Research Updates: The most prevalent diseases and major causes of death in retired racing greyhounds

Research Updates: The most prevalent diseases and major causes of death in retired racing greyhounds

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May 01, 2009


Erika Meler, DVM, MS
This study surveyed a cohort of subscribers of the national magazine Celebrating Greyhounds to study retired racing greyhounds in the United States. The study's goals were to determine the prevalence of general disease categories and major causes of death in these dogs.

Out of 692 owners, 441 provided information about their 747 greyhounds through an online questionnaire. General information (age, sex, spay or neuter status, activities, number of years owned, and racing history), disease conditions (presented as major organ system categories such as respiratory or endocrine), and cause of death (same categories) were collected.


Barrak Pressler, DVM, PhD, DACVIM
The median number of greyhounds per household was two (range = one to six), and the median number of races completed was 43 (range = two to 400). Among all reported disease groups, skeletal (33% of dogs), skin (28%), digestive (18%), and endocrine (11.9%) disorders and cancer (13%) were most commonly reported. Prevalence of osteosarcoma was 6% (45% of dogs with cancer), with the forelimb most commonly affected (75% of osteosarcoma cases). The prevalence of osteoarthritis was 18% (54% of dogs with non-neoplastic skeletal conditions). The most common skin disorder was bald thighs (16% of dogs). Hypothyroidism was the most common endocrine disease (11% of all dogs), and 55% of dogs with digestive disorders had diarrhea of unknown cause. The most common cause of death was cancer (58% of cases), followed by orthopedic (18%), kidney (8%), and bleeding (8%) disorders.

COMMENTARY

Retired racing greyhounds have become increasingly popular pets, but only sparse information regarding disease prevalence in this subset of dogs has been reported. As with other dog breeds, neoplasia is the most common cause of death. This survey confirms previous findings that osteosarcoma of the forelimb is the most common tumor type in retired racing greyhounds.

The authors state that although hypothyroidism was reported in 11% of studied dogs, that may be an overestimation because total and free thyroxine concentrations are lower in greyhounds than in other dog breeds. The authors hypothesize that the relatively high prevalence of diarrhea in these dogs is due to the frequent feeding of raw meat and the previously reported high prevalence of Salmonella species and Escherichia coli shiga toxins.

The authors recognize that this type of study inherently involves some selection bias and inaccuracies in data collection. Responders to these types of surveys are more likely to have owned sick animals, and medical information reported by owners was not verified through examination of the dogs' medical records. Nevertheless, this study offers a preliminary list of the most common diseases and causes of death in retired racing greyhounds in the United States and should help practitioners prioritize differential diagnoses when evaluating one of these popular pets.

Lord LK, Yaissle JE, Marin L, et al. Results of a web-based health survey of retired racing greyhounds. J Vet Intern Med 2007;21(6):1243-1250.

The information in "Research Updates" was provided by Erika Meler, DVM, MS, and Barrak Pressler, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907.