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5 Whippet Health Issues You Need to Know (Vet Answer)

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By Dr. Karyn Kanowski

Whippet lies on the hay_Liliya Kulianionak_shutterstock

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Written by

Dr. Karyn Kanowski

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Fast, graceful, and more than a little bit needy, the Whippet has come a long way since their humble beginnings as “the poor man’s Greyhound,” which was popular amongst the working class as a more economical and compact hunting companion and adept at finding rabbits and eliminating rats. Quiet, affectionate, and low maintenance, it’s no wonder these loyal dogs have made the transition from working breed to companion. A mainstay of the British Top 20 dog breeds, their reputation for being an ideal pet is gaining traction elsewhere, and they were ranked 54th in popularity in the American Kennel Club in 2022.

Let’s check out the Whippet’s vital statistics:

Size Medium: 18 to 22 inches
Weight 25 to 40 pounds
Life expectancy 12 to 15 years
Exercise needs Moderate to high
Maximum speed 35 miles per hour
Grooming requirements Very low
Good with children? Yes
Good with other dogs? Yes
Good with strangers? Shy
Good with cats? Will chase if a cat runs, but can also be happy in feline company
Barking level Very low

As is often the case with dogs that were bred for work, the Whippet is a breed relatively free of health issues, with injury being the most common ailment to land them at the vet’s office. However, if you are thinking of adding one of these sweet-natured athletes to your family, there are a few health considerations to be aware of.

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The 5 Whippet Health Issues

1. Injuries

Whippets are long-legged and fast-moving, and this can be a recipe for high-speed injuries. Skin lacerations and fractured limbs are amongst the most common reasons Whippets need veterinary care, suggesting that speed and coordination do not always go hand in hand!

Photo credit: Arbor-Sarah-F, Pixabay

2. Eye Problems

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an inherited condition seen in several dog breeds. Whippets are not among those most commonly affected, but it is known to occur. It usually affects dogs around the age of 3–9 years old, with degeneration of the retinal cells resulting in partial or complete blindness. There is genetic testing available to screen dogs who carry the PRA genes, so this is a condition that is very much on the decline.

3. Heart Problems

Whippets are among the most common breeds to suffer from mitral valve disease (MVD), which is the most prevalent form of canine heart disease. MVD is most often seen in small to medium dog breeds, such as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Miniature Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, and Chihuahuas, and often progresses to congestive heart failure as the dog ages. It is the leading cause of death in older Whippets.

whippet lying on red cloth
Image Credit: Mabuya, Pixabay

4. Immune-Mediated Disease

Although not an overly common problem, Whippets are known to suffer from immune-mediated conditions, such as immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) and immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (IMTP).

Immune-mediated disease refers to conditions in which the body’s own immune system attacks its own cells. In the case of IMHA, the red blood cells are affected, and the platelets are being destroyed in dogs with IMTP. Immune-mediated disease can occur spontaneously but can also follow stimulation of the immune system by things such as infection, medications, and vaccination.

5. Meningitis/Meningoencephalitis

Idiopathic or Steroid Responsive Meningitis is a condition that is linked to immune-mediated disease seen in Whippets. It occurs when the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (the meninges) become inflamed, causing fever, pain, and lethargy.

This particular form of meningitis is not due to a bacterial or viral infection but to an inappropriate immune response. Fortunately, most dogs recover well following treatment with immunosuppressive medication (e.g., corticosteroids), but may suffer relapses in the future.

close up whippet dog indoor
Image Credit: Mitchell Orr, Unsplash

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Final Thoughts

Whippets are a generally healthy, affectionate, and low-maintenance breed, as comfortable on a sprawling acreage as they are in a cozy apartment, as long as they get plenty of exercise. They can be a little bit needy and prefer company over solitude. Because Whippets can be wary of strangers, early socialization is a must with this breed, but their loyalty and devotion to their family are unparalleled.

There are a few health problems to be aware of, but fortunately, they are not a breed that has a high incidence of disease. A Whippets main malady tends to be injury, having pet insurance in place from day one is strongly advised.

Featured Image Credit: Liliya Kulianionak, Shutterstock

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