Van Andel/IGCA Health Survey

2012 Italian Greyhound Club of America/VARI National Health Survey

The Van Andel Research Institute, in cooperation with the Italian Greyhound Club of America (IGCA), conducted an online health survey in 2012.  This survey was undertaken as part of the Canine Hereditary Cancer Consortium research  program investigating hemangiosarcoma in canines, with a special emphasis on the condition in Italian Greyhounds.  The survey ran from January through September, 2012.  The survey was conducted using a Google doc poll format.

Seven hundred and twenty-four responses were received online.  Participation was invited via the Italian Greyhound Club of America’s website, as well as several email lists.  Participation was voluntary.  Respondents were asked to complete the survey ONLY for dogs living in their homes at the time of response, to help avoid individual dogs being counted more than once due to co-ownerships  or  ownership  changes.

Health issues of importance to Italian Greyhound owners were incorporated in the survey,  based on information from the health pages of the   IGCA website and input from the IGCA health committee.  Care was taken to try to ensure incorporation of the health issues of most concern to Italian Greyhound owners and breeders.  However, a technical issue with the Google poll framework of one set of questions was not detected until late in the survey.  This corrupted data within one specific subset of questions.  It may be possible to reopen a second, more limited survey to better identify the incidence of those specific health concerns (color dilution alopecia, vitreous degeneration, hypothyroidism, undescended testicles, juvenile cataracts, luxating patellae, Legg-Perthes disease, and glaucoma).

Surveys were completed for 724 Italian Greyhounds.  Years of birth ranged from 1990 to 2012.  There were 674 purebred Italian Greyhounds, and 50 that were reported as not purebred (these include rescue dogs with unknown pedigrees).   Reports were completed for 378 female (52%) and 346 male (48%)  Italian  Greyhounds.   Twenty seven dogs were 16 years or older.  There were 166 dogs ranging in age from 10 to 15 years, and 531 were 14 years old or younger.

Fiigure 1.  Year of birth

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Age at spay/neuter

Two hundred sixty eight (37%) of these dogs were sexually intact; 242 were spayed (33%), and 214 (30%) were neutered.   Of the dogs that were spayed or neutered, 5% had the procedure performed at less than five months of age.  28% were between 5 and 12 months of age, 37% were  1-2 years of age, 15% were 2-4 years old, and 15% were over 4 years of age at the time of desexing.

Owners were asked to provide health information as diagnosed by a veterinarian for each dog surveyed.

Figure 2: Dental health

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Four hundred and twenty-nine (59%) dogs had normal teeth and gums.   33% of the dogs (241) had lost teeth, and 154 (21%) of them reported early onset periodontal disease.  Enamel hypoplasia was reported for 22 (3%) of the dogs, and 27 (4%) reported retained baby teeth.  Owners could report more than one dental condition for the same dog, so percentages did not necessarily add up to 100%.

Figure 3: Number of teeth lost

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The majority of dogs in the survey had not lost teeth, but of those who had, 94 (13%) had lost seven or more teeth.   Multiple locations were most commonly reported (140 dogs), and incisors were second most likely to be lost (117).  Dogs losing multiple teeth included molars, incisors, premolars and canine teeth.  Enamel hypoplasia has been recognized as a dental condition in Italian Greyhounds, and 3% of this   population (22 dogs) were recorded as affected.

Figure 4: Tumor Types:

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Six hundred twenty-four   (86%) dogs reported no tumors; 100  (14%) dogs were recorded as having tumors diagnosed by a veterinarian.  Hemangiosarcoma was the most commonly reported tumor, with 37 dogs affected.  Mast cell tumors (25%) and benign hemangioma (24%) were followed by mammary masses (11%),  lymphosarcoma (8%) and melanoma (5%).

Location   of the hemangiosarcomas included 56 dogs with cutaneous tumors only; four with internal alone, and 13 with both  cutaneous  and visceral forms of the disease.   The number of occurrences of hemangiosarcoma (HSA)   in  this population were reported as 35 dogs with 1 incident, none with 2-3, and 14 dogs with more than three occurrences of  HSA.  It is not unusual for dogs who have had one HSA tumor to develop more, and these numbers would likely increase if the population were followed throughout their lifetimes.

Figure 5: Fractures

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No fractures were reported in 619 (85%) of this population, while 105 dogs (15%) did report fractures.

Figure 6: Fracture Location

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The right front leg was most commonly reported as a fracture site, with 44 dogs (6%), while the left front leg was recorded for 39 dogs (5%).  One left rear leg fracture and 5 right rear leg fractures were reported.  Sixteen dogs (2%) were recorded as having had multiple fractures.   Fractures were reported in pups as young as three months of age.

Figure 7: Spinning

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Compulsive spinning was reported for 13 dogs (2% of this population), while 711 dogs (98%)   did not demonstrate compulsive spinning.

Figure 8: Seizures

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Seizures were reported for 101 dogs (14%), while 623 dogs (86%) did not have seizures.  The frequency of the seizures was less than once a month for virtually all the dogs reported as having the condition.

Figure 9: Immune Mediated Conditions

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Immune mediated conditions were reported for 44 dogs (6%).  These included canine immune mediated thrombocytopenia, lupus, immune mediated polyarthropathy, pemphigus foliaceus, and immune mediated hemolytic anemia.

Figure 10: Deafness

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Only 16 (2%) of this population of Italian Greyhounds were reported as being deaf.  They were all deaf in both ears, and all but three of the deaf dogs had age acquired hearing loss.

Figure 11: Sunbathing

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Veterinary oncologists consider cutaneous hemangiosarcoma to be linked to solar exposure.  Dogs who live in southern latitudes and spend time in the sun, especially light colored or sparsely coated animals, seem to be more prone to cutaneous HSA.  Five hundred eighteen Italian Greyhounds (72%) were reported to sunbathe outdoors.

Figure 12: Frequency of Sunbathing

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Two hundred and twenty nine IGs (37%) were reported to sunbathe outdoors daily.  Another 100 (14%) were reported as sunbathing outside weekly.  The majority of responses to this survey were received in the winter months of 2012 (Jan-March), which may have influenced the responses.   One hundred sixty three Italian Greyhounds were reported to sunbathe one or two hours a day.

Hemangiosarcoma affected dogs were reported from 17 different states. Washington,  New York, California and Florida had multiple reports each.  California had five affected dogs.  There were also two affected dogs from Canada and one from Australia.  There was no geographic location given for 17 dogs. Twenty-three   affected dogs were from northern states and 17 from southern states in the survey.  We would need to further query owners to see if the “northern” dogs have spent time in the south, as many dogs travel around the country with their owners.  Dogs also could have been in one household in their younger years, and then transferred to other states.

Eighty six dogs were reported as already having sent DNA to the Canine Hereditary Cancer Consortium.  Five hundred and fifty eight   responses  (77%) indicated a willingness to send DNA for further or future studies.

The cooperation of the Italian Greyhound owners made this survey possible.  Many owners completed surveys for multiple dogs, and we would like to express our appreciation for the time and dedication they demonstrated in doing so.