10 Common Italian Greyhound Health Issues You Should Know About

Italian Greyhounds are generally a very healthy breed. However, there are health issues amongst the breed.

To decide whether an Italian Greyhound is the right breed for you, it’s important to know what to expect. Therefore we have put together the 10 most common health issues amongst Italian Greyhounds so you know how they may affect a dog and what can be done about them.

Please note: This blogpost cannot replace a consultation with a vet by any means. It is only supposed to give an overview of the health issues of Italian Greyhounds – from an Iggy owner’s perspective. If your dog is not feeling well we strongly advise to see a vet.

1. Italian Greyhound Leg Breaks and Other Fractures 

Probably one of the health conditions feared the most are leg breaks. And unfortunately they happen quite often.

Italian Greyhound legs are very long and skinny. And just how a long and thin twig can break easier than a tree stem, an Iggy’s leg is more likely to break than a Dachshund’s leg. 

But that doesn’t mean it will happen. We know of many Iggies who have lived a long and happy life without ever breaking a leg. 

Some Italian Greyhounds are more prone to leg breaks than others because they have less dense legs. But sometimes it happens out of nowhere.

Poor little Bambi with her cast (© @bambi.and.bramble)

To prevent the risk of leg fractures, it is very important to be extra cautious, especially when they are puppies. Try to reduce leg break opportunities:

  • Move your furniture around if your Italian Greyhound is jumping between two pieces
  • Place a rug over a slippery floor
  • Let your Iggy run off the leash regularly so it can build up muscle and get a feeling for their own body.

But even with the best prevention efforts, it might still happen. Just know it is not the end of the world (even though it might feel like that at times). With the help of an experienced surgeon your Iggy will be back to their normal crazy self very soon.

X-rays with a happy ending: Bambi’s leg before and after screws and plate were put in (© @bambi.and.bramble)

But not only leg breaks are common – also broken tails are.

X-ray of an Iggy’s broken tail (© @ozarktheiggy)

In most cases this doesn’t bother the dog at all. When Nello broke his tail we didn’t even know how it happened. We taped it for about 6 weeks (be careful it’s not too tight so the blood can still flow properly and change the tape once a week to prevent an infection) and now it’s almost not noticeable anymore.

Nello at 6 months with his broken & taped tail

2. Luxating Patella in IGs – When the Kneecap is Not Staying in Place

Another common condition is a luxating patella. The patella (or kneecap) is normally located in a groove on the end of the thigh bone just above the knee. When the patella luxates, the kneecap moves out of place.

Common in Italian Greyhounds: Patella Luxation

The dog will then have difficulty bearing weight on the leg. Most dogs will show a very characteristic “jump” to snap the patella back into its normal position.

Some Italian Greyhounds have a genetic predisposition for this condition. But it can also be caused by an accident.

There are 4 grades of patella luxation, ranging from a mild form all the way to a severe form:

  • Grade 1: The kneecap luxates with manual pressure but is otherwise within the groove. The dog limps every now and then (when kneecap gets out of place). Surgery is not advised.
  • Grade 2: The kneecap luxates spontaneously. It is typically associated with a skipping lameness when the knee cap moves. Surgery is not advised if the dog is not exhibiting significant clinical signs.
  • Grade 3: The kneecap is permanently luxated but can be manually replaced in the groove. Surgery is advised.
  • Grade 4: The kneecap is permanently luxated and cannot be manually replaced in the groove. Surgery is strongly advised.

Depending how severe the condition is you can either give them supplements or the dog will have to undergo surgery. In any case it can be helpful to try dog physiotherapy and water therapy to build up muscle that will help keep the kneecap in place.

Don’t rush into surgery too soon if the dog doesn’t show any signs of suffering. Supplements have worked wonders for some dogs and even made the condition go away completely.

3. Italian Greyhound Seizure and Epilepsy

Unfortunately seizures are quite common for Italian Greyhounds. The problem here is that it’s not so easy to find out what causes them. Seizures can happen out of many reasons:

  • low blood sugar
  • allergic reactions
  • stress
  • cancer
  • epilepsy

When your dog has a seizure for the first time it’s important to write down exactly what had happened that day to try and find the cause. 

If it just happens once and didn’t take longer than a few minutes, in most cases it will be enough to just monitor.

If it happens again, you should see a vet to rule out that there is not a severe illness that is causing the seizures. 

But even the vet might not find a cause for the seizures. In this case, it could be epilepsy. Your vet will probably prescribe medication.

For most dogs that won’t be necessary. They can live a long and happy life even with epilepsy. Just try to avoid potential triggers and make sure they can’t hurt themselves when they are having a seizure. Remove all objects close to them and don’t try to keep them still – just be there for them. 

4. Dental Problems – Brush Your Iggy’s Teeth!

Just like other small breeds Italian Greyhounds are prone to dental problems. Therefore it is important to brush their teeth regularly (at least once a week) and give them something to chew on every now and then. Otherwise they might build tartar and eventually lose their teeth at an early age. 

Most dogs don’t mind getting their teeth brushed, especially if they are used to it. If your dog doesn’t like it at all, you can get their teeth cleaned professionally by a vet. Just keep in mind that your dog will probably have to be put under anesthesia – which is always a risk and shouldn’t be done too often.

The positive effect of brushing your Italian Greyhound’s teeth regularly

5. Only For Male IGs: Undescended Testicles 

This one is also quite common but may only affect 50 percent of the Iggy population: Undescended testicles (also called cryptorchidism). It’s a condition where one or both testicles haven’t moved into their proper position in the scrotum and just stay anywhere along the “path of descent”.

Male dogs with this condition are prone to testicular cancer. By removing the affected testicle, the risk can be eliminated. It is advised to remove it by the time they turn one year old.

6. Eye Problems like Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

There are a few different eye conditions that are quite common for Italian Greyhounds. 

One of them is Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). It is an inherited disease that luckily isn’t painful.

The dog’s vision will gradually worsen until they go completely blind. Symptoms generally begin around three to five years of age. The first sign that is usually noticed in a dog that has PRA is night blindness. Another symptom is dilated pupils. 

There is currently no effective treatment available for PRA. But there is a genetic test to find out if a dog has it.

7. Only For Diluted Colors Like Blue and Fawn: Color Dilution Alopecia (CDA)

While diluted colors like blue and some shades of fawn are very popular at the moment, dogs with diluted pigment may develop a condition known as color dilution alopecia (also called CDA). Their coat will slowly thin out and eventually even go entirely bald.

This is what CDA may look like

You won’t know if your puppy is carrying the CDA gene. Normally it starts between 6 months to 3 years of age with hair loss down the middle of the back from head to tail (above the spine).

There is no cure for CDA. But the good news is: It’s only an external condition that won’t affect the dog’s life expectancy at all. It can sometimes lead to secondary bacterial infections that can bother the dog.

Because of the lack of hair dogs with CDA might need to wear clothes more often and sometimes have skin problems like dry and flaky skin. Their skin also needs to be protected from sunlight. Other than that they can live a normal happy life. Just make sure the hair loss is not caused by low thyroid level or demodex mites for example, so when your dog is loosing hair it’s best to see a vet and rule out other causes.

8. Allergies and Intolerances – Be Careful with Anesthesia

IGs can be very sensitive. Allergies and intolerances are quite common.

  • Food – Some Iggies may have a problem with certain types of protein (like chicken or beef). A sensitive tummy is not uncommon either.
  • Bee stings and other insects – Some insects may cause severe allergic reactions and swelling.
Nello when he got stung by a bee. Luckily he is not allergic!
  • Medication – The same can be the case for some meds or vaccinations. That’s why we would recommend to always split up vaccinations if possible (and not give them all on the same day). Important: When anesthesia is necessary, be extra careful. Because of their low body fat, all sighthounds are extra sensitive to anesthetics and require an experienced vet.

9. Nothing to Worry About: Reverse Sneezing

Another thing we wanted to mention is reverse sneezing. While it’s not actually a health condition we wanted to add it to the list as it sounds quite irritating for people who don’t know what it is. However it is not known to be harmful.

It is characterized by rapid and repeated forced inhalation through the nose and snorting or gagging sounds. Most dogs stand completely still during a reverse sneeze and extend their head and neck. 

A common remedy is to pinch the dog’s nose and scratch their neck to induce swallowing. Normally episodes don’t take longer than about a minute.

10. Italian Greyhound Blood Work – Very different!

Italian Greyhounds like other sighthound breeds are no normal dogs. Their blood work has a few differences from “normal dog” blood work to sometimes make it deceivingly “normal” or “abnormal” if one isn’t familiar with these differences. 

Some of the blood levels that may be different are

  • CBC (Complete Blood Count)
  • Thyroid Levels (T4)
  • Creatinine
  • Total Protein (T.P.)

So if your Iggy’s blood work is not in the normal range, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are sick. That is why it is very important to consult a vet who is familiar with sighthounds – as not all vets know about this.

Conclusion on Italian Greyhound Health – Overall a Very Healthy Breed!

As health problems can occur, we recommend to get health insurance or save a little money each month – just to be on the safe side. This way you will be best prepared in case of any injuries and health problems and won’t have to be worried you won’t be able to pay the vet bills.

Other than that: Make sure you get your pup from a reputable breeder who runs health checks before breeding their dogs. Of course it can never be fully prevented but at least it minimizes the risk of health issues a lot. 

Overall Italian Greyhounds are a very healthy breed that can live up to 15 years.