Italian greyhound longevity and hereditary health

Italian greyhound longevity and hereditary health

Health & Safety

The Italian greyhound is the smallest of all of the sighthound dog breeds, and is the only one to be classed as a toy dog. They stand up to 15” tall at the withers, and can weigh up to 8.2kg. This makes them taller than most other dogs that fall into the toy dog grouping, and they are included due to their lightweight build rather than particularly short height.

The Italian greyhound looks very much like a standard greyhound but on a miniature scale, with a slight, slender build and long legs comparatively to their weight. They are also fast on their feet like the standard greyhound, achieving a top running speed of up to 25mph, which is very impressive for such a small dog!

The Italian greyhound has a very short, fine coat that can be seen in a wide range of colours. The short coat and lightweight build of the dog means that they are apt to feeling the cold, and may need coats and even booties to keep them warm when walking in cold weather!

If you love sighthounds but don’t have the room for a large one, or love small dog breeds and are looking for something a little different, then the Italian greyhound might be a good choice of pet for you. If you are considering buying or adopting a dog of the breed, it is important to do plenty of research first, including examining the average lifespan and hereditary health of the breed in depth too. We will cover these aspects in more detail in this article.

Italian greyhound longevity

The average lifespan of the Italian greyhound is 9 years of age, which is rather lower than the average for dogs of a similar size and build across the board. However, this low average is not necessarily due to a propensity to poor health, but potentially because dogs of the breed are so fine and lightweight that they can easily become hurt and injured, which may affect their lifespan.

Genetic diversity

The coefficient of inbreeding statistic for the Italian greyhound is 10.9%, which is relatively high and above the accepted ideal of 6.25% or lower. This indicates that the Italian greyhound gene pool is subjected to a reasonable amount of inbreeding, and Italian greyhound breeders should seek to reduce this figure within their own breed lines where possible.


The slight, lightweight build of the Italian greyhound places them at potential risk of limb fractures and other leg injuries, as their legs are so fine and delicate. The Italian greyhound over all is a small and delicate dog, and special care should be taken to ensure that they do not become hurt by mistake.

Italian greyhound health and health testing

The Italian greyhound is notable for being one of the few breeds for which the British Veterinary Association does not advice health screening and testing for any hereditary conditions. However, it is possible to get dogs of the breed screened for certain conditions if desired, and such conditions include:

  • CERF eye testing for ocular health.
  • Testing for Von Willebrand’s factor, a blood clotting disorder.
  • X-ray examination for Legg-Calve-Perthes disease.

As well as these conditions that can be tested for prior to breeding, the Italian greyhound breed has also been identified to have a slight genetic predisposition to various other health problems. Some of the most commonly diagnosed conditions across the breed as a whole include:

  • Epilepsy, although epileptic dogs can often lead almost normal lives with medication. However, epileptic dogs should not be used for breeding.
  • Limb fractures and other injuries, due to the fineness of the limbs.
  • Polyendocrine syndrome, an autoimmune disorder.
  • Colitis, an inflammatory condition of the large bowel that has a propensity to recur, and may require a special diet.
  • Hereditary cataracts.
  • Patellar luxation, a condition in which the muscles and ligaments of the kneecaps do not hold the kneecaps in place properly, and may lead to their dislocation.
  • Vitreal syneresis of the eyes, a condition in which the vitreous fluid of the eyes becomes displaced, which may potentially lead to glaucoma.
  • Periodontal disease, which can lead to poor oral health including receding gums, poor tooth enamel and the loss of teeth.
  • Hypothyroidism, a condition in which the necessary thyroid hormones are not produced at a high enough level, leading to weight gain and lethargy. This can usually be managed with medication.
  • Colour dilution alopecia, a hair loss condition of dogs with dilute colour pigments in their fur, such as blue, fawn and brindle dogs.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy, an eye condition that leads to progressive blindness.
  • Autoimmune haemolytic anaemia
  • Liver shunt, a condition in which the blood that should be cleansed by the liver actually bypasses the liver, leading to a dangerous build-up of toxins in the blood.


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