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Bad teeth revealed as biggest problem for pet greyhounds

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Posted June 5, 2019

Dental disease is the most common health issue facing pet greyhounds, according to the largest ever study of greyhounds treated in first opinion veterinary clinics. The research, led by the Royal Veterinary College’s (RVC) VetCompassTM programme in collaboration with the University of Bristol Vet School, reveals that 39 per cent of greyhounds suffer from dental problems, which is a far higher percentage than for any other dog breed.

Image credit: University of Bristol

Image credit: University of Bristol

As well as bad teeth, the research revealed that traumatic injuries, overgrown nails and osteoarthritis are also major concerns for pet greyhounds. Overgrown nails affected 11.1 per cent of greyhounds, wounds 6.2 per cent, osteoarthritis 4.6 per cent and claw injury 4.2 per cent.

Greyhounds in the UK are typically used for racing during their early lives, with an increasing number rehomed as pets after their racing careers are over. The results of this study, which is published in Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, adds significantly to evidence available for the debate on the welfare issues surrounding greyhound racing. It will also help breeders and regulators to prioritise activities to mitigate the worst of the harm to greyhounds from their racing careers, as well as help greyhound rehoming organisations advise adopters on optimal preventative care options.

Researchers studied 5,419 greyhounds seen by first opinion vets in 2016. Key findings include:

  • The most common disease in greyhounds was dental disease (39.0 per cent affected). This is much higher than reported for other larger breeds such as the German Shepherd Dog (4.1 per cent) or the Rottweiler (3.1 per cent);
  • Urinary incontinence was more common in female greyhounds (3.4 per cent) than males (0.4 per cent);
  • Aggression was more commonly reported in males (2.6 per cent) than females (one per cent);
  • The median lifespan for greyhounds is 11.4 years, compared to the 12 years previously reported for dogs overall;
  • The most common causes of death in greyhounds are cancer (21.5 per cent), collapse (14.3 per cent) and arthritis (7.8 per cent).

Dr Dan O’Neill, Veterinary Epidemiologist and VetCompassTM researcher at the RVC, who was the main author of the paper, said: “Pet greyhounds are now a common breed treated in general veterinary practices in the UK. Retired racing greyhounds can make very good pets, but these results sadly show that they also carry health legacies from inherent breed predispositions as well as impacts from their prior racing careers. These potential problems include bad teeth, behavioural issues and arthritis. Our new VetCompass evidence especially reveals a worryingly high level of dental disease. This awareness should encourage all those who care for the greyhound to prioritise preventive and remedial strategies for these issues and therefore to  improve the welfare of this lovely breed, both before and after rehoming as pets.”

Source: University of Bristol

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