Whippet hereditary health and health testing

Whippet hereditary health and health testing

Health & Safety

The whippet is a medium sized dog from the sighthound grouping, which is lean, lithe and leggy! They originate from the UK and share a strong resemblance to greyhounds, to whom they are closely related. The first dogs that later became the whippet breed were actually bred as greyhounds, but were dogs of the breed that were considered to be too small for hunting.

Later bred to catch rabbits and rats, the whippet ultimately became popular as a racing dog breed, and today, can still be seen competing at dog tracks all over the country. The whippet has the highest top speed in ratio to their weight of any dog breed, and they are also the dog with the fastest rate of acceleration in the world!

As well as being used for racing and in some areas, lamping, the whippet today is most commonly kept as a pet, and is prized as a laid back, loving and relatively lazy breed outside of their occasional bursts of high running speed! As a popular pet, you probably won’t have to travel too far or wait too long if you wish to buy a whippet puppy, but before you commit to a purchase, it is important to spend some time researching the breed in detail before you decide that the whippet is the right dog for you.

In this article, we will look into the general health and health testing advised for the whippet dog breed, as well as their average lifespan. Read on to learn more!

Whippet longevity

The average lifespan of the whippet is 12-14 years, which places the breed towards the top of the average lifespan when compared to other dogs of a similar size and build. This reflects the breed’s diverse and well-established history and their general working prowess.

Genetic diversity

The coefficient of inbreeding statistic for the whippet is 9.5%, which is a reasonable degree higher than the accepted figure for pedigree dog breeds, being 6.25% or lower. This indicates that the whippet breed as a whole is subjected to a reasonable amount of inbreeding, which should not strictly be necessary due to the large number of dogs, and so potentially wide gene pool, of whippets within the UK.

The figure is possibly high partially due to the breeding of racing dogs, as race winners and dogs that perform well are often in demand for breeding.


The whippet is a very lean, leggy dog with a slender body and fine limbs. This can place the whippet at risk of injuries to their limbs as they are so finely boned, and care should be taken over running and high impact activities on hard and uneven surfaces.

Health testing for the whippet

The Kennel Club and the British Veterinary Association monitor the health of all registered pedigree dog breeds, and make recommendations on pre-breeding health screening in order to allow breeders to make an informed decision on their parent dogs. Professional breeders will undertake many of these health tests prior to breeding, and should make the results of such tests available to potential puppy buyers to help them to make a decision on a purchase.

Currently, the following health testing schemes are available for the whippet:

Please note that today the Kennel Club only recommends heart testing (ascultation) for this breed. The following health tests are just to show you as a breeder what is available if you would like to do an extended health check on your dog.

  • DNA testing for an eye condition called collie eye anomaly, which is not, as the name implies, unique to collie breeds.
  • DNA testing for MDR, or multi-drug sensitivity.
  • DNA testing for myostatin deficiencies.
  • Eye testing for progressive retinal atrophy and hereditary cataracts.
  • Whippet breed clubs also recommend heart health testing, to detect mitral valve insufficiencies.

Other health issues

As well as the health tests outlined above, which are designed to identify hereditary health defects prior to breeding, various other health conditions may also present within the whippet too, but without the benefit of pre-breeding health testing to identify them.

Such conditions include:

  • Canine cutaneous histiocytoma, a type of cancer.
  • Canine hypothyroidism, an underproduction of the necessary thyroid hormones, which requires lifelong hormone therapy to correct the anomaly.
  • Cushing’s disease, a condition caused by an excessive production of the body’s natural cortisol hormones, and which requires medication to correct.
  • Cervical disc disease, a painful condition of the neck caused by ruptured discs.
  • Double-muscling, or overdeveloped, very pronounced muscles, which is a condition that generally only affects racing dogs.
  • PFK or phosphofructokinase deficiency, a condition in which the body is unable to metabolise glucose into energy properly, leading to a destruction of the red blood cells and muscle wastage.
  • Certain immune disorders.
  • A hypersensitivity to certain veterinary drugs, most commonly those used as a general anaesthetic. This may necessitate the selection of different drugs from the norm when treating whippets.
  • Megaoesophagus, a condition of the oesophagus that leads to the regurgitation of food, and the potential for inhaling food into the lungs.


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