A few weeks ago I wrote an article on greyhound digestion. We learned that greyhounds rely on the crushing power of their molars to break down food, as they lack the enzymes needed to begin carbohydrate break down in their mouths.
Due to this, dogs’ teeth are important to their overall health. Greyhounds are known for their bad teeth. Today, I want to discuss the greyhound’s teeth and gums, how gingivitis occurs, and then how to get your greyhounds mouth into tip-top-shape!
If you have even been around a greyhound puppy, you know why they are called “land-sharks.” They have super fine sharp teeth that will cut through skin and bring you to your knees. Thankfully at about six months these 28 extremely sharp weapons fall out and replaced by 42 permanent adult teeth. Dogs have four types of teeth: canines, incisors, premolars, and molars. The canines are responsible for ripping or tearing flesh and the molars are responsible for crushing. These adult teeth lack in sharpness but are efficient at bringing down quarry and enable the greyhound to tear through bone and muscle.
Just as the adult teeth need to be strong to function, they also depend on strong gums for support. Gums are tissues in the mouth that are covered with oral mucosa. Gums help keep the teeth aligned and supported. If the gums are not healthy the teeth cannot be healthy either.
So why do greyhounds have such “bad” teeth? There are several hypotheses but no clear answer at this time. The national greyhound adoption program (NGAP) blames this on a raw diet fed at the kennels; however, I disagree. A raw diet with meaty bones should promote good dental care. Some feel that there is a lack of concern about teeth in the greyhound industry and point out that there is only a half page on tooth care in the greyhound bible AKA Care of the Racing Greyhound: A Guide for Trainers, Breeders, and Veterinarians. I am not sure that this is that accurate either, as tooth brushing is not difficult and could be covered quickly. The cause of bad teeth could be debated all day and a clear answer may not surface. Let move on to how tooth decay and gingivitis occur and how to prevent this.
Dogs have bacteria in their mouths, and certain bacteria are part of their normal flora (friendly bacteria). They also get bacteria in their mouths from eating, licking, chewing, and doing dog things. These bacteria stick to the teeth. If these bacteria are not removed from the teeth they cause irritation to the gums. This is called gingivitis. Most likely your hounds have gingivitis if their gums bleed with brushing. This is commonly seen early in an oral care program. Regular teeth brushing and chewing can reverse this. If these bacteria are not removed they will continue to build up on the teeth. This build-up of bacteria (tarter) will weaken the enamel of the teeth causing decay. This build-up of tarter can also affect the bone under the gum supporting the tooth if not removed. Once the bones supporting the teeth are affected the dog has periodontitis. This is not reversible and can cause tooth loss if not stopped.
The importance of the teeth and gums are paramount. Teeth not only support our nutritional needs, but if they are diseased, they create an entryway for bacterial to enter into the blood stream and potentially cause life-threatening infections.
How do we prevent this from happening to our best friends? Number one most important thing is brush their teeth. I admit that I am not the best at daily brushing, but after writing about the horrors of periodontitis I can promise you there will be daily brushing in our house! The second thing is to feed raw bones. Raw bones are irritants to built-up tarter on the teeth. The grinding of the bone helps to remove the tarter on the molars as you can see in the photo above. Please, do not feed cooked bones, as they can be extremely harmful to dogs. The cooking of bone denatures the proteins and causes splintering of the bone when chewing. Finally, encourage chewing! I love planet dog toys. The Orbee-Tuff line holds up to my aggressive chewers and the toys have a nice peppermint scent to help with bad breath.
I hope that this article is helpful to you and your hound. Below is a video of how we brush teeth. Promoting clean teeth and gums is one of the best things you can do for your greyhound!
Like I have said previously, I am a nurse and a researcher. I like to figure out why things do what they do. When I got Jethro I was amazed by the difference in laboratory (lab) valves in greyhounds and non-greyhound dogs.
I searched the Internet looking for studies to show why the difference existed. I recently found a literature review that does a good job with this but it is very science driven and not accessible to most greyhound owners.
Due to the numerous differences in the greyhound and non-greyhound labs, I am going to do a lab series on the blog looking into the different abnormalities.
Today I am going to dive into the red blood cell values of the greyhound.
First, let’s talk about the red blood cell (RBC) or erythrocyte. The RCB is the most common cell in the body. It is disc-like cell that looks like a jelly doughnut with the jelly squeezed out. RBCs are important because they house hemoglobin (Hgb), which carries oxygen to the body. Hemoglobin is a protein within the RBC. The hemoglobin molecule accepts oxygen from the lungs and carries it throughout the body, bringing nutrient rich blood to our organs. The hematocrit (Hct) is a measurement of the volume of RBCs in the body—this value is needed to get an accurate hemoglobin measurement. There are two additional RBC values that are different in non-greyhounds and greyhounds. They are the Mean corpuscular volume (MCV) and the Mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH). The MCV measures the size of the RBC and the MCH measures the color of the cell.
That is very basic RBC science. Let’s now talk about the abnormalities in the greyhound’s valves and what they could mean. Greyhounds have higher RBC counts. The higher RBC cases an increase in Hgb concentrations and Hct. These higher values allow for oxygen to reached stressed muscle cells quicker. Initially selective breeding, training, and racing were deemed the cause of these changes; however, there are additional studies looking at other possible causes.
An argument against training and racing as a cause for these changes was completed looking at Hemoglobin and Hematocrit values in 5-6 month greyhounds and 9-10 month greyhounds. This study showed that at 5-6 month the greyhound Hbg and Hct were not much different from non-greyhound dogs and much lower than the greyhounds in the 9-10 months group. They then looked at the 9-10 month group vs. 12-13 month greyhounds. The differences in Hgb and Hct at 9-10 months vs. 12-13 months were statically insignificant, suggesting that at 9-10 months greyhounds have adult lab valves.
On the other hand, there are studies to suggest that selective breeding is the cause for these changes. The hemoglobin molecule in the greyhound has a higher affinity for binding to oxygen. These studies also found unique amino acids mutations on the Hgb to allow for enhanced oxygen-binding capacity.
You may be asking, how would breeders know this and know which greyhounds to breed? Most likely the early dogmen breed greyhounds to be hearty, fast, and recovery quickly to hunt again whenever new quarry was seen. This need for fast recovery influenced breeding practices, meaning that these hounds that were able to recover quickly again had higher RBC counts and more efficient hemoglobin. These factors are still considered in breeding programs today – talk to any dogman or woman and they will tell you that test-mating or selecting a breeding pair is a time-consuming task with lots of consideration.
Another interesting fact about greyhound RBC valves is the lives of their RBCs. In non-greyhound dogs, the life of the RBC is around 100 days. In Greyhounds the life of the RBC is about 50 days. There are multiple theories about why this is. Some believe that greyhounds trap their RBCs in their spleen; however, there is no proof to this theory. Another theory is that the greyhound’s immune system selectively rids its self of older cells, but again this needs to be studied further for more clarity.
Greyhound’s blood counts also show elevated MCV or large RBCs. This was thought to be related to elevated reticulocytes (immature RBCs) in the blood but that is not the case. The increased size is breed specific and most likely due to the higher hemoglobin content within the RBC. This would allow for more oxygen to reach the muscles and allow for continued activity.
I hope that after this review you have a better understand of the RBC and why it is different in the greyhound. As I had said before greyhounds are special dogs that do special things. I think it is fitting that their labs are special too! Check in later this week for differences in WBCs and Platelets in greyhounds.
It seems that every time my husband or I take the greyhounds for a walk we get a ton of questions. We get a lot of questions about the quality of life at the track, if greyhounds really do love to run, if they need a lot of exercise, if they eat a lot, if they will chase small animals, if they bark, and most frequently if they can sit.
1.) Greyhound tracks are terrible places. Tracks and kennels get a bad rap due to lack of knowledge about the racing industry. There are state regulations as well as individual track regulations for greyhound racing. These regulations are in place to ensure the integrity of racing and the welfare of the dog.
I think of the racing kennels and tracks as a military school; the dog goes there to learn a trade and is supported throughout its career by a team of people who have dedicated their lives to the breed. As the dog ages it inevitably slows down, cue the adoption kennels.
5.) Greyhounds don’t bark. Overall greyhounds are rather calm quite dogs but yes, they do bark and sometimes they will even sing. Most greyhound owners find this trait charming and even encourage it, I know we do at our house.