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Heat Stroke In Greyhounds: A Very
by Judy Kody
Paulsen, Founder, GCNM
(Excerpt from Summer 2002 issue of GCNM News)
Every summer brings with it statistics that sadden those of us who endeavor
to find good homes and responsible adopters for greyhounds. Those statistics
involve the number of greyhounds that have fallen prey to the effects
of weather and exercise conditions they cannot tolerate, specifically,
heat stroke. Every greyhound rescue program should
inform their adopters of the dangers of greyhounds exercising in warm
temperatures. Unfortunately, many times these warnings are
ignored or not taken seriously. Sometimes, even when all precautions are
taken, a greyhound succumbs to sudden, unexpected heat exhaustion, which
can result in death.
Long Distance Runners
Greyhounds are short distance sprinters: at no time while training or
racing are they exposed to long distance runs, even at a slow pace. Subsequent
to retirement, a greyhounds training and conditioning are discontinued
and it spends up to 22 hours a day in a crate, waiting for an adoptive
home or for the kill truck to remove it from the premises
and allow room for faster greyhounds. This inactivity makes a retired
racing greyhound especially vulnerable to injury or death resulting from
sudden increases in its activity. While an adoptive home is the preferred
destiny for these greyhounds, this environment can be deadly if necessary
precautions are not taken.
sedentary humans, retired greyhounds must be conditioned to endure even
a slow paced jog or walk.
dogs cannot sweat to cool off, they must pant, which is not a very efficient
method of reducing the bodys core temperature once it has elevated
to a critical point. Recognizing the symptoms that indicate a dog is in
distress due to heat can be very difficult since dogs usually pant during
and after exercise. Some greyhounds appear to
be more sensitive to heat and/or cold but unfortunately, determining which
ones fall into this category is virtually impossible.
Be aware of your dogs behavior during and
after any type of exercise. In greyhounds that have an especially
high prey drive, the mere agitation of seeing another animal running can
produce a rapid rate of respiration with increased heart rate and can
result in an elevated body temperature. A greyhound
off lead in a situation where it can chase anything can literally run
itself to death, particularly in warmer temperatures. Even
a greyhound on lead, accompanying a person for a leisurely jog, can succumb
to heat stroke if it sees something that stimulates its prey drive to
produce the effects described above (increased respiration/heart rate).
of exertion that produce very rapid breathing accompanied by obvious pain,
discomfort and/or weakness, the dog needs immediate professional attention.
Muscle pain along the back or in the legs (particularly the hind legs)
is an indication of serious injury from heat exhaustion. Occasionally,
the dog will exhibit distress by acting confused and appear to have difficulty
lying down - changing positions from standing to lying down can be very
painful. There may be a tendency for the dog to drag the hind legs while
walking, scraping the nails along the ground. Your
swift response to these symptoms can mean the difference between life
As quickly as possible,
the dog should be transported to a veterinarian. Steps
should be taken to cool the dog with whatever means are available while
awaiting transportation. Move the dog to an air conditioned
home or car; cold, wet blankets or towels draped over the body and changed
frequently; ice or cold water on the feet; shade - any or all of the above
will improve your dogs chances for survival. Cold therapy should
be discontinued when the body temperature returns to normal (102.5 degrees).
At that time, the dog should be kept in an environment that is at about
you arrive at the veterinarians office, it is imperative to let
them know this is an emergency heat stroke case. Most veterinarians
offices are familiar with the need to treat these cases without delay.
Most cases of heat exhaustion require IV fluids to stabilize the dog.
This will mean leaving your dog at the vets office for at least
24 hours, depending on the severity of the case.
Ideal Companion, But Not For Running
Its easy to underestimate the seriousness of ignoring the very unique
physiological make-up of a greyhound - they are extremely sensitive in
many ways. The fastest breed of canine known
to man, greyhounds should never be mistaken for a breed with extraordinary
stamina, for they are not. Ideally, greyhounds should not be perceived
as running partners, but rather companions for leisurely strolls in mild
temperatures so you can show them off to envious admirers of these elegant
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