Greyhounds with Bald Thighs: in-depth truth and solutions

Do not be alarmed if your greyhound has bald thighs!  This is very common in greyhounds, particularly ex-racers, and the cause may surprise you.

The two major causes of greyhounds with bald thighs are heredity and hormonal imbalance, caused by the fight-or-flight response.  This condition does not affect the health of the greyhound; and, therefore, does not require medical intervention or even simple home treatment.  The owner should, however, protect the greyhound’s bare skin from harsh weather, as it can easily become chapped.

It’s easy to get nervous, when you see the patches of skin on your greyhound’s thighs.  What if he loses his hair altogether?!  Don’t worry – He won’t.  Greyhound Homecare is here to set the record straight, and separate fact from fiction on the subject of greyhounds with bald thighs.

Why Greyhounds Get Bald Thighs

The rumor that some people looooove to spread is that greyhounds get bald thighs, because their fur just rubs off from being confined to a crate all the time.  

This is simply not true.

There are two causes for the baldness, and they work hand-in-hand (paw-in-paw?): a hormonal chain reaction, rooted in their prey-drive; and heredity.

The first reason, a glandular reaction, is caused by the greyhound’s prey-drive being on high alert so much of the time.  When a mammal goes into the neurological “fight or flight” response, it triggers a series of chemical/glandular reactions throughout his body.  

That’s why, when something startles you, you feel more than just emotionally nervous – You have actual, physical symptoms.  You may feel hot and cold at the same time, begin to sweat, get dizzy, or even tremble.  That’s because your glands suddenly begin to secrete substances, effectively “drugging” you.  

It is the same with greyhounds.  The best explanation for what occurs is given by Tom Meulman, author and webmaster of the Greyhound Health internet board.  Interestingly enough, Mr. Meulman comments that bald is beautiful, when it comes to winning racers: 

“In fact I have found during some 40 years of training racing greyhounds that greyhounds with highly stimulated adrenal glands and therefore in most instances with bald thighs, chased harder, had faster reaction times and better speed from the boxes than their more relaxed kennel mates with a full covering of hair on their back legs.”

Tom Meulman, Greyhound Health Board

Here’s a simplified breakdown of how the greyhound ends up losing hair:

  1. The greyhound spots something that looks fun to chase
  1. He becomes so excited, that a gland (pituitary) in his brain begins to release a hormone, kind of like you getting an “adrenaline rush.”
  1. This hormone (thyroid stimulating hormone, called TSH) stimulates his thryroid gland….
  1. …but another brain gland acts as a control, to make sure the dog doesn’t overload on TSH, and releases a chemical that slows down his production of TSH.
  1. This, in turn, slows down his thyroid.  

The thyroid, by the way, is in charge of healing and – Aha! – hair growth.  In fact, the hair follicles constrict every time the greyhound gets excited like this (that’s why you will see his hackles prick up).

When a greyhound’s body goes through this cycle over and over again, some of his hair follicles can become damaged.  Picture what happens when you repeatedly stretch an elastic – After many repetitions, the elastic loses its ability to clasp and hold an object.  So it is with the hair follicles: they lose their elasticity, and the hair falls out.

What happens to that hair follicle?  Without a hair in it, it becomes an empty hole, and can fill up with dirt and/or dead skin cells.  Once it’s clogged, it’s hard for a new hair to grow in.

The greyhound ends up with bald patches.  On closer inspection, you may see blackheads or whiteheads.  

Meulman further comments that most greyhounds will grow back the hair, once they’re homed out to a more relaxed life.  If a greyhound comes from a long line of baldies, however, that hair may be gone for good.

Greyhound Baldness and Thyroid “Problems”

Because of this link between the thyroid and the baldness, some greyhound pet owners (and even veterinarians) misinterpret this condition as a “thyroid problem.”  It’s not surprising, when you consider the symptoms of dangerously low thyroid activity:

  • hair loss
  • lethargy
  • intolerance to cold
  • low Free T4 test result 
  • poor appetite

All of these “symptoms” are present in a normal, healthy greyhound, except for poor appetite. Pet greys are famous for being pretty lethargic, and are no fans of the cold!  According to Meulman, a Free T4 reading as low as 1.5 is normal for greyhounds.

A poor appetite in a greyhound, however, is always a sign that something is amiss.  It still may not be his thyroid, though.  If your grey’s appetite is off, and you’ve ruled out all the more typical causes (parasites, grazing, toilet drinking, dumpster diving, etc.), he should see the vet.  If he can’t find the cause, you may want to suggest this thyroid test.  

If your greyhound genuinely has a thyroid condition, as indicated by the test, it is easily treated.  Otherwise, please do not subject your pet to unnecessary prescription medication, simply because you find his bald spots unsightly.

Why the Greyhound’s Bald Skin Turns Dark

Your greyhound’s bald skin may darken.  This is his version of a suntan!  It may lighten up again come winter, but probably not all the way back to its original color.  

If your greyhound gets a lot of sun on his bald areas, never use human grade sunscreen on him.  The zinc oxide in it is toxic to dogs.  I wrote an entire article on greys and sunburn (you may link here, but I’ll place the same link at the bottom of this page, so you can finish this article first).

When to Worry About Greyhound Bald Patches

Your greyhound may get a little more bald as he ages.  Always ask the vet about any new bald spots that develop, to rule out parasites, allergies, or other conditions. If the spots aren’t bothering the dog, or spreading rapidly, this can wait until his annual check-up.

What to Do About Greyhound Bald Patches

Most greyhound owners do nothing at all!  

In case you’re wondering why I’m not coming forth with the ultimate home remedy for greyhound bald spots, I just did – Time, which “heals all wounds,” is also the best healer for your greyhound’s bare rump!  

Once he is home, he becomes more interested in napping than in chasing; so his body is not going through the thrill of the chase as often.  For many greyhounds, the more laid-back lifestyle gives the hair follicles a break.  They bounce back, and his hair returns.  

You will hear numerous accounts of home remedies that owners swear cured their dogs’ bald thighs; when it’s more likely that it was the passage of time and plenty of R & R that made the change.

If you’re familiar with my writing and videos, you know I am a big proponent of home remedies; so I don’t mean to be skeptical.  It’s just that your first, best choice, in this case, is to give your dog a year to settle in, and see what happens.  It will be one of three things:

  • His hair will return
  • His hair will return seasonally, thicker and more lush in winter, thin and sparse or even bald again in summer.
  • There will be no change.

If you still want to try to get some hair growth, these are the two home remedies which I think offer a realistic chance of results.

Melatonin for Greyhound Bald Spots

Melatonin was recommended in a post over at the Greytalk forum.  The writer says that it has solved the problem for his multiple greyhounds.  Melatonin makes sense, because it is known to have calming effects. 

Grooming Regimen for Greyhound Bald Spots

 This therapy was devised by whippet owner Jennifer Jensen at the Whippet Racing website.  Ms. Jensen, like me, waded through a long, scientific explanation of how the baldness occurs.  She had this unique takeaway – 

‘I got to thinking, if I stimulated skin and the oil flow, perhaps it would affect the hair.’

Jensen, who apparently is familiar with many animals, came up with this unique therapy – 

  • Daily, brush the area with a Zoom Groom tool (use the one made for cats, as it’s gentler).
  • Weekly, go over the area with a Slick n’Easy horse grooming block.

She said that you should see hair growth in 5-6 weeks.   In addition, she cautions that the new hair only remains, if the therapy is continued.

Jensen also gives her dog a fish oil capsule every day.  I left this step out, because I think it is only the gentle, consistent grooming that does the trick.  It would increase blood flow to the affected area, which may promote healing of the damaged hair follicles.

A caveat – If you are using this therapy for your dog, and your Zoom Groom and Slick n’Easy disappear, check the area around your husband’s mirror.

Resources for More Info

If you like this post, you’ll love my companion video for this article. Watch right here:

Sunburn and Greyhounds

Tom Meulman

Jennifer Jensen

Greytalk User(s):

Adopt a Greyhound Atlanta   

Gail McGaffigan

The owner of the Greyhound Homecare website and YouTube channel, Gail has had retired racing greyhounds as pets since 1997. Please visit our channel, too!

Recent Posts