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GREYHOUND HEALTH ISSUES AFTER RACING FROM SOUP TO NUTS

The following is a transcript of a lecture given by David Wolf at the North American Veterinary Conference in January 2004.

David G. Wolf- Bachelor of Science, Temple University - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Director - National Greyhound Adoption Program President and CEO Wolf Investment Corporation (Industrial Real Estate Ownership & Management)

NGAP

National Greyhound Adoption Program, although not the oldest adoption program in the United States, presently is the most diverse. We currently adopt approximately 500 greyhounds each year. We now will see many of them throughout their lives. We care for them coming directly from greyhound tracks and in some cases serve their medical needs routinely in major surgery other than orthopedic as well as euthanasia due to terminal illness.

We will see over 2000 greyhounds this year in clinic under anesthesia protocols. We will board over 1000 greyhounds this year and continue to increase those numbers. We routinely see geriatric greyhounds between 9-14 years old every week and do not hesitate doing anesthetic procedures for even the oldest greyhound. When it comes to dentistry; this year we will do over 2000 procedures with significant amounts of extractions and bonding.

We continue to study thyroid, separation anxiety, blood coagulation, and any other medical issue where there is a question and we can possibly find a solution. I am not a veterinarian; I am a businessperson and the executive officer for an industrial management firm. I am at our kennel compound most days a week since we have 80-100 greyhounds in house year-round. I will see our greyhounds more often than our staff vets that work 2 days a week; I therefore see them before surgery, during recovery and after surgery. I believe I bring a different perspective to veterinary care, specifically because I am not a vet. I work with our vet staff during surgery most days and I have been doing this for over 14 years.

Dentistry

greyhound laser tooth treatment

National Greyhound Adoption Program probably does more dentistry on greyhounds than anywhere in the United States. A testament to that fact is the large jar of over 3,000 teeth that sits on my desk. I consider a greyhound's mouth to be the # 1 impactable health issue for greyhound owners. And they must be diligent with home care combined with professional vet care if they wish to keep their greyhounds mouth healthy and in turn their greyhound healthy. Greyhounds come to us from greyhound racing facilities generally between 2 and 3 years old, sometimes older.

All of the greyhounds will have their. teeth cleaned ultrasonically, polished (Pro V Sealed), and have extractions or bonding done if need be. If these greyhounds do not get home care, we may see them in 2 years or 3 years and have to do 15 extractions. The most dentistry we do is on those dogs returned to us for outpatient services. We generally do 30 dentals per surgery session. Some procedures are without anesthesia, we call those "touch ups". Most greyhounds will stand or lay on the prep table and permit you to ultrasonically clean the outer surfaces (canines & molars). Greyhounds in boarding will usually get this touch up. The next is a Domitor/Antisedan sedation procedure where mostly cleaning and polishing is done.

Over 1,000 procedures are done annually under Domitor. Greyhounds under Domitor get a full dental procedure including polishing and ProVSeal treatment, at the same time their ears are cleaned and most will get an extreme nail cutback. There are times when after cleaning with Domitor we will mask and then intubate then use Isoflourene if extractions are necessary. We do smaller extractions with Domitor and local anesthetics but not molars. After the procedure is complete we administer Antisedan intravenously, lay the greyhound on the floor and wait usually less than two minutes for it to awaken. We've done Domitor/Antisedan procedures between 4, 000 - 5, 000 times since 1998 never having any problems. It has not worked as well for us on other breeds in terms of getting them sedated as smoothly and quickly as greyhounds.

If we're very busy we'll often pre-anesthetize some of the dogs so we don't have to wait for them to drop. Since they will usually sleep 30-45 minutes preanesthetizing works well and that's when the procedure will work the best. If the dog is agitated when the Domitor is intravenously administered, it will likely not sleep as deep and the dog may be restless. For those distressed dogs pre-anesthetizing would be appropriate. For the past 2 years we've done dental bonding and find its use appropriate for some molars and root exposed canines.

Finally about 1,000 times each year we will use general anesthesia. Under general anesthesia, I believe our vets have considerable skills with extractions; we use products such as Hemodets and Gelfoam to control bleeding and we use 2/0 and 3/0 PDS to close the extraction sites. We rarely have postoperative problems with extractions such as bleeding even though greyhounds have coagulation problems. Doxirobe, an antibiotic gel, is often used to fill deep pockets and is sometimes done instead of extractions.

greyhound dental care

We will sometimes have postoperative swelling in possibly 2%of our surgeries. The swelling is not severe. Both pre-op and post-op, Rimadyl, Mobic Meloxicam or Edogesic is used if there is swelling; Benadryl is used and in severe cases Prednisone. Antibiotics are used pre-op and post-op, usually Calvamox or Antirobe. There have been times when we've done upper canine extractions where we have not gotten full closure days after the procedure and may need to address this problem surgically; usually using Domitor and Lidacane locally to reclose the wound.

Aggressive dentistry is a matter of proper patient education. It is the obligation of the veterinarian to instill in the clients the importance of a healthy mouth. I very often relate a dog's mouth to a person's mouth. People have educated tongues, dogs do not. People can use their tongue to clean food debris out of their teeth whenever debris is caught between their lip and gum.

After eating chicken, pork, and other things, it bothers us when food fragments are caught between our teeth. We use our educated tongue, tooth brush, dental floss, and tooth picks just to name a few of the implements used to make the debris go away. Greyhounds and other canines cannot do that; they rely on us to help them. We also have educated fingers; our index finger is educated to the point of where we can use it on our greyhounds or other breed to free much of the debris away. Just slide your finger between their lip and gum after each meal.

Finger Brush

A finger brush is helpful for this routine. Adding supplements to the dogs' water is also helpful and certainly brushing everyday is the best alternative. Brushing once every other week just doesn't cut it. Veterinarians need to recognize root exposure and it is my belief that the best way to cure root exposure is to extract teeth if the exposure is significant. Dogs do not need teeth to survive and be healthy. Most do not chew food and we only give them snacks, which they will chew often just to help keep their teeth clean.

Veterinarians must convince clients that extractions are good where needed, not bad and keep reinforcing that edict. We continue to get testimonials from people whose dogs have had multiple extractions that their dogs feel and act much better I personally am not in favor of exotic dentistry to save teeth. Pedigree has come out with a new food for senior dogs; which is a softer kibble. I'm not quite sure this softer kibble won't add to dentistry problems and I am very weary of suggesting its use.

Food Supplement

There are several occasions during the course of the year when treating health compromised greyhounds food supplements are needed. Many of these occasions are due to dental extractions. In some cases, if dogs are not truly sick, they may have just gotten "off track". Our primary stand-by for dogs whose adopters say, "Mr. Wolf, my dog has not eaten for three days", we offer Science Diet AD. If that doesn't immediately attract them to eating, we may force feed 1/3 of a can of AD.

Usually, if they're not terminally ill, they'll eat the balance in short order. We've found use of A.D. a substantial advantage for dogs that are not eating at all or are not eating enough food. We always keep at least five cases of A.D. in stock at all times. The perfect example just occurred as I was writing information on food supplement.

On November 11, 2003, an 11-year-old greyhound was presented at our clinic. We were told she'd not been eating well. An exam of her mouth indicated an overall very poor condition. We took her into surgery and administered an intravenous standard medication; Clavamox, and during surgery; Morphine. Treatment was 35 extractions, including I canine. Doxyrobe treatment for 3 canines and bonding, totaled around 3 canine root exposed areas. Although her temperature was depressed immediately after surgery, she recovered well. The following morning, although she had some swelling, she ate 2 cans of AD.

Thyroid Supplementation

My position on thyroid supplementation may be controversial, the opinions I have on the subject are based on 15 years of greyhound adoptions. Probably 90%of greyhounds will test below the normal range of 1.0 to 4.0. Many parties believe that these canines are not hypothyroid but rather predisposed to low T-4 levels. Our primary focus on the clinical signs of hypothyroidism is behavior and esteem; dogs that don't handle thunderstorms, dogs that are shy, dogs that are spooks, dogs that don't interact well with other dogs, dogs that are uncomfortable with a car ride, and dogs that simply do not feel good about themselves fall under my category of hypothyroidism.

thyroid supplement

Those dogs do well on thyroid supplementation and it is my belief that Soloxine is far superior in tons of results compared to generic brands. This is based on our in-house clinical studies as well as numerous adopters' constant statements that generics just don't cut it. It is also my belief that the considered normal dosage does little or nothing in changing these behaviors. It is important that a dog be at the top of the normal range if not beyond in order for appropriate behavior to kick in.

Over the years people have written from time to time that their dog almost died from thyroid supplementation, none of these dogs have been adopted through our program and we do not know what other health implications were involved. We have seen truly significant, positive changes in behavior, sometimes dosing as high as 2 pills at .8 BID. We've not seen over the years any negative effects due to high dose thyroid supplementation and I personally would rather see a dog have a shorter happy, healthy, good quality of life, as opposed to a longer, miserable, unhealthy existence.

Make you greyhound happy

Everyone wants their greyhound or other breed of dog to be happy and content, the same applies to other pets, although we don't have considerable experience with thyroid supplementation with other breeds. One of my own Italian greyhounds is on this therapy and if we were to take it away we would find him in the closet.

We recommend after initial high dosage that T-4 retesting should be done at least once a year. We've found a greyhound's thyroid level without medication changes insignificantly throughout their lives as they get older.

I first became aware of Soloxine (thyroid supplement) having a behavior impact on a greyhound about 12 years ago when an adopter in Seattle, Washington told us a veterinarian recommended it for dogs with fear of thunderstorms and it helped. That initial concept was a remarkable discovery and slowly evolved into a careful evaluation of greyhound behavior and the problems we need to solve. A percentage of greyhounds fall into the following clinical behavior:

  • Low esteem
  • Poor interaction with strangers
  • Poor interaction with other dogs
  • Shyness
  • Spooked
  • Fear of thunderstorms
  • Glued to the back of a cage or closet

Other signs such as being lethargic, overweight, or hair loss take a backseat for me. Initially based on our T-4 tests, we used Soloxine from .2 to .8 as the years passed I noted that those greyhounds on higher doses of the supplement did much better, and for those on lower doses it was a waste of time. Ultimately, we now only dose .6, .7, and .8 as minimum doses BID. When retesting was done only those dogs with T-4 results of 3.5 to 5.0 really had significant improvement.

I remember a beautiful red male whose biggest problem was tile floors. Only when he was on higher doses did he lose his fear of those floors. Spooky was the one clinical trial that we did the most T-4 testing. He came in and was the ultimate spook. I visited him almost daily. We did nothing for weeks and saw no improvement as he adjusted to his new environment. He was glued to the back of the cage. We started him on .8 Soloxine BID and saw a big change in his behavior. He would now come off the back of the cage.

After one week, we doubled his dose and he became my best friend. I personally had him out in one of our runs playing and called him and he came to me. A spook will never do that. He was on the doubled dose for about ten days and we began reducing his dose to zero (0).

As we did it he slowly regressed, he never went back to the depths of shyness he originally had, but he was no longer my best friend. We monitored his T-4 level for quite some time and with no medication it took over five weeks for his T-4 level to go back to its original level. I saw him several months later on .8 BID, and he was a happy dog. Listed below is the rise and fall of his T-4 levels.

Date Result Dosage
4/02/020.3before medication
4/05/021.2.8 BID
4/09/022.3.8 BID
4/16/023.7.8 BID
4/23/023.5.8 BID
4/25/024.21.6 BID
4/30/025.21.6 BID
5/03/023.7.8 BID
5/10/022.2.8 BID
5/17/021.2taken off all supplement
5/22/020.9taken off all supplement
5/24/020.7taken off all supplement
6/04/020.6taken off all supplement
6/07/020.8taken off all supplement
6/20/020.4taken off all supplement

We have now been dispensing Soloxine for several years and very early on I felt the results were much better with the use of Soloxine over generic brands. This has been reinforced recently when Soloxine was in short supply or no supply and other brands were used. We received many calls that the medication was not working; I know that first hand. One of our great success stories is my own Italian Greyhound who was a spook when we got him; only on high dose supplement is he a happy camper. If we miss one day, we see the difference. I have now convinced my wife after many years of being a skeptic, and if I can convince her I feel I'm over the hump.

Is there a down side? If there is, I haven't seen it. We have not seen cases of greyhounds on long-term thyroid supplement having any adverse health implications. I would personally prefer seeing a dog have a shorter, happier, fulfilling, joyful, good quality of life lifespan, as opposed to a longer, miserable, depressed, existence. Greyhounds that come to us with low T-4 levels but high esteem are not put on thyroid supplement. Only a very small number of greyhounds do not favorably respond to thyroid supplementation.

Diagnostic levels

Presently every greyhound that comes to our facility has CBC blood diagnostic work done. We've taken samples of 268 greyhounds and averaged the blood studies for those greyhounds for your use. We actually have studies on a far greater number but have not yet put it into a database; which should be completed at the time of this presentation and will be distributed to those attending. You must understand these studies are done as the dogs are coming from the greyhound racing facilities, some levels may well be compromised because of that. Initially, our greatest concern is platelet counts; which 90%of greyhounds will have platelet levels below the normal range. In this study of 268 greyhounds, 21 had platelet counts above 225,000.

Test Normal Range Avg based on 268 tests Test Normal Range Avg based on 268 tests
WBC 6 - 7 8.22 MCV 60 - 72 69.36
LYM 1.2 - 4.5 1.01 RDW 12 - 16 14.39
MON 0.3 - 1.0 1.01 RBC 12 - 16 14.39
GRA 3.5 - 12.0 0.26 HGB 12 - 18 18.58
LYM% .01 - 99.99 7.04 MCHC 34 - 38 35.33
MON% 0.1 - 99.99 4.19 MCH 19.5 - 24.5 25.18
GRA% 0.1 - 99.99 85.51 PLT 200 - 500 163.96
HCT 37 - 55 51.04 MPV 6.1 - 10.1 11.27

We use Heska CBC machines at our facility.

Extreme Cutback

For the past few years we've done a procedure that I initiated after seeing so many greyhounds come to us with such long nails. Under anesthesia protocols, the nails are cutback to approximately 3/8 of an inch, sometimes a little longer, obviously cutting into the quick extensively. The bleeding is quickly stopped with QwikStop, unless the nail is twisted, there are usually no negative after-effects from this procedure. Most adopters usually now ask for our extreme cutback.

Coagulation

When we first began surgery it was out-sourced, we've been doing surgery in-house since about 1995. Our biggest problem in surgery was the potential of hemorrhage postoperatively for female greyhounds. We originally did glass slide coagulation as a barometer for spaying, our cutoff was 12 minutes, and some would have times as long as 26 minutes. In 1998 we took those greyhounds with the highest glass slide numbers and began sending them out for Von Willebrand testing.

All of those greyhounds generally fell into the carrier classification, this initially led testing to a full-blown study; where over 500 greyhounds blood samples were sent to Cornell University. We ultimately found that 75% are Von Willebrand positive and 40% are carriers. Greyhounds also have significantly low platelet counts, normally ranging from 20,000 to 220,000, my guess is their average platelet count is 135,000- 140,000. We are currently analyzing all CBC data, which will be available at lecture time. From time to time we will see non-greyhounds in a variety of breeds, although we no longer do glass slide coagulation, when it was done, the glass slide numbers were significantly lower than greyhounds numbers by far. The Bocul-mucosal numbers were under 3 minutes, which is rare to see a greyhound ever with a number that low.

Over the years we've made efforts to find a magic bullet to improve coagulation; Prednisone, herbal remedies, vitamin supplement and thyroid supplementation. The only thing that appears to show any beneficial improvement is the thyroid supplement. We cannot necessarily explain why. All female greyhounds receive .8 bid after their base line test has been done until surgery. We didn't use to do a significant number of spays because of poor coagulation; we now literally spay all females.

It is my opinion that some females may have some internal hemorrhaging post-op; subsequently making it take longer to recover. Females are generally kept in a post-operation area for at least 48 hours after surgery and sometimes longer. Literally every greyhound that you draw blood from and have a hematoma, immediately thereafter you can be assured that greyhound has very low platelet Counts and is a Von Willebrand carrier.

Anesthesia

We basically use 2 anesthesia protocols in surgery, for general anesthesia we use 1:2 (v:v) Ketamine: Diazepam mixture 1m1/6-10 lbs is given intravenously, sleep is almost immediate. The effects you will see are different from when you induce a non-sight hound. Dogs do not endure total muscular relaxation; the eyes remain central with a strong blinking reflex, Intubation is moderately easy but the jaw is not relaxed. Tn other words; the dog looks awake and has muscle tone but is not struggling. We then maintain the dog on 3-4% Isoflurane, watching the eyes roll down and the heartbeat begin to decrease.

In a few rare cases we may use 5% Isoflurane, but usually 2% is enough to go on with surgery from that point. All the greyhounds are given pain modification pre-op - that being one of several; Rimadyl, Etogesic, as well as Vioxx, and Mobic. Our general anesthesia procedures include neutering/spaying, toe amputations, tail amputations, dental extractions, vulva tucks, eye removal, and leg amputations. For leg amputations we use a heated table, for other general anesthesia procedures it is not necessary.

Post-operatively after most procedures the dogs are covered with an ice-water towel. This has eliminated any elevated post-op temperatures and the dogs awaken easier. Even with a heated surgery table, post-op leg amputation body temperatures are normally 97degrees Fahrenheit and sometimes a little lower. Post-operatively after leg amputation or other long procedure, a heating pad may be used as well as being covered with blankets. Post-op after anesthesia - males are usually on their feet within 15 minutes, females may take a bit longer.

In their awakening they may thrash for a few minutes while coming out of anesthesia but the dogs do not hurt themselves and rarely do we ever have a stressful awakening. In the few cases where we've seen a stressful awakening; the dogs were given an injection of Torbugesic 2mg, 1-2cc TM. For us it is normal to do dental immediately following the neuter or spay, unless some other health issue that cause us not to do this. Greyhounds coming off the tracks will always need dentistry, a few will need extractions and some may need bonding.

Our second anesthesia protocol is Domitor/Antisedan. We administer 1 cc for most greyhounds. We've used it since 1999 probably over 4000 times at this point. For greyhounds it is truly a wonderful drug. When Domitor is administered, normally IV, the dogs are usually sleeping within 2-4 minutes. Depending on your work schedule, we sometimes suggest pre-administration. We use Domitor Antisedan for most dental procedures where extractions initially are not indicated. If we find we need to do extractions of smaller teeth including incisors, we will generally inject the area of extraction with Lidocane. Our dogs will tolerate dentistry well including polishing and bonding. We use it routinely on greyhounds between 9 and 13 years old and older. We've not had a concern over reduced heart rate. We haven't been able to pinpoint any singular complication due to this drug over the four years we've used it without reversal for up to an hour.

When we inject the dog, we try to have it calm, if it is excited - it will be restless during the procedure. When the procedure is finished, Antisedan can be injected either IV or EM, using IV the dog is generally awake within 90 seconds, IM will take 3-4 minutes. We will occasionally mask and then incubate after using Domitor if we find it appropriate either for molar or canine extractions. If we switch to general anesthesia, we will still use Antisedan upon completion.

From time to time we will use the Domitor procedure on non-greyhounds, we've not been nearly as successful in getting them to drop and strongly recommend administering Domitor well before the procedure time, and if the dog is agitated it will only compound the problem. Our clients like the Domitor/Antisedan because they can take their greyhound home quickly without waiting the normal 3-4 hours when general anesthesia is used, we often see clients that will drive 2-3 hours to our facility. We do not have a problem with dogs ingesting water during any of the thousands of procedures we have done. All of the dogs are given pain medication pre-op except for standard cleaning.

Pemphigus

Greyhound PemphigusPemphigus is an autoimmune disease that usually attacks the nail bed, and is a disease we have seen in greyhounds for years. Classically we see the separation of the nail from the quick. It will usually begin with 1 or 2 nails sluffing off and sometimes proceed where all of the nails ultimately will fall off. It's very painful for the dog and needs aggressive treatment in order to reverse its effects. Most veterinarians do not recognize it and pass it off as a fungal infection.

We normally suggest to vets that if they see 1 or 2 nails showing this condition, they should carefully examine all the nails from the back side to see if it is wide spread. The therapy is both topical and oral antibiotic, Prednisone, over a considerable amount of time and an antihistamine. I also suggest vitamin E at least 400mg daily, for life. With aggressive treatment, the conditions of feet will improve although the nails will grow somewhat distorted in nature. Depending on the severity of the condition, it may be appropriate to use daily soaks to kill the bacteria and make sure your doggie wears booties outside to avoid contamination.

Greyhound Leg Amputation

Leg Amputation

We do a few leg amputations a year; both front and rear legs mostly because of cancer. And probably the difference between the procedure we do and other facilities is that we will normally keep the greyhound on the premises for 1 week. That way when the dog is released, the wound is generally healed and there is no drainage for the adopter to deal with. All greyhounds are up on their feet and walking the day after this surgery in addition to the post-operative pain medications used. Morphine is used and is greatly diminished the discomfort of the greyhound post-operatively. It is my feeling that it is inappropriate to send a dog home in 48 hours; hoping the owners can deal with potential problems that can come up. We rarely have to transfuse leg amputations.

I will be happy to discuss any health related issues at my lecture. Please refer to the National Greyhound Adoption Program web site for updates in our medical treatment as we revise our medical facts.

"Your Dog Is Dying"

We've been doing adoptions for almost 15 years now. Many of our greyhounds are dying and continue to die. The number one cause, as with other breeds, is cancer. People call for council, input, second opinions about diagnosis' they received, or just treatment they are presently on. As the person responding to those calls I find too often dogs that after normal treatment, anti-inflammatory, pain medication, and antibiotics, that don't work, more expensive tests are done.

In some cases tests are done and treatment is withheld until test results are in. The result is always the same; your dog is dying and ultimately will have to be euthanized. Too often we hear of expensive tests being done because the adopter or client wants to do all they can for their dog. We usually suggest those tests not be done. Dogs usually do not outlive their owners and when they do not respond to treatment and there is an economical issue; they should be euthanized. As a layperson who deals with life and death issues constantly, I've learned to say your dog is dying and needs to be put to sleep if it doesn't respond to treatment. I just have a gut feeling that it's too hard for veterinarians to say these words.

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