Lurcher health and hereditary wellness

Lurcher health and hereditary wellness

Health & Safety

The lurcher is considered to be a cross breed dog rather than a purebred or pedigree, but is still one of the most recognisable and most commonly owned dog types within the UK. The term “lurcher” is used to refer to the crossing of any dog from the sighthound grouping, with any non-sighthound breed, although some mixes and crosses are more common than others. Two sighthound crosses are not considered to make a lurcher, but rather another non-pedigree dog type referred to as a “longdog.”

The lurcher originated in Ireland and parts of the UK, and was first bred to produce a working dog with the best traits of the sighthound and the other half of the crossing, to be used for working-hunting purposes.

The working lurcher should combine the traits of a high speed gait, high prey drive, intelligence and tenacity to fulfil their working roles, but today, the lurcher is also incredibly popular as a domestic dog, thanks to their kind natures and gentle temperaments.

Due to the range of crosses and combinations possible when breeding a lurcher, their appearance can be quite variable in terms of size, colour and shape, although they do tend to be lean, lithe and leggy. Most lurchers are shorthaired, but when the crossing involves a Saluki or Afghan hound, it can be medium to long as well.

If you are wondering if a lurcher is the right choice of dog for you, it is important to research the core traits of the type as a whole, and also the traits of the two breeds that make up each dog’s parentage. Part of this involves looking into the hereditary health and general wellness and any potential problems faced by the lurcher, which we will cover in more detail in this article. Read on to learn more.

Lurcher longevity

The average lifespan of the lurcher is generally 12-15 years, although this can vary quite widely depending on the breeds involved in the crossing. The lurcher type as a whole benefits from the advantages of hybrid vigour, which is achieved when two totally different dog breeds are crossed, introducing genetic diversity and generally helping to improve the overall health of the type as a whole.

Lurcher genetic diversity

While the genetic diversity of pedigree dog breeds can be ascertained by means of a statistic called the coefficient of inbreeding, which identifies the percentage value to which the breed as a whole is inbred, hybrid dog types such as the lurcher do not possess a set figure across the board.

Generally, the lurcher is considered to be more genetically diverse than either of their two parent breeds, and inbreeding and back crossing is not considered to be desirable within lurcher breed lines, as it is unnecessary to continue the type in perpetuity.


Lurchers tend to be relatively lithe and lightweight, with a balanced conformation that is fit for life. However, the general body shape of the lurcher can cause a couple of problems that potential owners should be aware of, although these conditions are not widely spread across the type as a whole.

  • First of all the fine, light legs of the lurcher makes them slightly prone to leg injuries and fractures, and care should be taken to stop the lurcher from running flat out on hard surfaces in order to avoid injuries.
  • Foot corns and other foot problems can affect sighthounds of all types, particularly those with greyhound ancestry, and owners should be aware of this too.
  • Finally, the deep yet narrow chest possessed by most lurchers places them slightly at risk of a condition called bloat or gastric torsion, which causes the stomach to fill with gas and potentially flip over on itself. This is an acute condition that requires prompt veterinary treatment to resolve.

Other health issues

As a cross breed dog that is not recognised as a pedigree, the lurcher is not a type for which The Kennel Club recommends pre-breeding health screening for potential parent dogs, nor one for which date is collated on hereditary health problems across the type.

Examining the health of the parent and grandparents dogs of the line, and the breeds that are crossed to produce the lurcher, is advised in order to identify potential predispositions to health problems. Some of the most common conditions that may present within lurchers are as follows:

  • Ivermectin sensitivity in lurchers with collie ancestry, which is an anti-parasitic drug sometimes used for veterinary treatment.
  • A sensitivity to an anaesthetic compound called sodium pentothal, a problem that usually presents in lurchers with greyhound ancestry.
  • Heart problems in larger lurchers, particularly those with greyhound or deerhound breeding. This tends to present in middle age.
  • Various types of cancers in lurchers of greyhound and deerhound ancestry, including osteosarcoma, or cancer of the bone.


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