Routine Medical Care for Italian Greyhounds
As with any pet, you MUST provide for routine and regular medical care and treatment to an Italian Greyhound. Doing this not only provides current information about the health of the dog, but also helps to identify developing problems, and even treat potentially more serious medical conditions early, thus saving both money spent on urgent or emergency care, and pain or suffering endured by a pet.
Although the Italian Greyhound breed doesn't face a laundry list of health concerns as some breeds may endure, being dogs they do need regular health monitoring to catch and minimize any issues as early as possible. On this page are listed things which should be checked annually by a licensed veterinarian as part of a routine exam, in addition to vaccinations and parasite prevention. Other daily preventative measures regarding the care of iggys can be performed at home to help ensure no surprises arise at an annual checkup.
In general ALL small dogs need regular teeth brushing, plus a veterinary evaluation annually to ensure their teeth do not have too much plaque build-up, cavities developing, or even teeth rotting away. A dogs healthy mouth should have little or no smell, and the teeth should be white from the tip to the gum line. In the mouth of an Italian Greyhound, or any small dog, food often builds up between teeth, near the gum line where it needs brushed away after meals or snacks. Without regular card, food will deposit stains and tartar where cavities will develop leading to tooth decay and stinky breath, in addition to mouth pain felt by the dog.
Not maintaining the dental health of a dog not only compromises the dogs mouth, but also allows other infections to take hold via any areas in the mouth which are swollen or infected. This includes bacterial or viral infections potentially too, potentially causing long-term health effects, and costing hundreds or thousands of dollars in additional care. In extreme cases where dogs have not received dental care, some of our affiliates have seen the lower jaw bone rotting away, or holes rotted through to the nasal cavity where the K-9 teeth once rooted.
It IS possible for a dog to get a root canal, and a titanium crown, but not common. Finding a vet who does such a procedure is also not easy, nor cheap but it has been done before. It can only be done on large molars or K9 teeth, because most teeth in the mouth of an Italian Greyhound are just too small for such a procedure. And, a cavity has to be caught in time for it to even be possible. Regardless, it is much easier to keep your IG's teeth brushed rather than having to get a root canal and cap or crown installed.
Dental cleanings often need done annually, depending on the frequency the teeth are brushed. Some signs you may notice which could indicate a teeth cleaning is due are bad breath, discolored teeth, or inflamed, red or bleeding gums. If your a veterinarian recommends a teeth cleaning, then it should not be put off indefinitely.
Just as people get older, when dogs age they also start to develop issues with their vision. These can include either blurriness due to changes in the eye or cornea, or distorted vision due to cataracts. Often people think these are one and the same, but they are different issues and are treated differently from a medical perspective.
Cataracts are a growth in the eye, which appear white near the surface of the eye. A cataract sometimes has a whitish appearance, and has spokes or fingers that spread slowly across the eye impeding vision. There are multiple types of cataracts, and when identified they can be treated at any stage of progression by surgery. Cataracts are often genetic in nature, and at many dog shows reputable breeders have their competition (and/or breeding) dogs checked by an animal optometrist for the presence of eye issues which may be genetically passed on to the next generation. Most veterinarians are perfectly capable of identifying a cataract, but often will refer cases to an animal ophthalmologist for further diagnosis or surgery.
Nuclear sclerosis is a different issue, but is often mistake for cataracts in animals. In humans, this condition is sometimes considered a precursor or early stage of cataracts. In animals, the description from Wikipedia best describes this condition as "a bluish-gray haziness at the nucleus that usually does not affect vision, except in unusually dense cases." When looking at a dog with nuclear sclerosis, the eye may appear reflective or shiny, because it is reflecting some of the light back from inside the eye. Supplements or vitamins may help maintain eye health, but there is not any medical treatment to resolve nuclear sclerosis.
Lypomas are small fatty deposits that develop just underneath the skin, a benign type of tumor, which generally have no pain associated with them. They often appear as a an Italian Greyhound ages, and may be more noticeable on IGs compared to other dogs due to the petiteness of the breed. They are often noticed when they reach about the size of a dime in diameter, and are usually raised the thickness of a coins stacked on one another. They generally feel soft and pliable, and almost slide from under your finger if pressed upon. Some are slightly more dense though, and they can vary in size becoming much larger over time. They do not have any skin lesions associated with them generally, or do they have hard lumps or masses when rolled between your fingers.
Lypomas are more of an aesthetic issue and can be removed if desired, especially if they are large and unsightly. Having a veterinarian monitor the lypomas on your dog annually is recommended. Italian Greyhound owners should keep track of the size and location of lypomas on their dogs, and watch for growth or changes in those which are present. Any changes should be noted and discussed with your veterinarian during routine checkups.
The tips of the ears in IGs, especially during winter or in dry areas, may become crusty, or even bloody. Try to keep the ear tips moisturized, and the dog from itching at them. An e-collar (or cone of shame) may be needed during the healing process to help ensure the dog is not scratching off any scabs that are present, or shaking blood all over a home. To help prevent the ear tips from becoming irritated or crusty, minimize the amount of time that your dog is outside on windy days or when it is cold and dry. Keeping sun-tan lotion on the ears during the summer to prevent burns, and a snood pulled over the ears during the winter may also help prevent the ear tips from becoming too dry when outside for potty breaks.
Inner ears should be free of wax buildup, and of any smell. Just as in people, some Italian Greyhounds produce more ear wax than others, and the coloration of the wax will vary based on the dog too. The was is generally a light caramel color. A visual inspection of the dogs ear will often show heavy wax buildup, or ear wax that is very dark in color often indicating some type of ear infection. If a dog itches its ears often, it may be indicative of a wax buildup, ear mites, or even the presence of ticks which like the safety and warmth of the ear canal for making themselves at home.
To clean the outer ear (areas greater than the diameter of your finger) a swab or Q-tip may be used to remove heavy build-up of wax, and to observe the color of the wax. DO NOT ENTER THE EAR CANAL WITH ANYTHING SMALLER THAN YOUR FINGER. The inner ear can be cleaned using over-the-counter ear cleansers, which are drops put inside the ear, and massaged to initiate loosening of the wax. Follow the instructions on the bottle for the most effective wax removal. If an infection is present, it is best to visit a veterinarian for a checkup and potential prescription. For especially heavy build-up they may also clean the ear with a water pick or similar procedure. (NEVER USE A WATER PICK YOURSELF ON YOUR DOG, THIS MUST BE DONE BY A VETERINARIAN OR A TRAINED VET TECH ONLY.)
Issues with Joints
With any joint issues it is extremely important to keep your dog at the proper weight, any extra weight WILL cause the condition to worsen over time, causing discomfort in mild cases, and lameness in extreme cases. Some issues can be treated with surgery, but these surgeries come at a price. Whenever a pet has a physical examination, the following items should be evaluated as part of the exam to help identify any condition early so it can be treated properly throughout the life of the IG.
Luxating Patella, Sublaxation of the Patella, or Patellar Luxation, is a displacement of the knee-cap in the rear legs, often inherited genetically from the dog's bloodlines as a congenital defect. Sometimes this condition is also referred to as a floating knee or loose knee. Responsible breeders will have their dogs screened, and not breed those with patella issues, as well as provide proof of the examinations to any potential puppy purchasers. Generally if a young dog or adult has patella issues they will need monitored throughout their lives for the condition to worsen. Patellas in puppies under 1 year may start off a little loose, and tighten up over time. A dog with any grade of a loose knee, may be helped by using ramps or steps to get on or off furniture to minimize jumping and strain on the joints.
Luxating patella is graded by a vet on a scale of 1-4 with 4 being the worst. The knee can slip either forward or backward, or in rarer cases can slide sideways too. Patella luxations that are graded 1-2 are generally not treated with surgery in Italian Greyhounds, but need checked during physical examinations from a veterinarian. Grades 3 or 4 may require surgery. Keeping your dog at the proper weight will help prevent a lower grade luxation from turning in to something more serious potentially requiring surgery.
Hip Dysplasia is a genetically inherited deformation of the bones in the hip, although not as common in the Italian Greyhound breed as in other breeds or large dogs. It often becomes more noticeable during the middle or latter years of an Italian Greyhound's life if present. It if often associated with pain or discomfort, and depending on the severity may require pain medication or even surgery such as a hip replacement. Diagnosis can be made with a combination of a physical examination, along with x-rays to show any deformations.
Discomfort may be helped by massage, heat, joint supplements, anti-inflammatory medications or other recommendations from a veterinary visit. Jumping or excessive exercise should be avoided in general to help reduce the wear put on the joint. Hip dysplasia can result in arthritis and severe pain over time in Italian Greyhounds or other dog breeds.
Arthritis, Osteoarthritis or Degenerative Joint Disease
Arthritis in dogs can form in any of the joints, but is usually associated with the legs, hips or back. It develops over time where the Iggy has had a birth defect, such as luxating patella or hip dysplasia, by normal wear and tear of joints over time, or even from injury at any time in the dog's life. Arthritis generally develops as a dog ages, when the joints become less lubricated and are not able to repair themselves as easily. As the joints wear down, they become irritated, and the body then tries to deposit new bone growth in those areas where the irritation occurs. The arthritis pain is associated with the bone growth rubbing as the joints move, causing pain and discomfort. Arthritis can run in family lines of dogs, and can greatly be influenced by a dog's weight as it progresses.
Things you can do to help with arthritis include exercise, diet, supplements, and various type of therapy. Medications will help to ease pain associated with arthritis, and anti-inflammatory may also help with discomfort. Both over-the-counter and prescription medications may help with discomfort, and the many of the drugs are the same as those used to treat arthritis in humans since the root cause is the same across all animals. BE SURE TO CHECK WITH YOUR VET ON RECOMMENDATIONS AS SOME OVER-THE-COUNTER MEDICATIONS ARE LETHAL TO DOGS. Aids such as ramps or stairs may help keep an arthritic dogs from straining the joints in around the house. Some all-natural medications or supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, or fish oils have also been shown to be beneficial treating arthritis in both humans and pets, although other studies have shown there is less or no benefit.