Italian Greyhound

Published Feb. 8, 2023
brown italian greyhound dog standing outside

In This Article

General Care

Italian Greyhounds share many similarities with the Greyhound dog, but on a smaller scale. Both are sighthounds, meaning they rely on their vision, speed, and agility to track prey rather than scent and endurance, like other hound breeds. Both have lean and light bodies, making them quick sprinters. And while their sighthound nature may suggest a high-energy dog, both Greyhounds and Italian Greyhounds love nothing more than to cuddle up on the couch with their humans.

As the smallest sighthounds, Italian Greyhounds stand only 13-15 inches tall. They’re also slender, weighing between 7-14 pounds. This makes them the perfect lap dog.

The Italian Greyhound breed has been around for over 2,000 years, according to The Italian Greyhound Club. The breed has long been a muse for artists—Italian Greyhound-like dogs are depicted in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, and their image became hugely popular during the Renaissance in Italy, according to the breed club. But it wasn’t until the early 1800s, when the little dogs arrived in the United Kingdom, that they became known as Italian Greyhounds.

Caring for an Italian Greyhound

chart depicting an italian greyhound's breed characteristics

Italian Greyhounds combine just the right amount of activity with laziness and a compact body to be great companions in busy homes. Their gentle and affectionate nature make them terrific family dogs— however, while they are generally good with kids who understand how to interact with dogs, they tend to avoid smaller, rambunctious children.

Italian Greyhound dogs are low maintenance when it comes to grooming because of their short, fine hair. However, their coat does not insulate them well, and combined with their slender bodies, they can be easily affected by the cold. So if you decide to bring home an Italian Greyhound puppy, make sure you have plenty of dog sweaters and canine coats to keep them warm.

Italian Greyhound Health Issues

Italian Greyhounds are typically healthy pups and live to be 14-15 years old (about the typical lifespan for small dogs). And while they do have some inherited conditions that can’t be treated, these can be detected with genetic testing. Pet parents should be aware that Italian Greyhounds are also predisposed to a few health issues.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a group of degenerative eye diseases that affect the retina, eventually causing blindness. PRA is an inherited disease that affects Italian Greyhounds as a result of both parents carrying the gene, though they may not show signs of it themselves. While this disease cannot be prevented or treated, reputable Italian Greyhound breeders will conduct a DNA test to screen for the defective gene in potential carriers.

Autoimmune Disorders

Italian Greyhounds are susceptible to different conditions in which the immune system confuses vital tissues or organs for foreign material and starts destroying them. These can affect different areas of the body (primarily the skin, blood, eyes, and neuromuscular systems) and manifest in various ways depending on the system being attacked. Diagnostic testing is required for diagnosis, and treatment will vary depending on the disease, but typically dogs with autoimmune disorders require lifelong immunosuppressive therapy.

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease

Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease is a condition where the head of the femur (the “ball” portion of the hip’s ball-and-socket joint) degenerates over time, leading to joint failure. Although it’s suspected to have an underlying genetic component, the exact cause of this disease is unknown. It’s typically seen in young (5-8 months old) small-breed dogs and will look like lameness in the hind leg. Diagnosis is done through x-rays, and treatment can vary from medical management to surgery, depending on severity.


Hypothyroidism in dogs is a fairly common condition in which the thyroid gland is underactive. This causes regular body functions to slow down, which can lead to lethargy, weight gain, and changes in the skin and coat. A simple blood test can check for hypothyroidism, and the condition is treated with daily medication. Once started on medication, most dogs with hypothyroidism will live full lives with a normal life expectancy.

What To Feed an Italian Greyhound

Selecting the best diet for an Italian Greyhound comes down to the needs of your individual dog. While it’s always important to select a diet with high-quality ingredients, your dog’s veterinarian can make recommendations based on your pup’s specific medical history.

Italian Greyhounds that are not particularly active are often overweight, so it’s vital to maintain proper body condition by avoiding overfeeding or free-feeding.

How To Feed an Italian Greyhound

Most Italian Greyhounds do not require any special feeding instructions. Typically, feeding them two meals (in the morning and evening) is well tolerated by this breed. Italian Greyhound puppies need to be fed more often, at least three times per day on a consistent schedule.

How Much Should You Feed an Italian Greyhound?

It’s important that pet parents follow the feeding guide on the food bag—this ensures your dog is receiving the appropriate essential daily nutrients. For an Italian Greyhound, based on an average weight of approximately 7-14 pounds, this ranges from about 1/2 cup to 1 cup of food daily, divided into two meals. Your vet can give specific guidance on how much to feed your dog based on their weight and medical history.

Nutritional Tips for Italian Greyhounds

For more active Italian Greyhounds, glucosamine and chondroitin supplements can help keep their joints healthy. Additionally, omega-3 supplements can aid in protecting joint health and keep their skin and coat lush and soft too.

Behavior and Training Tips for Italian Greyhounds

Italian Greyhound Personality and Temperament

Italian Greyhounds have a gentle and friendly personality that fits well into most families, including those with children and other pets. And while they have moderate energy needs, these can be easily met with a daily walk or outdoor playtime.

Though Italian Greyhounds do well with children who understand how to appropriately interact with dogs, they will often avoid more boisterous children. All interactions between kids and Italian Greyhounds should be supervised to make sure no one is accidentally hurt—these dogs have slender, delicate bodies, after all!

Italian Greyhound Behavior

Their friendly personality can sometimes lean more toward “needy,” and when Italian Greyhounds don’t receive the love and attention they seek, they can become shy or hyper. To keep your mini Greyhound happy, give them lots of lap time and break up the day with frequent, short activities such as walks or playtime.

It’s also important to note that Italian Greyhounds have a prey drive, thanks to their history as hunters. This can be triggered by small, fast-moving animals such as cats, rabbits, or squirrels. If you’re bringing an Italian Greyhound into a home with smaller pets, teach them that they’re not something to chase.

Italian Greyhound Training

Italian Greyhounds have a sensitive, gentle nature. They will shut down if they receive negative feedback, so always use positive reinforcement training methods that reward good behavior. Treats, toys, patience, and consistency will give you the best results when training this breed.

Fun Activities for Italian Greyhounds

Italian Greyhound Grooming Guide

When it comes to grooming, the Italian Greyhound is pretty easy. Aside from occasional baths and nail trims, they don’t require much routine grooming.

Skin Care

Skin care for the Italian Greyhound can vary depending on your individual pup’s needs. But overall, the breed does not generally have sensitive skin.

Coat Care

With their short, smooth coat, Italian Greyhounds require minimal coat care beyond routine bathing, which may only be required occasionally or if they decide to roll in something unpleasant. They are moderate shedders, and a gentle weekly brushing can help remove any dead hair.

Eye Care

Routine eye cleaning with a soft, damp cloth or veterinary-approved wipe will help prevent tear stains from building up around your Italian Greyhound’s eyes.

Ear Care

Routine ear cleaning with a veterinary-approved ear cleanser is important to maintain healthy ear canals. This should also be done any time your Italian Greyhound is in water, such as after swimming or bathing, because trapped moisture can lead to ear infections

Considerations for Pet Parents

Though they have a gentle personality and can fit into many different living situations, there are still considerations to be made before bringing home an Italian Greyhound puppy. This little pup might not be the perfect fit for families with small, rambunctious children who can accidentally hurt them. However, if you have older kids who know how to interact with animals, the Italian Greyhound can happily be their four-legged best friend.

Italian Greyhound FAQs

How much do Italian Greyhounds cost?

An Italian Greyhound can cost between $1,400-$2,000, depending on the breeder. You can also find dogs at an Italian Greyhound rescue.

What’s the difference between Whippets vs. Italian Greyhounds?

Whippets and Italian Greyhounds are similar both in personality and in appearance, so it’s not uncommon for the breeds to be confused. But there are distinct differences: Whippets are slightly larger (standing up to 22 inches tall and weighing 25-40 pounds) and members of the hound group. Italian Greyhounds belong to the toy group.

How big do Italian Greyhounds get?

Adult Italian Greyhounds stand 13-15 inches tall and weigh 7-14 pounds.

How long do Italian Greyhounds live?

The average Italian Greyhound lifespan is 14-15 years.

Featured Image: Adobe/Dogs

Teresa Kho-Pelfrey, DVM


Teresa Kho-Pelfrey, DVM


Dr. Teresa Kho-Pelfrey graduated from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2015 and completed her clinical year at Purdue...

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