Saturday, June 20, 2009

Heat Stroke in Greyhounds

This was passed on to me through one of my greyhound groups recently. It's VERY hot this time of year, particularly down South right now. We have been in the mid-90's with no rain for weeks now. We have to keep a close eye on our hounds and make sure they stay safe and don't over-heat. Keep your hounds safe and cool this summer!

"Heatstroke in Greyhounds: What You Need to Know"
By Judy Kody Paulsen, Founder
(Excerpt from Spring/Summer 2007 issue of GCNM News)

"I am grateful for the help of Suzanne Stack, DVM, in preparing this article. Dr. Stack is a 1985 Ohio State graduate currently practicing near her home in Yuma, Arizona. Previously, she served as a State Racing Board Veterinarian in Wisconsin and as a track vet in Texas at Valley Greyhound Park. Dr. Stack worked closely with Arizona Adopt a Greyhound (AAGI) for a number of years and still volunteers with that group.

The relative lack of information on canine heat-related and exertional ailments is alarming, considering how common the occurrence is among dogs of all breeds, particularly greyhounds. Not surprisingly, there is contradictory information on how to handle these sometimes fatal catastrophes.

Racing greyhounds are finely-tuned athletes and are usually conditioned by professional trainers. A racer’s performance while training and racing is (or should be) closely monitored. The onset of heatstroke or another debilitating and potentially life-threatening muscle disorder called hyperacute exertional rhabdomyolysis (HER) are two things no trainer wants to see.

Varying degrees of heat/exertional illness require specific treatment approaches to avoid permanent damage to muscle fibers, kidneys, and other organs. An experienced greyhound trainer has the expertise to recognize when a greyhound has been afflicted with one of these medical crises and knows the urgency in administering appropriate treatment.

Once the greyhound has left the racing environment and is lucky enough to be adopted, there are still numerous perils to which the dog may be exposed. One of the most common, yet least considered dangers, is that of over-exertion.

Well-meaning adopters want to give their greyhounds freedom to run and exercise, but it must be understood that unlike humans, dogs do not possess the ability to gauge their fitness and adjust their level of effort accordingly. Retired racers, depending on how long they’ve been off the track and how compromised their physical health might be, are at serious risk for experiencing critical problems when allowed to over-exert themselves.

Both hyperacute exertional rhabdomyolysis and heatstroke can kill a greyhound, particularly an unfit one. Physical effects can vary, but these two urgent conditions can show similar signs, including heavy panting; generalized muscle pain as evidenced by showing sensitivity to touch; muscle tremors; cardiac arrhythmia; a tendency to drag the hind legs or collapse; and extreme difficulty in changing position from standing to lying or vice versa. Treatment for both these maladies is basically the same, but the key is to administer it quickly.

Immediate, appropriate therapy is vital to the dog’s recovery. The body temperature must be brought down as quickly as possible. Rapid cooling can be accomplished with hosing down the dog, applying cool wet towels over the body, and exposure to a fan or air conditioning in house or car. Try to avoid producing a shivering response as this can create more heat in the body.

Transport the dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible and be sure to inform the vet’s office you are on the way with a dog in severe distress from apparent heatstroke. They can then prepare the necessary items for treatment.

The possibility of resulting bleeding disorders will require appropriate medications and, if available, frozen plasma. Not all vet’s offices will have plasma, although an emergency vet clinic is more likely to have this on hand.

IV fluids should be administered as soon as possible to prevent the onset of shock and to aid in flushing the kidneys of harmful byproducts leaking from damaged muscles. In researching this article, it is evident there is some disagreement over what solution is best for the IV. Some veterinarians feel .9% sodium chloride (normal saline) is adequate, while others feel it is prudent to use an electrolyte combination solution.

The effects of heatstroke or HER are not corrected in one day at the vet’s office. In-patient care is necessary for proper treatment and recovery. Several weeks of rest at home may be required for convalescence. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication should help reduce muscle inflammation and subdue the pain. Antibiotics may be recommended by your veterinarian to prevent secondary infection.

Given the greyhound’s purpose as a performance dog and the conditions under which they are trained, raced, confined, and transported, it is safe to assume many racers have experienced one or more episodes of heat/exertional ailments. These dogs may then have a predisposition for future episodes of similar illnesses and likely will have compromised kidneys and other organs. Consequently, great care should be taken to protect them from over-exertion and heat-related illness.

The following are some of the risk factors for heatstroke published in The 5-minute Veterinary Consult by Larry Tilley, DVM and Francis W.K. Smith, Jr., DVM: Previous history of heat-related disease; age extremes; heat intolerance due to poor acclimatization; obesity; poor cardiopulmonary conditioning; hyperthyroidism; underlying cardiopulmonary disease; dehydration.

Anecdotal reports from adopters whose greyhounds have experienced heat- or exertion-related episodes suggest that adopters need to be better informed of the dangers of allowing their retired racers free reign to run, particularly in hot, humid conditions. Obese greyhounds will be especially susceptible to the effects of over-exertion. Even on cold days, given the right conditions, a greyhound can collapse from over-exertion.

Extreme excitability in greyhounds, even while on a leash or in a fenced yard, can produce a combination of life-threatening factors which require immediate intervention by at least cooling the dog down and eliminating the stimulus (think high-prey-drive greyhound on a leash as a rabbit runs by!).

People who report coming home to a dead or dying dog should take into consideration the environment when evaluating the cause. Broken air conditioners on hot days, lack of shade outdoors, excessive excitement or exertion (possibly running the fence line with another dog), absence of water to drink – these factors can kill a dog or take them to the brink of death. Hot, humid conditions are by far the most deadly.

The frequency with which adopters report greyhounds “dropped dead from a heart attack,” when no previous indications of heart problems existed, suggests that death by heatstroke or HER may not be so uncommon. Only necropsy can identify the likely cause of death.

Close supervision of retired racing greyhounds’ exercise routines, particularly those new to their homes, should be recommended to all adopters. Greyhounds who appear to tire quickly, pant excessively, and/or appear to be reluctant to move after exercise, should be limited to mild or moderate exercise and then, only under supervision.

Close attention to heat and humidity in the environment is paramount in protecting a vulnerable greyhound from heatstroke or HER. A conditioning program similar to that of a human athlete (gradual increase in intensity of workouts) should be implemented before allowing retired racers to engage in physical activities which substantially increase heart rate and respiration.

Greyhounds lucky enough to have been placed in a loving adoptive home deserve to have more than food, shelter, and attention. Responsible guardianship of retired racers includes being armed with the knowledge to protect them from the hidden dangers that await these athletes once they leave the tracks and training farms. A few precautions and observations can save your greyhound’s life."

Monday, June 15, 2009

The pictures are in!!!

These are the pics we had taken, by Sisters Pet Pics, for the 2010 GPA-LA/MS Calendar. It's not all the shots we took, just the ones we chose to purchase. If you haven't scheduled a shoot for your hound(s), you should! Enjoy!

Oh, be sure to check out the Sisters blog and subscribe. They have lots of greyt pet pics, including more greyhounds, as well as lots of good photography advice and insight. There blog can be found in my "Greyt Reads" list to the right or here.

Without further ado... here are the pictures!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

To muzzle, or not to muzzle...

Ah, the muzzle. The question of whether to use or not use a muzzle is often a complex one. Should you or shouldn't you? When should you if you do? Many of these questions are often answered for you by someone in your group or just by how you"feel" about the muzzle. Many people feel bad about muzzling there dogs and outside of the greyhound community there is often quite a negative stigma about muzzling.

Personally, I am pro-muzzle. We use the muzzle as a tool of sorts to keep our hounds and others safe. No, none of my dogs are aggressive, but they are dogs. With dogs, stuff happens. These dogs have had muzzles on and off for quite a while. No, they are not always thrilled about it. We have 2 champion muzzle rubbers. Anna and Dax will rub their heads on whahever they can to show they want them off, but it's for their safety. I am not into taking any chances with the safety of my hounds.

We generally muzzle in only a few situations:
1-When we are not home or are outside for a prolonged period of time. Basically, when the dogs are unsupervised.
2-When the dogs go out in the yard, unless we are outside with them.
3-Whenever a new dog is brought into our home. All hounds are muzzled and remain so until everyone seems cool and the foster is okay with the cats.
4-In the car.
5-In public if other people are being irresponsible about their dogs.

Those are, in a nut-shell, when we use the muzzle. Now, you may ask why. Let's start with when he hounds are unsupervised. My greys have lived together, as a trio, for almost 2 years now. Everyone is generally civil. BUT, Dax is a bit of a growly face. It is just how he is. We had a food incident, with both of us present, between Berry White and Dax a few months after Dax arrived. Dogs will be dogs, and you just never know what they will do. We also muzzle when they are alone to protect them from stuff in the house. Our home is very greyhound friendly, but you never know what they might decide they want to chew on. I live with 3 reformed chewers, but they have lots of toys and they can be destructive. The muzzle keeps them from getting into trouble, or at the least, makes it less likely. We also muzzle in this situation to protect the cats. Berry White was cat correctable, and actually gives us the least trouble despite his prey-drive outside of our home. Dax was also correctable and took some work. I am still not 100% that he would not get one of the cats, as he will still occassionally go for a chase and stalk them. And then there is Anna, who, at her first group, tested totally cat safe and she is 99% of the time. She is also silent 99% of the time. Well, we were reminded 2 nights ago why we muzzle when they are home alone. We were in bed. Berry White was in the bed and the other two were on the floor on dog beds. I don't know what happened, but, all of the sudden, Anna starts barking aggressively and has one of our cats cornered under stool in our room. We diffuse the situation before Dax got involved. Everyone was fine, but I don't want to know what could have happened if we weren't there.

Next, is muzzling out in the yard. Sometimes we let them go unmuzzled if we are with them, but generally muzzles go one before the back door opens. They even wait for them to be put on. My hounds play hard. Berry White and Dax are both quite mouthy. They run, they chase and they nip, all a perfect mix for someone to get mad and for their to be a fight. We take no chances. It also allows us to minimize the poop and grass eating by using muzzles with stool guards. This concept extends over to situations like play days. Any time there is a group of greyhounds running and playing together, there is always the chance for rough-housing, and I would use a muzzle.

The third muzzle situation is with new dogs in our home. We have a foster introduction routine. My hounds are muzzled and put outside. The new hound is muzzle and showed around the house. Then we bring the new hound outside and they see the yard and meet our hounds. It is not totally uncommon for their to be some grumbling amongst the furious sniffing that comes with meeting a new dog. Everyone is muzzled, so there is very little concern of an incident. Once everyone has calmed, we all go in. Muzzles stay on until it is clear the new hound and ours have settled and that the new hound does not see the cats as food. This time period can vary from a few minutes to a day or so. It mostly depends on the foster hound.

The next muzzle situation is in the car. The dogs are in a confined space, sometimes for a long period of time. They step on eachother, bump eachother, roll on eachother and are not always thrilled about that, so grumbling becomes inevitable. I do not want a scuffle to start while we are driving down the road.

The final muzzle situation is out in public around irresponsible dog owners. This actually mostly depends on which hound I have. Berry White is really the only one we have an issue with other dogs. He thinks every other breed is something to be mouthed. He is not aggressive, he just wants to use his mouth instead of his nose to meet them. We do a good job of keeping him under control, but that have been instances where it has become difficult due to the behavior of others, and we put the muzzle on.

So, I hope I have not made it sound like I have these 3 bully, aggressive greyhounds, because we do not. We are just very cautious. Our first group was very much in support of using the muzzle as a training and safety tool and that stuck with us and works for us. It may not be what is the best for everyone, but it is for us. The muzzle is not a bad thing. The hound might not be thrilled, but it isn't going to kill them and it is way better, and cheaper, than a trip to the e-vet and stitches!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

We took pictures!

Well, we did not TAKE pictures, but had our pictures taken. This past Saturday, we drove to Covington to the wonderful ladies of Sisters Pet Pics. They are taking the photos for the 2010 GPA-LA/MS Calendar. You go and have pictures taken of your hounds with the hope your pictures will be selected for the calendar. We were December last year!

With all the fan-fare we got last year, we had to take some good shots this year as well, and I believe we did. I do not have the photos to post yet, but one is up on the blog of the photographers. It's a great picture of Berry White. It is possibly the best picture of the entire shoot!

Here's the link to the photo:

Here is the link to their blog:

The Sisters are FANTASTIC to work with! We had fun last year and this year! If you are in our area, go on out. Have your hounds pictures taken. It is well worth it!

I will post the rest of the shots we purchased (Dax alone, Anna alone, all 3 hounds, and Tim & I with all 3 hounds) as soon as I have them.

On a side note, I hope you people out there are enjoying the little informative posts I am putting up every once in a while. I also plan on posting similars posts, but more from my experiences. The first one I have come up with has to do with leashes, collars & tages. I hope to post it soon. Just have to sit down and write it :)