very similar to arthritis symptoms. If your pet is limping or seems to be in pain, he will likely need to be X-rayed, as that is the only way to distinguish between the two diseases. Bone cancer is extremely painful and aggressive. If it is not diagnosed early, it can spread to other areas of the body, making prognosis for survival very poor. If you are concerned, bring him in as soon as you can.

Other diseases:
Senior greyhounds can suffer from failure of one or more of their organs, such as the heart, kidney or liver. Some greyhounds are born with or develop a heart murmur (abnormal flow of blood through the heart). A heart murmur can be detected by listening to the heart with a stethoscope. Routine exams and blood work can help detect these issues early. Many of these diseases can be managed with medication or dietary changes.