General Information

Anaesthesia in Sighthounds!

Attention!! Even if you don't read anything else on this sight, this is the one thing that is a must!!

Anaesthesia can be very dangerous for Sighthounds. Veterinary reports of anaesthetic deaths are common in the Sighthound community. Unfortunately some conditions require anaesthesia for proper treatment.

General anaesthetic produces a loss of feeling in the entire body and produces a state of unconsciousness. They permit veterinarians to perform complex surgical procedures and have revolutionized the quality of care offered to pets. However, one of the drawbacks of general anaesthesia is that there is a risk of a serious adverse reaction to the anaesthetic. These include heart, liver, kidney and neurological problems that could ultimately lead to death. Because of two unique anatomic features, Sighthounds can be more sensitive to certain anaesthetics than other dogs. Some general anaesthetics are unpredictable in Sighthounds and have a prolonged duration of effect. This increases the risk of a complicated recovery. The reason for increased anaesthetic sensitivity is the low amount of body fat that Sighthounds possess, and decreased liver metabolism of some anaesthetics. Sighthounds have a higher ratio of lean muscle mass to total body fat. Body fat is important in that some anaesthetics, such as barbiturates, require redistribution from the blood to the body fat in order for the patient to recover from the anaesthetic. Years ago barbiturate anaesthetics were the only "safe" anaesthetics available for veterinary use. With their use, some Sighthounds were unable to tolerate anaesthetic procedures, and had serious complications. This helped spread the myth that Sighthounds could not tolerate any kind of general anaesthetic.

Luckily, today there are many anaesthetics that are safe for Sighthounds. Veterinarians are able to perform surgery and other medical procedures with safety and confidence.

In order to anesthetize a dog, a veterinarian must either inject a liquid anaesthetic agent into a vein or muscle, or administer an anaesthetic gas. In almost all cases, vets will initiate anaesthesia with a short acting injectable agent and then place an endotracheal tube in the trachea (windpipe) of the dog in order to administer a gas anaesthetic and oxygen. This is the safest way to maintain and control the depth of anaesthesia.

Using an injectable anaesthetic as the sole anaesthetic agent may be appropriate only for very short procedures and may not be suitable for all whippets. Please be sure to discus this with your vet before any anaesthesia is performed. This can mean the difference between life and death for your dog. Don't try to save money when it comes to surgical procedures as with everything else you get what you pay for.


For adult dogs start with a good quality kibble not your average super market brand. Good name brand food like Royal Canin, IAMS, Eukanuba or Science Diet has better grade ingredients that your dog can actually digest and utilize. The cheap stuff has a lot of fillers, salt and sugars to make it attractive to the dog but has little value. So do your dog a favour and spend the extra dollar and get the food he/she needs to thrive and live a long and healthy live. 

You may feed the daily ration of food all at once in late afternoon no later than 6:00 pm or split into two meals and feed 1/2 in the morning and the other 1/2 in late afternoon. The reason for 6:00 pm is that it will give your dog a change to digest somewhat and eliminate before bed time. The kibble may be mixed with a small amount of can dog food. Don’t overdo it a ¼ can is plenty per feeding. Please note that you should never exercise your dog after a meal. If you have plans to exercise him then wait to feed the dog at least one hour after exercise, when he is completely cooled down. This will help reduce the chances of bloat, which is a life threatening condition in need of immediate vet attention.

Puppies need to eat more often depending on the age of the pup. Your breeder will have detailed instructions for the new baby.

Please do not feed more than the recommended amount. Your dog should never be allowed to gain excess weight. If you can not feel your dog’s ribs, he is too fat. Unnecessary weight will contribute to excessive and early wear on the dog’s joints and in time will cause lameness. It can cause the onset of diabetes and many other diseases. Keep treats to a minimum! Do not feed cooked bones of any kind as they tend to splinter. Raw beef knuckle bones are ok but limit intake. Stay away from the straight parts of the femur as they are very hard and may chip or crack a tooth. Do not feed table food, it is too rich for the dog and in the long run can cause serious health problems.


Run your hands over your dogs chest/ribs on both sides of his/her body, if you can’t feel his ribs chances are he/she is over weight. If there is a layer of fat between the skin and the bone it will feel spongy to the touch, it means your dog is overweight. Please take the time to research about age appropriate foods for your dog. Not all dog food is good for all dogs. Keep in mind that a young dog with plenty of energy has a higher nutritional requirement then a dog that may be over 3 years old. Any dog over 6-7 years old is considered geriatric and should be fed an appropriate food for the older pet. 

With all the choices out there it’s sometimes hard to make a good decision without spending hours on research but there are a few general rules you can easily follow. Don’t buy supermarket brand dog food. It will have lots of fillers and preservatives that are not good nutrition for your dog. Buy an age appropriate good name brand like Eukanuba, IAMS, Science Diet or anything your vet recommends. These foods are properly formulated and have the values intended for your dog’s age and activity level.

If your dog is allowed to be overweight most of his/her life, he/she will most likely develop problems caused by obesity. Feeding your dog too much is just as bad as not feeding enough, in both cases your dog will feel the discomfort, so please consider putting your dog on a healthy diet from the start with plenty of exercise and he/she will thank you with a long and healthy life and relatively few vet bills. Keep in mind it is easier to keep your dog in good shape from the start by establishing good habits, once the weight is on we all know its harder take back off .

It is not a good idea to "free feed" your dog. Meaning a bowl of food is filled and always available to the dog. This will lead to over eating and boredom eating. Some will also eat out of greed if there is another dog around. So it’s best to feed all dogs in the household individually and monitor their intake.


Have fresh water available at all times. Wash water bowl daily to eliminate bacteria build-up.


Chew toys made for dogs are a good choice, they will help clean your dog’s teeth and keep unwanted chewing to a minimum. Most dogs enjoy chewing it will keep them from getting bored and in some cases from being destructive. Provide large rawhide retriever sticks, make sure you will throw them away when they get small enough to be swallowed whole. Stay away from the knotted kind as dogs tend to chew off the ends and swallow them. This can cause stomach upset or blockage which is a real emergency and needs immediate vet attention. Most whippets love stuffed toys but are very destructive with them. So care should be taken, you should supervise play time with stuffed animals. Some whippet may ingest things that are not suitable to eat and digest, so crating your whippet is essential when you are not able to watch him 100%.


You can give your dog a bath pretty much as often as he/she needs it but use oatmeal shampoo and conditioner, it will not dry out the skin if diluted properly. Start by diluting the shampoo with 10 parts of water to 1 part of shampoo. Not only will it last longer it is less drying to the skin. Rinse well!!!! Dilute conditioner in the same way as shampoo; apply let sit for 5 min make sure the dog does not get chilled during this time. You can wrap him/her in a towel to keep warm. Rinse well and towel dry. Use warm water! This is also a good time to trim toenails a bit or at least once every two weeks, more often for a show look (once a week). Keep fleas and ticks off your dog. Some whippets are allergic to fleas. They can cause severe skin irritation, which can be a life of misery for your dog, so check the skin often.


When you are done with bathing, always apply ear cleaner to the dog’s ear (make sure the product is for pets). This will help dry the ear canal and remove any build up of wax; it will also help keep the ear free from infection. Wipe each ear with a cotton ball.


You should get your dog used to having his/her teeth brushed. Brush at least once a week, or as need. It is very important to practice this with the dog from the start. This will help prevent tarter build up and gum problems in the future. Don’t wait for tarter to form on the teeth, as it will be much harder or impossible to remove with a toothbrush. Dog toothpaste only please, do not use the human kind. Should your dog ever have excessive tarter build up, make an appointment with your vet and ask what he would recommend. It will be much less stress for your pet if you keep his teeth in good shape at home as any kind of professional dental cleaning will in most cases require anaesthesia, which is expensive and a risk to your whippet.

Vet care:

Your adult dog should have a yearly vet check and his/her vaccinations updated. Please ask your vet for proper protocol. Remember prevention is the best cure; this will also give your vet a chance to detect problems early on.

Crate/ potty training:

Let me start by saying, crates are a useful tool in training a pup or adult dog but should never be abused by making the dog stay in a crate for unreasonable long periods of time and should never be used as a punishment for time out. This will not work with dogs and will only teach him to hate his crate.

 The crate should be just big enough for the dog to stand up and turn around with comfort. If your crate is too big and the dog can walk from one end to the other, crate training will be ineffective. Too big of a crate will give your dog room to eliminate in one corner and move away and lay in another corner. If the crate is smaller, he will try to hold it because he will not want to lay in his mess.

Now that you have the proper size crate, you can get started. Limit your dogs access in the house to just the room that you are in. If you are unable to close doors get a child safety gate and block doorways to keep him in the same room with you. Do not ever leave your dog unsupervised in the house. Watch him at all times, that way you will be able to catch your pup in the act of eliminating in the house. Get his attention immediately, without scaring him too much and take him straight outside to the spot, where you want him to go to the bathroom. Praise your dog very much whenever he/she uses the right spot outside. Try not to wait too long until he uses the house. Take him out often in order to catch him before he uses the house. If you are unable to watch your dog in the house, this is the time for the crate.

Make sure your dog has had enough exercise and had a chance to eliminate before you crate him. It helps to get him good and tired before you attempt this.  Give him a chew toy, a nice blanket and any toy he may like. If your dog should cry, do not pay any attention to him. That is exactly what he wants, so don't let him win. If you let him win, he will cry harder and louder the next time. As soon as he quiets down let him out and take him straight outside before you do anything else. Do not give him a chance to run around the house and have an accident. Take your dog outside immediately without delay any time he wakes up from a nap, after eating, drinking or playing a while. If you have to leave the house or the room and you can’t take your dog with you, keep your dog in his crate. It will in time become his bed and place of comfort when he sleeps. At first of course you should not leave the dog for a very long time, mostly because puppies just can’t hold it that long and need to eliminate frequently. A very young pup may have to go out as much as once an hour or more. Gradually lengthen the time and pretty soon he will be able to hold it for several hours. The most important thing to remember is never to leave him unattended in your house, even when you are at home but are not able to watch him. Leaving him in his crate will also keep your pup safe. He will not be able to chew things that could be dangerous to him or dear to you. When you come home you can be happy to see your puppy and not have to be mad at him, for doing the wrong thing. A properly crate trained dog will not have any problems with a stay at the vet, or boarding. He will be well adjusted and not worry too much because he/she is used to staying in his/her crate. You will have little or no trouble with chewing and save on carpet cleaning.

All this does not mean the dog has to stay in a crate all of the time. Of course he/she should have plenty of play time with you and get lots of exercise. He/she should also know when its time to be in a crate, it is time to be quiet and relax. Remember a tired pup is a good pup so wear him/her out before crating ;o)

If you are adopting an adult dog treat him like a pup at first and take him out often, this will help him establish a good routine.

Most whippets are not mature enough to be trusted in the house alone while you are away until they are at least 2 years old or older. The best advice is to stick to these few rules without exception, consistency is the key!

Health concerns in Whippets:

Although our breed in general is fairly healthy, it is not without its own set of problems. Occasionally we see a whippet with heart disease or just a slight insignificant murmur. Of course the only way to determine what the problem may be is to do appropriate testing. Some whippets may outgrow a murmur and some may worsen with time and turn into heart disease. However there are a number of whippets who live a very long otherwise healthy life's with a slight murmur that never causes them problems and the dog ends up dying of other age related problems at a ripe old age. Any time your vet detects a murmur it is wise to do further testing like an echocardiogram. This will give the vet a better perspective of what the problem may be and therefore appropriate medicines can be given to slow the progress of further deterioration of the heart. All breeding dogs should be tested!


Occasionally we also see hereditary eye defects which can only be detected buy a licensed ophthalmologist. They can show up quite early in a dog’s life. All breeding dogs should be tested!

Epilepsy and von Willebrands:

There have been some reports in recent years about whippets with epilepsy and von Willebrands disease (vWD). Although rare at this point but it’s a good thing for breeders to keep an eye on. There is no known genetic test for epilepsy as it can also be cause by other system imbalance problems. vWD can be detected by a blood test. Be sure your vet knows the proper procedure for drawing a blood sample for this test; otherwise you may get a false positive.


One fairly prominent problem in whippets is cryptorchidism (one or both testicles are not descended). All dogs with this condition are neutered and should not be bred and of course can’t be shown. However they do make great pets with no additional health risk when neutered. There is no known test to be done before breeding, only careful study of pedigrees and hoping for the best can be done in this case.


A few whippets may be affected by Hypothyroidism! A simple way to determine if your dog may be affected!

Is your dog lethargic and over weight, with skin that wont ever look normal no matter what you do and has a flakiness or odder to it at all times? Is the hair thinning on parts of his/her body? Have you tried antibiotics several times for skin problems with little or no positive results? Does your dog have frequent ear infections? Have you been told your dog may have allergies?

If you have answered yes to a couple of these questions then please consider thyroid testing for your dog. If your dog is hypothyroid, his/her problem can be fixed with just a simple and very inexpensive pill every day. Most Thyroid problems are easily treated and make the dog feel, look and smell so much better. If a dog’s hypothyroidism is not treated it may cause other problems in time.

 How to determine if your dog is hypothyroid

 Make an appointment at your vet to do a simple blood test. It is a good idea to have a full thyroid panel of 6 different tests to determine if your dog is hypothyroid.  The tests needed are T3, T4, free T3, free T4, T3 and T4 Auto antibodies.  Two or three thyroid tests (e.g.T4, free T4 or TSH) are not conclusive for hypothyroidism.  Make sure that all 6 tests listed are run. Don’t try to save money by running only a couple of these tests as you may be wasting your money by not getting the whole picture and therefore have your dog misdiagnosed.

Pattern Baldness:

Pattern baldness is not a serious problem in whippets but does occasionally appear in some dogs. Affected dogs will lose hair usually on thighs. It is diagnose by out ruling other illnesses. Affected dogs should not be bred but make excellent pets.

Here is a link that has lots of info on inherited disease in dogs