WHIPPET HEALTH SURVEY RESULTS

The number of surveys returned in 2000 was 219, down from 278 in 1994.  Of these 219 surveys returned, six countries were represented, including the U.S. (158), Canada (23), England or Scotland (5), Australia or New Zealand (4) and unknown (29).  Thirty states were represented in the U.S.  The five states in the U.S. with the highest return rate included California (20), Illinois (14), Washington (11), Ohio (10) and Wisconsin (10).  A total of 651 living Whippets were represented in the results compared with 860 in 1994. 

Respondents participated in the following activities with their Whippets:  conformation (151, 71%), obedience (107, 50%), lure coursing (147, 69%), agility (68, 32%), racing (77, 36%), therapy work (38, 18%),  flyball (16, 7%), and tracking (10, 5%).  This follows the trend of the 1994 survey with many respondents active in performance events.  Six percent were strictly pet owners.

Table 1.  Health tests ever done on their Whippets

Health Test

# of Owners Reporting Doing Test

Percent of Owners

CERF

      112

           53%

Thyroid blood test

        81

           39%

BAER hearing test

        26

           12%

Von Willebrand’s disease

        21

           10%

Hip x-rays

        22

           10%

Over half of owners reported doing at least one CERF exam on Whippets they owned and almost 40% reported doing thyroid blood tests.

Table 2.  Source of Whippets

Source

Number

  Percent

Breeders

     384

       59%

Bred by reporter

     213

       33%

Rescued

       33

         5%

Unknown source

       21

         3%

Most Whippets reported in the survey were obtained from breeders.  The average age at time of this survey was six years.  There were slightly more female Whippets (375, 58%) reported on than male Whippets (276, 42%).  97% of Whippets had dewclaws removed.  Health problems reported by owners (not necessarily confirmed by a veterinarian) in these 651 living Whippets included:

§         Temperament problems reported by owners included nervousness (63, 10%), separation anxiety (73, 11%), dog aggression (45, 7%), dominance aggression (32, 5%), aggression to people (8, 1%), fear biting (8, 1%) and submissive urination (4, 0.6%).

§         Sensory organ problems included old age cataracts (28, 4%), eye trauma (17, 3%), vitreous degeneration (14, 2%), deafness (8, 1%), lens luxation (4, 0.6%), persistent retinal atrophy (1, 0.2%), glaucoma (1, 0.2%), hyperthyroid (3, 0.5%) and hereditary cataracts (1, 0.2%). It may be that some individuals should have listed hypothyroidism rather than hyperthyroidism.  Low blood sugar was reported in six dogs (0.9%); 4 of these dogs had low blood sugar following exercise.  No Cushing’s disease or diabetes was reported.

§         Endocrine system disorders included: hypothyroid (34, 5%) and a small number with Addisons (2, 0.3%).

§         In both males and females, kidney problems were reported in 6 (0.9%) at a mean age of 6 (range: 1-13 years). Genitourinary tract problems in females were: trouble whelping (21, 6%), c-section (16, 5%), infertility (9, 3%), urinary tract infections (9, 3%), pyometra (6, 2%), spontaneous abortion (4, 1%) and eclampsia (1, 0.3%).  Males had the following problems: retained testicles (36, 13%), urinary tract infection (20, 3%), infertility (4, 2%) and prostate (3, 1%). Nine of the 36 had bilateral retained testicles.

§         Autoimmune problems were reported in 2 (0.3%) of Whippets. Allergies were reported in 17 (3%) of Whippets

§         Dermatologic problems included skin injuries (228, 35%), hair loss (78, 12%),  skin tumors (56, 9%), localized demodex (54, 8%), generalized demodex (4, 0.6%).  Localized demodex occurred at a median of 6 months of age (range:3 to 72 months). Gneralized demodex occurred at a median age of 15 months (range: 3 to 36 months). The sloughing of foot pads question was misinterpreted by many as foot pad injuries while racing or coursing so this is not reported here.  The main two causes of skin injuries were fights and running injuries.

§         Cardiovascular/blood system findings were reported as follows:  murmurs (42, 6%) and heart valve problems (12, 2%), and small numbers of  congenital heart problems (4, 0.6%), cardiomyopathy (3, 0.5%), Von Willebrand’s disease (1, 0.2%), low platelets (1, 0.2%), chronic anemia (1, 0.2%),  pulmonic stenosis (1, 0.2%) and congestive heart failure (1, 0.2%). Murmurs were identified at a mean of 6 years of age.

§         The gastrointestinal tract problems reported were giardia (38, 6%), teeth problems (36, 6%), mainly broken teeth (16 of the 36), chronic diarrhea (17, 3%), lack of appetite (35, 5%), inability to gain weight (29, 4%), retained teeth (18, 3%), inflammatory bowel disease (7, 1%), bloat (1, 0.2%) and megaesophagus (1, 0.2%).

§         Muscles/skeletal problems included toe injuries (144, 22%), fractures (64, 10%), muscle/tendon/ligament (55, 8%),  torn muscles (34, 5%), muscle cramps (21, 3%), cruciate ligaments (16, 2%), panosteitis (8, 1%) and tying up (7, 1%).  Fractures were mainly to toes and tails at a median age of 2 years.  Almost  three-quarters of the toe injuries were front toes, most occurring while coursing (50), racing (17), and 20 not specified so could have been while running freely, racing or coursing.  Almost 90% recovered from their toe injury. No hip dysplasia was reported.

§         Neurologic injuries included seizuring in 11 (2%) of Whippets at a median age of 2 years.  Hereditary seizures often start at that age in dogs.  Twelve or 2% were reported with disk disease.  Slipped disks were reported in 12 (2%). Seven (1 %) were reported with paralysis and spinal embolism (2, 0.3%).

§         Respiratory conditions reported were kennel cough (98, 15%), respiratory trauma (6, 0.9%), pneumonia (3, 0.5%) and nasal tumors (1, 0.2%).

§         Infectious diseases, not mentioned before, were heartworm (4, 0.6%), Lyme (4, 0.6%), parvovirus (3, 0.5%) and distemper (1, 0.2%)

§         Cancers other than the ones mentioned above were reported in 9 or 1% of dogs.

Table 3. Basic Facts About Whippets

Average age at first heat

16 months (range: 6-48)

Average number of puppies per litter

6 puppies

Retained testicles in male puppies

19%

Mean weight of adult males

34 pounds (range: 18-48)

Mean weight of adult females

29 pounds (range: 18-43)

Mean height of adult males

21 inches (range:17-23)

Mean height of adult females

20 inches (range:16-23)

Average age at death

10 years

Eighty-one (37%) of the 219 respondents had bred 200 litters from 1994 through 1999.  Nine of 200 (4%) of bitches were bred using AI (artificial insemination) and 20 (10%) of bitches having a litter required a C-section.  Sixty-three of the total 1275 puppies (5%) were stillborn.  Eighty-nine percent were weaned.  Twenty-eight of the persons who had bred a litter reported at least one birth defect.  The two most commonly reported defects were cleft palate reported by 9 persons and body wall defects (intestines outside body) reported by six persons.  Nineteen percent of the male puppies had retained testicles as compared to 18% in the 1994 survey.  A quarter of breeders reported they had previously had bitches which did not conceive.

Causes of death.  Eighty-four respondents reported on the deaths of 150 Whippets (76 females, 73 males).  Of the 149 deaths, 115 dogs were euthanized, 18 were natural deaths, 14 were accidental and 3 were unknown type. The top ten causes of death reported were:  cancer (27), old age(25), neurologic (20), trauma (19), heart problems (10), kidney (9), multiple causes (8), autoimmune (6), back problems (6) and temperament (5). 

§         Of the trauma related deaths almost a third were from hit-by-cars and a third from running injuries, which could have been sustained during free play running not racing or coursing. 

§         Of the cancer deaths, 4 were liver cancer, 3 were hemangiosarcoma, 3 were lymphoma/lymphosarcoma and 2 were brain cancer.  Some were unknown types and other types of cancers were reported less commonly.  

§         The two most common causes of the deaths due to neurologic causes were stroke(8) and  seizures (4). 

§         Four of the 6 autoimmune deaths were due to autoimmune hemolytic anemia

Respondents were asked to list what they felt to be the top five health related issues. The top ten issues arising from this list included eye problems (53), retained testicles (41), heart (36), temperament (36), deafness (31), endocrine, mainly thyroid (29), autoimmune (24), cancer (19), athletic injuries (16), and accidents/injuries (12).

Conclusions

We appreciate all the effort individuals took to return the survey, which probably took each person about an hour to complete, especially if they had multiple dogs. The results give us valuable basic information such as age at first heat, longevity of the breed and average number of puppies per litter. Based on the 219 surveys returned, the Whippet is a relatively healthy breed.  Prevalent problems in other breeds, such as hip dysplasia, were not reported here.  However, because these results are based on a small number of Whippets, we are not certain how generalizable they are to the whole Whippet population.    A prevalent problem we know to be present is retained testicles, 19% of male puppies have retained testicles.  Nine male Whippets had bilateral retained testicles which would render them infertile.  If  the number of males with bilaterally retained testicles increases, the number of fertile males decrease, which is problematic.  Temperament problems also seem to be way too common, with many Whippets reported as nervous. Also, many skin injuries are due to fighting/biting indicating we must be careful about how we manage multiple Whippets.   Hypothyroid problems are reported in 5% of Whippets.   When placing Whippets, the number of Whippets dying from hit-by-cars and running accidents show it is important to remind new owners about these risks from fast moving dogs.  Toe injuries are extremely common in Whippets.  Fractures are not uncommon especially in toes and those long Whippet tails, perhaps another thing to warn new owners about.  Other problems which may be starting to appear in the breed and which need to be followed with concern include deafness and seizures occurring at young ages.  Pulmonic stenosis, a congenital heart problem was reported as well as Addisons Disease.  These are worrisome conditions to see appearing in the breed.  However it was encouraging to see that half of owners had CERF’d at least one dog.

Hopefully, the value of this information will inspire more people to respond in the next survey.  Although it takes time to fill out the survey, the health of our breed should be of prime importance to all of us.  The information about individual respondents is maintained as confidential and is only summarized in aggregate form. 

If you would like to comment on the results, please contact Dr. Connie Austin, 4517 Sage Road, Rochester, IL  62563 e-mail curace@earthlink.com.

Submitted by Connie Austin and Mary Beth Arthur

November 7, 2000