Greyhound longevity and hereditary health

Greyhound longevity and hereditary health

Health & Safety

The Greyhound is one of the oldest of all of the dog breeds native to Europe, and one that has long been prized for their ability as a sighthound, traditionally used for hare coursing and other hunting roles but today more commonly used for racing. The greyhound also makes for an excellent domestic pet, and many of the greyhounds owned within the UK today are ex racing dogs, of which thousands are rehomed every year after their racing careers come to an end.

The greyhound is a large dog breed that is very lightweight and lithe, with the perfect conformation for racing and running at high speed. Despite the fact that the breed is among the fastest of land animals at a flat-out sprint, they do not have a significant degree of endurance, and tend to be relatively lazy other than when they are being exercised!

The male greyhound can stand up to 30” tall at the withers, and weigh up to 40kg, with females standing up to 28” tall and weighing up to 34kg. The greyhound coat can be seen in a huge variety of colours, with virtually every potential shade possible within the breed. Their coats are single layered, short and very fine, which can mean that greyhounds are prone to feeling the cold.

If you are wondering if a greyhound is a good choice of pet and are considering buying or adopting one, it is important to do plenty of research on the breed first, including looking into the average lifespan and hereditary health of the breed as a whole. We will examine these factors in more detail within this article.

Greyhound longevity

The average lifespan for the greyhound is 9-11 years of age, which places them towards the low middle of the average rankings across the board for dogs of a similar size. In the case of ex racing greyhounds, injuries and damage sustained while racing may potentially contribute to the shorter end of the lifespan for dogs of the breed.

Genetic diversity

The coefficient of inbreeding statistic for the greyhound breed is 8.8%, which indicates that the breed is subjected to a reasonable degree of inbreeding. Below 6.25% is considered to be optimum for pedigree dog breeds, and so breeders should seek to reduce this figure where possible within their own breed lines.


The greyhound is a lithe, leggy and highly streamlined dog that is considered to have a very workmanlike build, and is not prone to exaggerations that might adversely affect the health of the dog. However, the long, fine limbs of the dog does make them slightly at risk for injuries to the legs, particularly in racing dogs and ex racing dogs of the breed.

Heath testing for greyhounds

The greyhound breed as a whole is considered to be a healthy, diverse one, and injuries due to impacts are more likely to pose a health risk to the breed as a whole than hereditary health problems. That being said, greyhound breed organisations and the British Veterinary Association do recommend a couple of tests and health schemes for the greyhound, in order to improve the health of the breed as a whole. These tests are:

  • Eye testing for a propensity to lens luxation, and also progressive retinal atrophy, an irreversible and progressive blindness.
  • DNA testing for polyneuropathy, a condition that leads to muscle weakness and an intolerance for exercise.

Generalised health concerns across the breed

While the greyhound breed as a whole is considered to be a healthy, well balanced dog that is fit for life, there is quite a wide range of other health conditions that may potentially affect dogs of the breed, but for which no pre-breeding testing is available. These conditions include:

  • A sensitivity to a veterinary drug called Thiopentone, which means that alternatives should be used for veterinary procedures.
  • A propensity to pattern baldness on the thighs.
  • Post-operative bleeding, due to a lack of clotting platelets.
  • A condition of the claws and nail beds called onychodystrophy, which causes the nails to be weak and prone to breaking and splitting.
  • Fracturing of the growth plates, particularly in young racing dogs.
  • Polyarthritis, a form of arthritis that affects various areas of the body.
  • Various cancers, including osteosarcoma or cancer of the bones, and melanomas, cancers of the skin.
  • Chronic superficial keratitis, an eye problem that causes inflammation of the cornea.
  • Meningoencephalitis, an autoimmune disease.
  • High blood pressure, or hypertension.
  • Von Willebrand’s disease, a blood clotting disorder that can lead to dangerous levels of bleeding if the dog is hurt or injured.
  • A propensity to rigid paralysis and post-exercise hypothermia, particularly in racing dogs and dogs that are run flat out regularly.
  • Cutaneous vasculopathy, a form of thrombosis that causes the skin to ulcer, and which can be painful and very slow to heal.


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