Almost all commercially produced dog foods are advertised as being nutritionally complete (ie, the dog needs no other food or supplements) and initially, it can be a bit daunting to pick a food when faced with differing recommendations for quantity of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals and the huge variations between brands. When buying food for your greyhound, we recommend that you read the nutritional information very carefully and educate yourself as to what the terms and wording on the labels mean. Below is a rough guide to things you should be looking for.
Meat content- When buying food, the first ingredient should always be meat. Many companies get around the issue of price by using very low quality byproducts of the meat industry and listing it on packaging as "meat and/or meat byproducts". Another trick is to simply not specify the source. "Meat" or "poultry" can be almost anything so it's important to look for products that list the source of the meat, for example, "beef" or "chicken".
Grains- A lot of dog foods have a very heavy grain content and generally speaking (from our experience), greyhounds do not digest this very well (meaning loose stools and a lot of it). Some grains are better than others and can have quite an effect on the overall quality of the food.
For more information on commerical dog foods, please visit this site.
Although some dogs do well on supermarket brands of dog food (for example, Pedigree Pal, Beneful, Supercoat, etc), we would not feed it to our dogs (or our foster hounds) and would never recommend supermarket brands to adopters. We feel the quality is far too low and that it is not sufficient nutritionally for greyhounds to live on.
Although it may be tempting to fatten up your greyhound (as most people are used to dogs with far more body fat), it is very important that you do not overfeed your greyhound. Greyhounds are not built to carry excessive weight and being overweight increases their chances of suffering from arthritis, an illness that can be crippling in greyhounds.
A good way to check your greyhound's body fat is to count the easily visible ribs. If you can see the last two ribs only, the dog is probably at the right weight. It's also a good idea (where possible) to find your greyhound's racing weight. Ideally, your greyhound's retired weight should not be more than five kilograms heavier than their racing weight.
Dangerous foods list (listed in alphabetical order)
It should be noted that some of these foods are safe for dogs if prepared correctly or eaten in moderation. Please read entire entries to ensure you fully understand the risks and how to avoid them. The products that are safe in moderation or safe with correct preparation are marked with an asterisk.
If you suspect your greyhound has eaten something poisonous, call your veterinarian immediately for advice. The correct first aid may be the difference in whether or not the dog survives.
Alcohol- Alcohol causes similar physical effects in dogs as it does in humans- it is a diuretic and a central nervous system depressant, causing coordination problems and dehydration, amongst other things. Never allow your dog access to alcoholic beverages.
Apple*- The seed/pit contains cyanogenic glycosides which can cause poisoning if consumed in larger amounts. The flesh of this fruit is generally safe to feed to your greyhound in moderation.
Apricot*- The seed/pit contains cyanogenic glycosides which can cause poisoning if consumed in larger amounts. The flesh of this fruit is generally safe to feed to your greyhound in moderation.
Avocado- Avocado contains persin which can cause organ damage in some animals. The seed also presents a choking or obstruction hazard if swallowed. Additionally, avocado flesh is also quite high in fat, making them a somewhat unhealthy food for most greyhounds, regardless of the toxicity risk.
Baby Food- Many savoury baby foods contain onion powder as a flavouring, making them unsafe due to the risk of anemia caused by the compound sodium thiosulphate. Additionally, baby foods are formulated to meet the nutrition needs of human babies, not dogs- and as such, feeding of baby food to dogs can result in malnutrition.
Bones*- Raw bones (fed in moderation- excessive feeding of bones may lead to constipation in the dog) can provide your greyhound not only with a source of calcium but also help keep their teeth clean and prevent conditions caused by tartar build-up in the mouth. However, cooked bones (of any sort) should never be fed to dogs. Cooking changes the structure of the bone, making it almost impossible to digest and making the bones brittle (which facilitates breakage, leading to splintering when the dog eats them).
Bread Dough- Due to the processes that occur as bread rises, allowing your dog to eat dough places the dog at risk of bloat (a condition in which the stomach becomes overstretched and then twists, trapping gas and often leading to death). Additionally, many bread doughs consist mainly of wheat flour, a grain which has few nutrients of any benefit to your greyhound.
Caffeine- Caffeine is a stimulant and a diuretic and consumption can lead to dehydration,irregular heart beat, disorientation, rhabdomyolysis and insomnia. Caffeine is present in many carbonated beverages so care should be taken not to allow dogs access.
Cat Food- Cat food is formulated for cats and nutritionally, the very high protein content makes it unsuitable as a food for dogs. Your dog will likely not become ill if it occasionally steals some cat food but actively feeding cat food to your greyhound is not recommended.
Cherries*- The seed/pit contains cyanogenic glycosides which can cause poisoning if consumed in larger amounts. The flesh of this fruit is generally safe to feed to your greyhound in moderation.
Chocolate- Chocolate contains the compound theobromine (also known as xantheose), a substance that is both a stimulant and a diuretic. While very small amount are unlikely to permanently harm your dog, all chocolates and chocolate products (cocoa powder, etc) should be stored securely and well out of reach of your dog as there is a substantial risk of death at higher doses (a greyhound of about 30kg would likely die after 900grams of milk chocolate, for example- this quantity decreases considerably for types of chocolate with higher theobromine levels).
Corn Cobs- Corn kernels are fine in moderation but the cobs should never be given to dogs as they present a choking/obstruction risk.
Dairy Products*- Lactose is generally poorly digested by dogs and larger quantities of dairy products in the diet can result in gastrointestinal upset, leading to severe diarrhea. Small amount of cheese (lower fat varieties if possible) and natural yoghurt (again, fat reduced where possible) can be fed in moderation.
Eggs (Raw)*- Raw egg whites contain the protein avidin (about 1.8 mg per egg), a biotin-binding protein (biotin is a B vitamin) that can cause a deficiency, leading to growth and health problems. Cooking destroys avidin so cooked eggs are of no risk. Additionally, raw eggs are a risk for bacteria such as salmonella, a bacteria which often leads to severe food poisoning. Feeding your greyhound the occasional egg yolk (or a small amount of shell) is reasonably safe but should be done in moderation.
Garlic*- Garlic, like onion, contains the sulphur compound sodium thiosulphate- although the concentration appears to be far less, making garlic safe to feed in moderation (no more than a teaspoon per day).
Grapes or Raisins- Although the exact chemical remains unknown, grapes contain something which causes renal damage in dogs- presumed to be more concentrated in raisins, owing the removal of water. Toxicity seems to occur in similar levels to those of chocolate consumption (although the amounts needed to cause toxicity are far lower in dried grape products, owing to the concentrated levels) so while your greyhound stealing a grape or two is unlikely to be a risk, grapes and raisins should not be actively fed to your dog.
Liver*- In small quantities, liver is great for your greyhound's health, providing a source of vitamin A that many greyhounds really seem to enjoy. However, in larger amounts, liver can create a risk of hypervitaminosis A- essentially an overdose of vitamin A, a condition that can cause osteoporosis, bone growths, hair loss and liver dysfunction.
Macadamia Nuts- Although the actual chemical that causes this toxicity remain unknown , macadamia nuts have been proven to cause muscle weakness and severe distress in dogs. No fatalities have been recorded and dogs affected seem to recover however it remains a high risk food, owing to the severity of symptoms.
Mouldy or Spoiled Foods- Just as in humans, the consumption of mouldy or spoiled foods can lead to food poisoning and even death in dogs. A good rule of thumb is.. if you wouldn't eat it yourself, don't feed it to your dog. It's also important to ensure your garbage bins are secured to prevent your greyhound from dumpster diving for its own snacks.
Mushrooms*- Mushrooms that are safe for human consumption are generally considered safe for dogs (feed in moderation). The risk comes from eating wild mushrooms or mushrooms that have not been identified as being safe for human consumption. More detailed information on mushroom poisoning is available here.
Nutmeg- Nutmeg is considered to be a hallucinogenic when consumed in large amounts- although given the small amounts used in most foods and its fairly unpalatable texture and taste, the risk it presents is generally fairly minimal. Ensuring nutmeg is stored properly and not allowing your dog to consume foods with large amounts of nutmeg eliminates virtually all risk- it is not a food that many dogs will seek out.
Onions- Onions contain sodium thiosulphate, a compound that while harmless to humans, causes severe hemolytic anemia in dogs, resulting in death at higher concentrations. The preparation of the onion does not seem to effect toxicity so all forms of onion should be avoided. Small amounts fed accidentally are unlikely to cause permanent harm however care should be taken to ensure consumption does not continue.
Peaches*- The seed/pit contains cyanogenic glycosides which can cause poisoning if consumed in larger amounts. The flesh of this fruit is generally safe to feed to your greyhound in moderation.
Pears*- The seed/pit contains cyanogenic glycosides which can cause poisoning if consumed in larger amounts. The flesh of this fruit is generally safe to feed to your greyhound in moderation.
Plums*- The seed/pit contains cyanogenic glycosides which can cause poisoning if consumed in larger amounts. The flesh of this fruit is generally safe to feed to your greyhound in moderation.
Play-Doh- Dogs may be attracted to this owing to the salty flavour but ingestion may lead to severe electrolyte imbalances or even death. Care should be taken to remove all Play-Doh after children have finished playing with it (and be sure to store it somewhere out of the dog's reach).
Potatoes*- While things like mashed potato are fine for your greyhound in moderation, sprouted stems and green patches on potatoes contain solanine, a glycoalkaloid poison. Poisoning usually causes gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms, including dizziness, diarrhea, vomiting and paralysis. Solanine poisoning is very unusual however care should still be taken when feeding dogs potatoes that have green patches or shoots.
Salt*- There are two risks with salt, one being iodine poisoning (obviously only in iodised salt), the other is electrolyte imbalance (which can lead to death, if severe enough). Iodised salt should never be used in your dog's food and when salting its meals, use less than you'd use for yourself. Many dog treats and prepared foods already contain a very high level of sodium so there is not real need to supplement your dog's salt intake.
Sugarfree lollies or gum- Sweets containing xylitol can cause liver damage and poisoning in dogs and should never be given. Additionally, chewing gum presents a choking hazard to dogs.
Table Scraps*- Greyhounds cannot survive on table scraps alone and generally speaking, table scraps are insufficient nutritionally to be fed as anything other than way of supplementing the amount your dog eats daily. A small amount of table scraps is great to add variety and keep your dog interested in its regular food but to be safe and ensure your dog's health, no more than 15% of the dog's diet should consist of table scraps.
Tinned food- Many other breeds of dog can cope well with tinned food but generally speaking, greyhounds do not. Tinned food has a very high water content which can lead to stomach upsets and weight loss. We do not feed tinned food to our foster hounds and we do not recommend our adopters feed it to their dogs.
Tomatoes* and Tomato Plants- While red, ripe tomatoes are safe if fed in moderation, green parts of tomatoes (like in potatoes) can cause health risks. Many dogs will not seek these out to eat anyway however dogs should be watched around tomato plants, regardless.
Water*- Although not a high risk food in itself (except in the case of excessive consumption where it can lead to water intoxication), water that is dirty or contains certain chemicals can be very harmful to your dog. Dirty or stagnant water can contain harmful bacteria or algae so it is important not to allow your dog to drink from puddles, still water (such as fish ponds, rain water that has been caught in old tyres, etc) or running water unless you are entirely sure that the water is safe for at least human consumption. When walking your dog, a bottle of water and a folding water bowl (these are quite small and most can easily fit in a pocket) are always a good idea- especially in summer when your dog may be tempted by thirst to drink water it would normally steer clear of.
Raw vs Commercial
There has been a great deal of debate over the Raw vs Commercial issue (the Dogz Online forums have many topics that cover the various advantages/disadvantages of both sides) and although we feed our dogs raw food and recommend that adopters give it a try (we've had great success with it), we understand that every dog is an individual and there is no correct answer to the raw vs commercial debate. Some dogs may do better on commercial food or have medical issues that make raw feeding impossible. Raw feeding does also require a bit of learning and some adjustments to help work out what is best for the individual dog.
Where needed, we are always willing to help new owners learn to raw feed but if owners chose to feed commercially prepared dog food, our advice and help are still always available, without any judgement or pushing of opinions. "The best food for your dog is the food your dog does best on" is something we firmly believe in.
Generally speaking, greyhounds are very easy to keep clean. Brushing with the Zoom Groom, once or twice a week, is usually enough to remove loose hairs and keep the dog's coat looking nice. The furminator (no more than once or twice a month) can also be used to thin the coat back out if undercoat begins to grow.
Because of their thin fur and the lower amounts of oil in it, greyhounds should not be washed (using soap) any more frequently than once a month as otherwise, their skin may become excessively dry and dandruff will occur. We recommend that adopters select a shampoo suitable for the greyhound skin type as products designed for dogs with heavier oils (such as labradors) may strip out too much oil and dry the skin (leaving the fur dull and brittle).
We recommend that nails be done weekly and when cutting, to focus more on removal of the tougher outter layers (the areas that do not wear down well) rather than trying to just keep them short- overly short nails are not necessarily the best thing for the dog and may still grow incorrectly, leaving the dog with very hard nails that take longer to correct. When you adopt a greyhound from us, we will demonstrate (on an actual greyhound) the methods we use for cutting as well as discuss the differences in clippers and how to use them.
For information on cutting your greyhound's nails, see here.
Many greyhounds have poor teeth, even at younger ages so proper oral hygiene is very important for greyhounds. Although there are products designed for teeth cleaning (everything from toothbrushes and pastes through to chew products that claim to clean the teeth), in our experience, bones are the best way to keep a greyhound's mouth clean and fresh. Bones do carry with them risks (such as choking) but these risks are also present in other chew products and can be minimised by supervision.
Bones also provide your greyhound with mental stimulation, they work the muscles of the jaw and they provide a good source calcium, making it not only a better way of keeping teeth clean but also one that your greyhound will likely enjoy far more than the foreign taste of toothpaste and your fingers in its mouth.
Occasionally, despite best efforts to correctly match a dog to the right family, problems can come up and in our experience, the sooner these problems are addressed, the easier they are to fix and the less serious they are.
If you have serious concerns regarding your greyhound's behaviour or if you greyhound bites anyone (or attempts to), please contact us immediately.
Children or other family members
Sometimes, even when the greyhound is well behaved, other members of the family may not get along as well with the dog as hoped. Small children may initially be keen on the idea of getting a dog but find themselves scared by the large, skinny dog with the wire muzzle on its face or older people may be concerned about being knocked over by the dog if the dog is overly boisterous.
When dealing with other members of the family it's very important to take concerns seriously and discuss any issues to ensure all parties feel heard- ignoring concerns can lead to resentment of the dog, something that can ultimately lead to the dog being returned. That said, it's also worth discovering whether or not these concerns are realistic and if so, what can be done to minimise any risks or make the concerned party more comfortable.
Many smaller children find the wire muzzle to be a little unnerving so it may be helpful to change the child's perception of the muzzle; rather than telling the child that the muzzle is there to stop the dog from biting, perhaps instead refer to the muzzle as the dog's "nose protector", maintaining emphasis on the importance of the muzzle being on when the dog goes out without implying the the dog is something to be scared of.
For more information regarding greyhounds and children, click here.
In some cases, the greyhound may be sociable with other dogs or animals but the existing pets may not be. In cases such as this, we feel it's important to rectify issues before the environment causes the greyhound any negative experiences that may effect the dog's ability to cope with other animals.
In the case of livestock, many greyhounds are wary of bigger animals anyway and will not approach them. However, not all greyhounds seem to be aware of the risks of approaching livestock so careful introductions should be made to assess any risk and if the greyhound seems interested in approaching livestock that may react poorly, provisions should be made to ensure the greyhound does not have unsupervised access.
If the problem is the other dog/s, things can be a little more complicated. Although Greyhound Haven can assess the greyhounds rehomed to ensure suitability, we have no control over existing pets and in some cases, lack of correct socialisation or training can mean that, realistically, no dog is going to be suitable for that home until the owners address the existing problems with their own pets.
In these cases, while we are happy to offer some basic advice if problems are minor, without knowing the dog's history or temperament, we highly recommend that treatment is sought with a professional behaviourist.
The behavioural assessments carried out while a greyhound is in foster care with us are thorough enough to pick up almost all problems although in younger dogs, sometimes things will slip past.
Generally, the concern stems from greyhounds chasing other dogs when offlead and while our standard advice is "The greyhound should not be offlead in public", people tend to do what they feel is right so it's more productive to warn but also offer advice. Greyhounds (being sighthounds) love to chase and often, they'll even chase each other and this behaviour is generally quite safe. That said, when smaller dogs are involved (especially when they display fearful behaviour) the risks of an accident increase considerably.
We strongly recommend that dog owners (not just greyhound owners) only socialise their dogs with dogs of known temperaments and predictable behaviour to minimise the risk of accidents or fights.
If you have any concerns about your greyhound's behaviour, please contact us to discuss it. Often problems are far easier to fix than people realise.