Is My Greyhound Sick? These May be Warning Signs


Greyhounds are known for their robust good health.  Because of this, one can sometimes fail to notice early signs of trouble.  As greyhound owners, we want to enjoy our dogs; but it’s important to always be watchful, so little problems can be solved, before they become big problems.  

If you have a vet who is experienced with greyhounds, you are fortunate.  If you do not, you may need to advocate for your greyhound.  Anytime you are concerned that something may be amiss with your greyhound, and your vet finds “nothing,” always check the greyhound forums (the Greytalk forum is my favorite) & social media pages, and do various internet searches, until you get an answer.  Typically, if you are questioning something about your greyhound, you will find you are not alone.  You will be amazed at the wealth of information other greyhound owners have, and are willing to share.  The best thing about your fellow greyhound owners is that they are VERY good at letting you know when you should get your dog to a vet, and what specific information you should give the vet, that you may not have thought of.  

Here are 10 signs that can be easy to miss:

Swollen Paw

Obviously, a swollen paw is a warning sign.  What may not be so obvious is when your greyhound has one!  Their paws are so skinny, you may not notice when one is swollen, until you see him holding two paws together, and you see the difference between them.  

A swollen paw can be a sign of an injury (obvious, again!), but it may not be that at all.  It can also be a sign of kidney problems, or other trouble that may be causing your greyhound to retain fluid.  If you cannot find the reason for your greyhound’s swollen paw, have the vet check him out.

Drinking a Lot More Water

This always signals something with your greyhound – Hopefully, something easily explained.  If your greyhound is taking a lot of big, sloppy drinks of water, or you’re seeing the level of his water bowl going down more than usual, be sure you know the reason why.  

Your greyhound will always want more to drink on a warmer day, after exercise, after nibbling on your dinner leftovers, and after a substantial dog treat.  

Sometimes, it is an early sign that your greyhound has a UTI brewing.  

If you can’t figure out why your greyhound suddenly seems to need more water, contact the vet.

Brief Illness Every Few Weeks

If your greyhound seems to have “a bad day” about once a month, that could be a sign that he has worms.  This one surprised me, because I thought a dog with worms would be sick all the time!  

The reality is that your dog and his worms will seem to co-exist quite peaceably, until the worms hit a certain point in their life-cycle.  Then, your dog may vomit once, or have a nasty round of diarrhea, or just be off his feed for a day.  You keep an eye on him, figuring to call the vet if he gets worse; but then he’s better by the next day.  You forget about it….but a few weeks later, it happens again.  

If that sounds familiar, start tracking these episodes on a calendar.  If you see a pattern, tell your vet’s office about it.  Some vets will allow you to bring in just a poop sample for testing, as opposed to bringing the dog and the sample, and being charged for a check-up.

Worms aren’t the only explanation, though.

Examples of Other Recurring Sicknesses

Lily had an odd string of these illnesses last year.  It turned out not to be worms, but yogurt!  I always put a little yogurt in her food, from a quart container.  The reason she was getting sick was that I was keeping the yogurt a little too long, and as it got down to the bottom of the container, it was giving her a mild case of food poisoning.  I solved the problem by finding ways to use some of the yogurt in my cooking, so the container gets used up before it can “go off.”  

Hey, don’t judge me – It looked OK!

Shannon’s “mystery illnesses” seemed to break out randomly, but always late in the evening.  He would gag and maybe vomit a little.  One night, I was working in the kitchen later than usual.  My husband brought Shannon in from his bedtime walk.  Shannon paused at the end of the kitchen counter, and I peered over the edge to see what he was up to.  I was surprised to see him happily licking the top of the milk bottle that I had washed out and placed next to the counter, as I always did before leaving them out to be collected.  Shannon’s eyes wandered up, until he noticed me, staring at him.  He gave a few more licks, and then stopped mid-taste, and gave me a look that said, ” oh…I don’t usually do this in front of you, do I?”  

Once we cut this extra dose of dish soap and encrusted milk out of his diet, the “mystery” was solved!

Greyhound Bad Breath

Greyhounds are notorious for having bad teeth; but don’t chalk up your dog’s breath to that, without further investigation. This is an interesting symptom – It can be both a cause and an effect.  

Have you ever eaten something with a lot of garlic, then brushed your teeth, only to find that you still have garlic breath?  You probably think that, somehow, you did not manage to get all the garlic out of your mouth.  

Not exactly.  What actually happened is that in digesting the garlic, its smell actually entered your bloodstream. Your blood circulates all over your body, including the linings of your lungs. You are actually breathing out those garlic fumes from your respiratory system. Not only that, but the smell can actually come out in your sweat, as well, through your pores.

Bacteria from your dog’s bad teeth and gums can enter his system similarly.  That is how your dog’s bad breath can come from not only his mouth, but his stomach, and maybe even from his lungs.

Dental bacteria coursing through your dog’s body can cause many health problems, including heart disease.

Dental Care Will Extend Your Greyhound’s Life

Do not be afraid to look into your greyhound’s mouth. He is used to it from his life at the track.  You can begin to make your greyhounds life better today by starting him on a daily dental hygiene program. Learn how to brush his teeth, and follow through every day.

When I do a video on brushing a greyhound’s  teeth, I will post it here. Until then, there are several good ones on YouTube that demonstrate the technique.

Make sure your vet gives your greyhounds teeth a good examination at his annual check up. Be ready to point out anything you have seen in the dog’s mouth that might be a problem. If you have been brushing his teeth, and he still has bad breath, be sure to let the vet know, and ask for feedback.  Even if your dog’s teeth and gums are sound, he may still have some sort of digestive problem that is causing his bad breath.

Weight Loss or Gain

Because greyhounds only have half the fat of the average dog, it’s important to watch their weight.  Since it’s not safe for a dog to race at an improper weight, your greyhound is healthy at his racing weight, making it a good rule of thumb.  As he ages and loses muscle mass, he can even safely fall below that.

What is more of a concern is a greyhound who is carrying extra weight.  This is tough on his joints and all of his organs.  Weight can creep on easily – They’re big dogs, and the only thing they love more than eating is laying around for hours at a time!  

I’ve even noticed my greyhound, Lily, getting a little “buttery” lately – She’s just coming off a foot injury.  As soon as the hot weather subsides, I will get her out to a field for a good run every few days.

Not only do you NOT want to feed them according to the chart on the dog food bag; you also don’t want to feed all your greyhounds the same.  The diet of rice and kibble worked great for my last two.  Now that we have moved to a house without a fenced yard, Lily has to rely on walks.  She gets a good hour a day of walking around, but I still had to cut her portions down a bit, and replace some of the rice with kibble.  She doesn’t get as many treats as our other greyhounds did.  

If you see a change in your greyhound’s weight, be sure to learn the reason for it, and adjust as needed.  

Runny Eyes in a Greyhound

It’s so common to see a dog with runny eyes, it’s easy to just accept it as a normal thing.  It is, however, a symptom, and is unpleasant for your greyhound.  

I mentioned to my vet that Peaches was coming in from her late-night walk with very runny eyes.  It turned out that Peaches had hayfever!  

The reaction was being triggered by sticking her head in the high weeds that had sprung up at an empty house along her route.  The occupants had moved out earlier in the summer, and the Realtor wasn’t very good about keeping the lawn mowed.  

The vet had me pick up some mild “people” eyedrops, and clean out Peaches’ eyes whenever they were runny.  It really helped.  She seemed much more comfortable.  

It also kept her from pawing at her eyes.  Considering that those paws walk all over the ground, she’s lucky she never picked up an eye infection.

The other thing that helped was that my husband changed her route to avoid the weedy lot.

Change in Appetite

Greyhounds are creatures of habit. Anytime your greyhound’s appetite changes, there is a reason for it.

Causes of Excessive Appetite

Excessive appetite in your greyhound could indicate tapeworm. If your greyhound has a tapeworm, you might see white bits in your dog’s poop or under his tail.  You may also notice that he seems itchy back there; which he will indicate by trying to bite himself or scooting his rump across the rug.

Your greyhound’s increased appetite could also be a warning sign of weight gain (as discussed in the previous paragraph), diabetes onset, problem with absorbing nutrients correctly, or even a reaction to medication.

Causes of Less Appetite

If you find your greyhound’s appetite seems to have fallen off, it could be his age, stress, or a medical condition, according to the website, Dogtopia. 

All of my greyhounds have experienced a smaller appetite as they age. Each has sensed instinctively when it was time to cut back his serving, and adjusted accordingly, letting me know by leaving behind some of his usual portion of food.

 When Shannon got to be older, I thought I would try giving him his same kibble, except in a special formula for senior dogs. It was a dismal, very gassy failure!  We ended up simply going back to his usual kibble, just at a smaller serving size.

Nibbling, Licking

A disturbing trend in owners of nibbling dogs is being quick to jump to a diagnosis of food allergy. Perhaps there are more food allergies in dogs than in the past, or it’s getting easier to diagnose them; but so many of these dogs still seem to be just as itchy, after being changed to a new, usually very expensive, dog food. 

To make it worse, as the dog continues to itch, the owner flits off to yet another new food, throwing the dogs system further into chaos.

Always Watch for New Itching

I often wonder, when I see this, if anyone was paying attention the first day this dog was scratching, or the first week, or even the first months… Or did they just chalk it up to typical dog behavior?

You can save your dog so much misery, and yourself so much money in vet bills, if you always investigate these behaviors right away.  

I am very fortunate that my other family members are quick to notice anything unusual with the dog, and that we all communicate well enough with each other to bring up small problems before they become big problems.

I am not denying that a dog may have a food allergy, but it should not be your first conclusion when you see your greyhound nibbling or licking at one spot repeatedly.

A good question to ask yourself, when you see your dog chewing at himself, is whether your dog is feeling generally itchy, or if it is just in one spot, or certain spots.  The answer to this can reveal a lot.  

If there is not specific spot, the cause may be internal, like a food allergy.  Keep in mind, though, that a dog who is generally itchy may still fixate on one spot, just to find some little relief.

The first thing to do when you see your dog repeatedly mouthing himself is get a flashlight (or get your dog out in the bright sunlight) and examine the area in question.  Wash it with soap and water, rinsing the soap off thoroughly, and pat it dry. If there is any damage to the skin, such as a wound, rash, or redness, apply the appropriate First Aid to it.

Aloe Great for Greyhound Skin Woes

Aloe vera gel works wonderfully for this. If you buy it, be sure that it is 100% aloe vera gel, with no other ingredients. The very finest aloe vera you can get is  simply an aloe vera plant! They are attractive, and seem to thrive on on on neglect, being virtually unkillable.  Aloe soothes, cools, heals, and – best of all – is not toxic.  Perhaps even better is that dogs do not tend to lick it off.  

Last year, Lily started randomly gnawing at a patch of skin about halfway up her leg, which ended up getting raw and chapped.  I tried several things for it, over a couple of months.  

I never did find the cause, but the aloe was the solution.  Her skin cleared up.  It started up again a few months later, but I was quick with the aloe, and it hasn’t been back since.

Another possibility are small skin parasites.  The fur on my greyhound, Shannon’s, tail used to get patchy sometimes, when he was off his heartworm preventative.  I would put him back on it, and the condition would clear up.  

The heartworm preventative is, basically, a pesticide, which I’m not too crazy about; but it is interesting how many little “mystery conditions” seem to clear up when my dog goes back on it, after being off it for the winter.  

Greyhound Licking His Arm

If you see your greyhound licking his arm, almost cat-like, he may be using it as a sort of “doggie mouthwash-” trying to get a bad taste out of his mouth.  This is not necessarily a problem; just don’t allow it to go on too long, or he could end up licking himself raw.

A greyhounds will often lick his arm as a stress reliever, as well.  Again, discourage this from becoming a habit that leads to a skin problem.

Pay attention to a greyhound who is licking fabric – the rug, his bed, a toy.  Sometimes this is a prelude to vomiting.

Keep a Simple Record

Taking a greyhound to the vet reminds me a lot of taking my car to the mechanic – I always end up with questions I don’t remember till later, and my dog is practically guaranteed to break out in some occasional symptom that I forgot to mention to the vet.  You’re paying the same price for your dog’s check-up whether you ask questions or not, so be sure your dog benefits as much as possible from that precious time with the professional.  Keep track of your questions and any symptoms you may have witnessed, which have not yet been addressed.  

If you’re the type of person who starts records like this with good intentions, but doesn’t follow through, or loses the record when it’s time to go to the vet’s office, I can sympathize!  Here are a is a practical way to keep track of your greyhound’s little health oddities.  

Our first impulse is to buy a brand, new notebook, start on the first page, and record every, little thing.  This gets old fast.  The notebook kicks around the kitchen for a while, before ending up in the Notebook Morgue or crammed into the back of a drawer, with an emergency plumbing appointment scrawled on its cover.  

A better idea is to simply tape a sheet of paper to the inside of a cabinet door that you open all the time, so you’re aware of where you dog’s record is.  Whenever something occurs with your dog, simply write the date and a one-line description.  This is all you need to detect any patterns which may develop.  

Greyhounds are known for their robust good health. Because of this, one can sometimes fail to notice early signs of trouble. As greyhound owners, we want to enjoy our dogs; but it’s important to always be watchful, so little problems can be solved, before they become big problems.

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! https://www.youtube.com/c/GreyhoundHomecare

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