A Vet’s Blog: Injury Detection in Racing Greyhounds
In our latest blog, GBGB Veterinary Director Dr Simon Gower discusses the importance of regularly examining your greyhound and establishing a hands-on ‘nose to tail’ routine for injury detection.
Like human athletes, racing greyhounds, due to their immense explosive power, acceleration and deceleration, can pick up injuries while exercising, training and racing. A vital way to detect minor muscles sprains and soreness, and to prevent more serious injury down the line, is to develop a logical ‘nose to tail’ routine for regularly checking your dogs.
Always start with a thorough visual examination including noting any abnormality in their stance, change in the shape of the muscles and joints. To do this, make sure to observe the greyhound standing, walking and trotting. You will need an assistant for this to trot the dog away from you and back towards you. Here, you are looking for abnormalities or unevenness in gait. Notice the head carriage too, as nodding usually indicates an unsoundness – a change in the balance of their gait could signify an injury.
Starting with the forelimbs scan over the legs comparing left with right and look for any swelling or slight puffiness of the joints, tendons, long bones, and toes. Is there any change in the size, shape, and contour of the shoulder muscles?
Then we move on to a hands-on examination checking the range of movement of each joint of each front leg from shoulders to toes. We are checking for any reduction in the normal range of flexibility, signs of stiffness, or any discomfort. Be careful not to force anything – a stiff or painful joint should be handled gently. As a general rule, inflamed joints or tendons are usually hot to the touch, they may also be swollen and tender.
The large tendon above the wrist, the FCU tendon, is a common site of injury and inflammation. This is usually obvious due to the swelling of the tendon as it attaches to the back of the wrist. There are several smaller tendons below the wrist, the flexor tendons which are also frequently sprained and may feel swollen. Bad sprains are visible as swollen tendons.
When you have visually and physically examined the front legs run your hands back along the spine from shoulders to hips watching the dog’s reaction to any ‘hotspots’ which may indicate soreness in the back.
When you know your dogs, you can read them and will become familiar with their individual traits and quirks. You will also instinctively know when a dog ‘isn’t right’ – so listen to your gut and, if in doubt, do not run your dog.
Repeat the process of examining the hind legs, visually and then following the same hands-on approach, running your hands over the joints, tendons and muscles. Get used to what normal looks and feels like. Practice is key, the more you check your dogs the more easily you will pick up when something isn’t quite right.
It is useful to make a note of anything you find. I use the outline of a dog showing left and right sides. These records can be referred to throughout the greyhound’s career – as usually, small, niggly injuries tend to recur.
If you do detect a minor injury then probably all that is required is rest, gentle walking and time.
Where there is heat there is usually inflammation and a cold pack applied through a thin towel to the affected area will help to reduce swelling and take the heat away. You can do this twice or even three times a day until the problem settles.
However, be aware of when things require veterinary attention, early treatment of an injury gets the best results and reduces any pain or discomfort. Anti-inflammatory drugs can be prescribed to reduce inflammation. An elastic bandage can be also applied over a padded wrap, ask your vet to show you how best to do this. Slight compression of a swollen or painful joint will reduce the swelling and discomfort.
It is important to wash a greyhound’s feet off after exercise and check the webs and toes for small spikes or deeper cuts. Good antiseptic treatment of these with the application of a barrier cream or wound powder is usually sufficient but check and treat regularly to prevent infection.
Often, examining a dog straight after racing can result in missing minor tweaks and sprains due to the increased blood flow following exercise and, to a degree, the effect of adrenaline as a mild analgesic that gives some temporary pain relief. Checking dogs several hours after racing or the next morning when they have rested properly is more likely to show signs of stiffness or mild soreness.
If in doubt, always consult a vet, and remember:
- Establish a routine
- Know what ‘normal’ looks and feels like
- Each greyhound is an individual, dogs do not read like textbooks!
- In an emergency, always seek immediate veterinary help
Finally, like human athletes, greyhounds need to be warmed up before racing. Walking, jogging and massage are all useful techniques to warm up the muscles in preparation for racing. This is another way to prevent injury and ensure your greyhound remains happy and healthy throughout its career and into its retirement.
The video below shows how to carry out a detailed physical examination on a greyhound.