What to Know: Adopting a Greyhound Dog

Updated Aug. 30, 2023
greyhound lying in a park on a picnic blanket

Congratulations on taking the first step in the adoption process: researching a dog breed. Learning about possible medical conditions and how best to prepare and care for your new dog is a crucial and, unfortunately, often overlooked part of adopting. Bringing a pet into your home has numerous benefits and is rewarding in and of itself, but it is also a privilege and a great responsibility. 

If you’re looking for a dog that is cute, smart, well-behaved, easygoing, and relatively healthy, a Greyhound is a great choice for you. Due to recent changes in the dog racing industry, owning a Greyhound has become more popular among pet parents.

With their longer life expectancy and unbreakable gentle spirit, Greyhounds can provide great companionship long after their racing career is over. Many wind up in rescues or shelters; an estimated 18,000 Greyhounds have been placed into homes every year.

Prior to adoption, be sure to ask the following questions of the shelter or rescue staff:

  • What is the dog’s age (or best guess)?

  • What circumstances led this dog to be at the shelter (racing retirement, injury, or other)?

  • What do you know about this dog’s medical history, including any diagnostics and/or treatments performed?

  • What is the dog’s current medical condition (including additional issues determined by the shelter)?

  • What is the current behavior and/or temperament analysis of this dog (are they good with children, or other dogs or cats?)

  • Is the dog potty-trained, crate-trained, able to walk on a leash?

  • Are there any in-house low-cost testing options, coupons, or discounted medical care to help with future costs?

  • What special diet is the dog on? How much food is provided and at what times? What other options can be considered if the special diet is not available?

Understanding Greyhound Temperament

Greyhounds have long been renowned not only for their beauty and grace but also for their gentle and calm demeanor. As a member of the sighthound breed, they possess a keen sense of vision, are sprinters, and have a well-developed prey drive. They do love to run and chase, and having a fenced-in yard or area to play fetch will be helpful. You may even want to take your Greyhound to participate in agility classes.

Breeding and training often dictate whether Greyhounds can get along well with other breeds, cats, young children, and smaller pets. The myth that they don’t do well with cats is false, because positive interactions can occur. The dog’s history, along with slow introductions, positive reinforcement and consistency, will be key. Keep in mind that for any recently adopted dog, it can take a bit of time to become acclimated to you and to new surroundings.

Even though Greyhounds love to run, they also love to sleep and can spend much of their time lazing around the home. So don’t immediately discount them if lack of space is a concern.

Retired racing Greyhounds have often been handled quite a lot. They are socialized and have some trained behaviors, and they can often tolerate car rides more easily than other breeds and feel at home sleeping in a crate. Additionally, most Greyhounds, because of their intelligence, do well with commands and are eager to please, which can make teaching them new tricks easier.

Keeping Greyhounds Healthy

It is important that your Greyhound be examined by your family veterinarian soon after adoption to review the medical file and determine what your new pet’s future medical needs may look like. Aside from a basic health screening and blood work, your veterinarian may want to perform x-rays to screen your Greyhound for previous fractures, injuries, and arthritis.

Your vet may also want to perform additional blood work to look for babesiosis, a tick-borne disease common in racing Greyhounds, given the environment in which they may have raced. Greyhounds with babesiosis may not be sick from the infection but could be carriers and may become ill in the future. It’s recommended that most dogs, including Greyhounds, be examined twice a year.

Greyhounds are a relatively healthy breed overall but can acquire numerous diseases. They have a higher incidence of the following:

  • Gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV), or bloat

  • Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer

  • Aspergillosis, a fungal infection

  • Pannus, an eye disease that causes blindness

  • Dental disease

  • Malignant hyperthermia, a life-threatening genetic disorder that results in a higher-than-normal body temperature

  • Alabama rot, a skin and kidney disease

  • Ventral comedo syndrome, a skin condition

  • Idiopathic bald thigh syndrome, a skin condition

  • Systemic lupus onychodystrophy, an autoimmune skin condition

Because Greyhounds have larger bones and thinner skin than other dogs, care should be taken when handling and playing. They are also sensitive to certain medications and anesthetics such as acepromazine, thiopental, and propofol. It’s important to discuss suitable alternatives with your veterinarian.

Joint supplements, Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC)-approved dental-care products, and a complete and balanced diet aimed at maintaining joint health and an ideal body weight may be recommended. Seek the advice of your veterinarian before giving any supplements or over-the-counter medications. 

Creating the Right Home Environment for a Greyhound

For Greyhounds, as with any other dogs, creating the right home environment with a focus on emotional and physical safety and well-being will allow you to enjoy the benefits of animal companionship for many years to come. Greyhounds, given their larger size, need a suitable place to sleep—and in many cases, this will be a crate, as racing Greyhounds are likely to be already accustomed to sleeping in a confined area.

Comfortable bedding for their joints and towels or blankets to sleep on will help prevent heat loss. Because Greyhounds don’t have a lot of fat padding and have a shorter coat, owners who live in cold or wet climates, or in areas with cold and rainy winter months, need to take extra precautions, such as putting sweaters or rain gear on your Greyhound when going outside.

Other items, aside from the dog’s basic needs, that would aid with emotional well-being include a suitable fenced-in yard or area where the Greyhound can run around or play some type of fetch game. Tennis-ball blasters or launchers and Chuckit! toys are just two of the many such products that can facilitate exercise. A harness would be more suitable for walking than a collar, given the Greyhound’s size and tendency to want to chase.

Featured Image: iStock.com/Zbynek Pospisil

Michael Kearley, DVM


Michael Kearley, DVM


Dr. Michael Kearley graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. He graduated with a certificate in...

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