Frequently Asked Questions
1. My Greyhound appears fine, but his lab values are all messed up.
Greyhounds and most other sighthound breeds have hematology (blood cells) and blood chemistry values different from those in other breeds. For example, their red blood cell counts are higher and their platelet and white blood cell counts lower. As mentioned below, their kidney values are also higher than the standard reference interval. Some reference laboratories now use “Greyhound specific” reference intervals when reporting values. As an example, below is a graphic of the hematocrit (HCT) or red cell mass in Greyhounds (black box) compared with the normal values for dogs (dotted blue box). Make sure your Greyhound’s blood work is being properly evaluated before starting any treatment.
2. Do high “kidney values” mean that my Greyhound has kidney disease?
Greyhounds have creatinine concentrations that are usually higher than those in other dogs (higher than the normal ranges listed for other breeds of dogs); in addition, some Greyhounds have high BUN (blood urea nitrogen). If the urine concentration is normal, the high creatinine/BUN concentrations are not indicative of kidney failure. Kidney failure is quite uncommon in Greyhounds, when compared to other breeds. The graph below shows creatinine values for Greyhounds (black box) and the reference ranges for dogs (dotted blue box).
3. My Greyhound has a heart murmur; does he have heart disease?
Greyhounds and most other sighthounds are known to have “normal” or physiologic flow murmurs. The main pump in the heart (left ventricle), is very large, and it pumps blood at higher velocity, so it swirls creating a murmur (abnormal heart sound). These murmurs are mild in nature (grade 1-2 out of 6) and are heard best over the left base of the heart (high in the left armpit). Thoracic radiographs (X-rays) and/orechocardiography (ultrasound) will help determine the actual status of the heart. Heart disease is uncommon in greyhounds, but prevalent in other sighthound breeds (e.g.; deerhound). Below is a left lateral radiograph (X-ray) from a greyhound (left) and a boxer (right). The greyhound heart is much larger.
4. I am really worried about anesthetizing my greyhound; I heard they always have problems.
Most modern day anesthetics are perfectly safe in sighthounds. The bad reputation about anesthesia in greyhounds started in the 80s, when using short- and ultra-short acting barbiturates that are cleared very slowly from their system; these drugs are no longer used in clinical practice. However, due to low body fat and high muscle mass most greyhounds metabolize sedatives and anesthetics a bit differently from other dogs, and dosages may need to be adjusted accordingly. Please consult with your veterinarian about dosages.
5. I have heard greyhounds often develop malignant hyperthermia, a life-threatening condition, while under anesthesia.
Although malignant hyperthermia can occur, it is extremely rare. In most cases of anesthesia- or surgery-related hyperthermia, nervous greyhounds start shivering and shaking prior to being anesthetized, and thus generate heat from muscle contraction. Your vet will advise you on how to sedate your hound as soon as they arrive at their office, if he/she is the nervous type.
6. Do greyhounds get tick-borne diseases (TBD)?
These days, TBDs are extremely rare in greyhounds. In Ohio, the prevalence of TBDs is <1%; in the 80s, as many as 70% of Greyhounds were positive for Ehrlichia canis (EC) and/or Babesia canis (BC) due to poor tick control. In a recent study conducted in a West Virginia racetrack, we found no dogs positive for the common TBDs. PLEASE REMEMBER: a positive test for TBDs does not mean that your dog is sick because of that particular organism, since antibodies against the bug can persist for months to years. Your vet can test your dog with in-office kits (e.g.; SNAP 4DX PLUS®).
7. My greyhound was just diagnosed as hypothyroid and my vet wants to start thyroid supplementation, should I do it?
Most every normal greyhound has “low” thyroid values. Most vets measure blood T4, which in non-greyhound dogs should be in the 15-50 nmol/L; in greyhounds, salukis, and most other sighthound breeds tested, most dogs have values <15 nmol/L. In other words, a “low thyroid level” is ABSOLUTELY NORMAL in a greyhound! Please do not give them “thyroid pills” unless your vet has documented hypothyroidism by other means.
8. My greyhound was just diagnosed with osteosarcoma (OSA); what should I do?
There are numerous treatment options for dogs (and greyhounds) with OSA. The standard of care is limb amputation followed by chemotherapy (4 to 6 doses, depending on the drug). Dogs treated by amputation alone live 3 to 4 months, whereas dogs treated by amputation and chemotherapy can live 14 to 18 months. Most greyhounds undergoing chemotherapy DO NOT HAVE SIDE EFFECTS and adjust to being a “tripod” very shortly after amputation.
9. I keep getting donation request for the Greyhound Health and Wellness Program at Ohio State, but I thought the program was discontinued.
We created The Greyhound Health Initiative to continue some of the programs Dr. Couto created as part of the Greyhound Health and Wellness Program (GHWP) at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State. While the GHWP fund does still exist at OSU, since Dr. Couto’s retirement in 2013 the program has been greatly reduced and does not exist in the same capacity as it once did. With the exception of orthopedic surgery, to our knowledge, there are no longer greyhound-oriented vets on the clinic floor. While OSU is not actively fundraising to support the GHWP, it will still accept donations to help support dogs coming off the track and, if you previously donated to GHWP, you may still get donation requests for that account. You can contact Rustin Moore firstname.lastname@example.org, the Dean of the Veterinary College, or Danielle Ford email@example.com, Director of Development, if you have any questions.
10. How much of my Greyhound Health Initiative membership fee is tax deductible?
The short answer is, “it depends.” Simply put, you can deduct only the amount of the fee that is greater than the value of the benefits you receive.
Example (paying annually) :
If you signed up as a Hero any time during 2017 and chose to pay annually, then your membership fee was $110. If you received $400 worth of chemo reimbursement any time during 2017, then none of the membership fee is tax deductible because the cost of chemo is greater.
If, however, the only benefit you actually received was the free t-shirt (valued at approx. $20), then $90 of the $110 is deductible.
Example (paying monthly) :
If you signed up in October 2017 and selected the monthly payment option, you would have paid $30 in 2017 ($10 in each October, November, and December), making that the base to calculate “amount vs value.” So if you received a $20 T-shirt and no other benefits, $10 would be tax deductible. But, again, if you received $400 worth of chemo in 2017, none of your membership fee would be tax deductible.
Both scenarios hold true even if you renewed your membership any time during 2017 as your total annual contribution would still have been either $110 (if paying annually) or $120 (if monthly), making that the base to calculate “amount vs value.”
Please note: We provide this information in good faith, but the tax code is complicated and we recommend that you consult a tax professional for any matters related to the preparation or filing of your personal taxes.
11. What is The Greyhound Health Initiative’s stance on health issues introduced to greyhounds due to the focused breeding programs related to the racing industry?
While The Greyhound Health Initiative does not condone knowingly breeding diseases or genetic dysfunctions into any animal, overseeing breeding practices is not part of our charter. Our mission is to educate everyone who works with these dogs, from breeders to veterinarians to adopters, about their medical and physiological idiosyncrasies, including genetic deficiencies.
12. What is The Greyhound Health Initiative’s stance on greyhound racing and the racing industry in the United States? Globally?
The Greyhound Health Initiative must remain neutral on the topic of racing any breed of dog in order to both learn from and educate the professionals within those industries. Our mission is to improve the health and well-being of these animals through education, research and accessibility to proper diagnosis and treatment. There are many organizations that fight for or against organized racing but The Greyhound Health Initiative cannot be one of them and stay focused on our mission at the same time.
13. Our adoption group is [AR/PR/Neutral], can we still join The Greyhound Health Initiative as a member?
The Greyhound Health Initiative welcomes all groups and individuals regardless of their stance on racing or working breeds. However, civil discord is expected and we will not tolerate hostility on our forums or at our events. When speaking on behalf of The Greyhound Health Initiative or when using The Greyhound Health Initiative’s logo, we would direct you to check with our Executive Director or Media Policy before making any public statements.
14. You claim that The Greyhound Health Initiative is “neutral” when it comes to racing, but you’ve co-hosted events at racetracks in the past but you’ve never publicly partnered with any anti-racing organizations. That doesn’t sound very “neutral.”
It’s true that we have worked within the racing industry to share knowledge in both directions. We’ve gone behind the scenes at different racetracks, kennels and farms to see how these dogs are raised, trained, fed, and treated for injuries — knowledge that is invaluable to understanding the adult dogs that end up in people’s homes. Many anti-racing organizations do not have this kind of first-hand information or specialized knowledge. Learning about greyhound physiology is not part of their mission. So it’s not really a matter of choosing sides or failing to remain neutral … we go where the dogs are.
15.Will GHI support me and or my adoption group if we are (AR/PR/Neutral)?
Yes. The Greyhound Health Initiative will gladly support all groups who are actively working to find good homes for greyhounds or other sighthounds. We do, however, reserve the right to not participate in any events that are political in nature or whose goal is to promote a strong AR/PR message. Our mission is to improve the health and wellbeing of these animals through education, research and accessibility to proper diagnosis and treatment. There are many organizations that fight for and against organized racing, but The Greyhound Health Initiative cannot be one of them AND stay focused on our mission at the same time.
16. Would GHI consider participating in an event hosted by an [AR/PR/Neutral] adoption group?
Yes. The Greyhound Health Initiative will gladly support all groups who are actively working to find good homes for greyhounds or other sighthounds. We do, however, reserve the right to not participate in any events that are political in nature or whose goal is to promote a strong AR/PR message. Our mission is to improve the health and wellbeing of these animals through education, research and accessibility to proper diagnosis and treatment. There are many organizations that fight for or against organized racing, but The Greyhound Health Initiative cannot be one of them and stay focused on our mission at the same time.
17. You are called The Greyhound Health Initiative, so why are you spending more and more time/energy on other breeds?
There are a lot of similarities between the sighthound breeds that set them apart from other breeds, even within the hound group. So it’s a natural progression to expand our knowledge base into cousins of the greyhound.
18. Are you at all concerned that the greyhound breed as we know it today will become extinct if racing comes to an end?
This is a tricky subject. It’s true that greyhounds will become increasingly rare as pets in the United States as racing continues to decline. Retired racers are both genetically and dispositionally different than their AKC cousins so, in a sense, fewer tracks mean fewer retired racers to adopt. By extension, if racing collapses completely in the States, there will be no more retired racers to adopt. That said, greyhounds are bred and raced in many other countries and we have already seen an increase in dogs being brought into North America from areas that do not have as robust of an adoption community; Galgos from Spain, racing greyhounds from Ireland and other parts of Europe, etc., so it does not seem at all likely that greyhounds will “become extinct” on a global scale if racing in the U.S. comes to an end, but there will be changes in the types and quantities of greyhounds available for adoption/purchase.
19. Our greyhound will need a C-section, is Epsilon Aminocaproic Acid (EACA, a.k.a. “Amicar”) safe for use on pregnant dogs?
There is no information about the effects on pups/fetuses should a pregnant dog need surgery. However, since EACA is normally administered after the surgery, in the case of a C-section there would be no concerns for the pups.
20. What breeds other than greyhounds are potential “bleeders” that may require EACA?
Greyhounds, deerhounds, and wolfhounds have the potential to suffer from post-surgical bleeding that may not start for up to 72 hours after the operation.
21. Someone is insisting that greyhounds have sensitivities to opioids — more so than “other dogs.” Is this true?
There are quite a few reports on narcotics in hounds. According to Dr. Couto, most of them have “issues” with morphine or hydromorphone, and some with fentanyl. He typically recommends butorphanol at the pow end of the dose (0.1 mg/kg) with a “smidgeon” of ace (0.5 mg TOTAL).
22. Why are the numbers on your blood value reference interval wallet cards different than other numbers I’ve seen as “standards” for greyhounds?
The short answer is that the standard intervals are different depending on what make and model the lab is using to run the blood work as well as when a piece of equipment was last calibrated. The numbers on our cards are representative of a reference interval (range) that compares the normal ranges for greyhounds to the accepted normal ranges for all other breeds. The numbers we use are based on Idexx Laboratories standards, who not only manufactures the equipment used to measure the samples but also provides blood chemistry analysis services to veterinarians. While they are not the only lab or equipment manufacturer to provide this service, we believe they are the most accurate and have processed more greyhound samples than any other lab. Dr. Couto has been studying greyhounds for 20+ years and these are the numbers he relies on for his diagnoses (he worked with Idexx to establish the standards for greyhounds).
So the numbers on our cards may not match what someone else expects because they are using another lab’s values, however, it’s important to note that this is just one tool a veterinarian will use to make a diagnosis. The most important thing is that they know greyhounds have significantly different normals from all other dogs in several key areas and are not using the generic, “all other breeds” standards. For example, if a greyhound’s creatinine level is .5 and the vet is only looking at the accepted normal range for all breeds, they would not factor it into a diagnosis when, in fact, that could be a pretty good indicator of kidney disease in a greyhound. Without knowing greyhounds are different, a key piece of information would be overlooked. Likewise, just because a number falls outside a specific interval does not automatically mean the dog is sick.
23. My retired racing greyhound is a “breed snob”, meaning he gets along fine with other greyhounds but does not like other breeds. Is this normal?
It’s not very common, but it does happen. Track-bred greyhounds have an upbringing that gives them many experiences that serve them well as companions after their racing careers are over. They are used to being crated, transported and being around strangers and they’re rarely nervous or unstable. However, they may never have seen a dog that doesn’t look like them and can sometimes be unpredictable in how they react the first time they come face to face with a non-greyhound.
24. I’ve heard that retired racing greyhounds have “sleep aggression” or “sleep startle” and that they are unsafe to have around children.
When a dog is woken up from a deep sleep growling and snapping, it’s called “sleep startle” or “sleep aggression.” Any breed can display this characteristic and it doesn’t mean they are vicious or mean, it’s just a defensive reaction to being surprised. Racing greyhounds are used to living in kennels where they are awakened by noise, never by touch, so some need time to acclimate to living in a home where someone is able to touch them without warning. Making noise to wake them will eliminate the surprise. Startle usually goes away as they get more comfortable in the home, but some dogs may require behavioral training. Both children and adults need to be aware of that the old adage, “let sleeping dogs lie” is best adhered to around a newly adopted dog until both dog and human have time to adjust to the new living situation. Until you know whether your dog has sleep startle, it’s best to not allow them on the couch or bed — while awake they may want to be close and even lie with their head in your lap, but that just puts you in the bite zone should they wake up snapping.
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