Michelle Verrier-Davis, D.M.D.
22 Stapleford Drive
Falmouth, ME 04105

My Experience

About Italian Greyhounds
Buyer Beware

Fractured Limbs

About Italian Greyhounds

-Author Unkown

While searching the internet, I came across this interesting article. I feel everyone that is thinking about acquiring an Italian Greyhound should read this. It tells you exactly what you are getting into when you allow an IG to take over your life.

If you want a dog to be an "OUTDOOR DOG", don't get an IG. IGs have very little body fat and don't have an "all weather" coat. Even with adequate shelter, IGs do poorly in that type of environment. They are very attached to people and are miserable if they don't have a lot of quality time with their family!

If you want a dog to be a "GUARD DOG", don't get an IG. IGs are generally aloof/reserved with strangers but do not have the size or temperament to be a "guardian". They will probably alert you to the presence of strangers, but that's about the extent of it!

If you are an extremely fastidious housekeeper, think twice about an Italian Greyhound. IGs can be VERY difficult to housetrain. They are world-champion stealth peeers and poopers, and there is a very small likelihood of your new off white carpet escaping puppyhood unscathed. Even "trained" adults can have occasional lapses (especially in cold and/or rainy weather.) If the very idea sends you into apoplexy, think long and hard. There are breeds out there that would rather explode than soil their master's home, but the IG isn't one of them! Housetraining issues are the number one reason given when people turn IGs into rescue.

If you have infants or young children, an IG may or may not be a good choice for you, for several reasons. If you have crawling children that put everything in their mouths, the housetraining issue is something to really consider. Toddlers are often clumsy and erratic in their movements, and can easily hurt an IG. Accident or not, a broken leg is still a broken leg and very expensive to fix. IGs normally do better in a home with older, considerate children. IGs are NOT canine babysitters and can't tolerate "roughhousing".

If you have visions of sitting in your easy chair with a dog quietly at your feet, think again! IGs are extremely affectionate and crave close physical contact with their people. They are more likely to be in your lap than at your feet. Similarly, if the idea of a dog on the furniture gives you hives, you should probably look at another breed. While I'm sure an IG could eventually be taught to stay off the furniture, they would be quite unhappy about it.

If you are looking for a dog to accompany you off leash in various settings, I implore you to think carefully about getting an IG or any sighthound. Sighthounds tend to have very high prey drive, and will take off after small furry creatures. During the chase they go "deaf" and won't even hear you calling them. Many IGs and other sighthounds have been hit by cars and lost because their owners trusted that they would not run off. The refrain is all too common, "But he was so attached to me I never thought he would leave my side..."e; or "I had done it a million times and he never did anything like that before!" Some sighthound owners (myself included) successfully engage in off leash activities with their dogs, but only after intense recall training and in controlled areas.

As a companion to the above, if you are planning to use an invisible fence, please reconsider. Sighthounds are so fast, they can be through the containment system before they even realize they have been shocked. It just isn't enough of a deterrent in the face of great temptation (a squirrel, the neighbor's cat, etc.) Not to mention the fact that IGs are small dogs, and could be at the mercy of larger animals that wander into the yard. Even if the invisible fence keeps your IG *in*, it doesn't keep the neighbor's 110 lb mutt *out*. I do know a few IG/whippet owners who successfully use invisible fences, but they are extremely dedicated owners and only use the system when they are *outside WITH the dog*.

If you expect a pet to be "low maintenance", you may want to consider a few things about IGs. Like many toy dogs, IGs are prone to dental and periodontal problems. It is very important to keep a handle on your IG's mouth. If unchecked, dental/periodontal problems can lead to serious health issues, including systemic infections and heart damage (not to mention very unpleasant breath.) Some IGs can get away with a yearly dental cleaning from the veterinarian, many others require daily brushing and cleanings every six months.

In addition to dental problems, there are several serious health issues in the breed. Some are PRA (causes eventual blindness), epilepsy, juvenile cataracts, luxating patellas, Legg-Perthes, autoimmune thyroiditis, vWD, color dilution alopecia and broken legs. Your chances of getting an IG with these conditions is lessened by buying from a responsible breeder, but these problems sometimes crop up even with the best breeders. (Compared to other pure breeds, in my opinion IGs are in the middle healthwise. Some breeds have fewer problems, some have more.)

Finally, if you expect perfect, automatic obedience, don't get an IG! While IGs learn quickly with positive training methods and can be wonderfully well-behaved house dogs, they do not obey like a mindless automaton. People who want top obedience competitors choose breeds that don't mind lots of repetition and can be trained to a high level of precision. While a Golden Retriever might practice the same exercise 50 times in a single session, an IG will do it twice and then look at you as if to say "Haven't you had your fun? Let's do something else already!"

If you have read all the way to this point, you may be wondering why anyone would want an IG if all these things are true. Italian Greyhounds are gentle, sweet, affectionate, sensitive, highly intuitive and exceptionally attuned to their owners' moods. They have a dry mouth and require minimal grooming with little or no "doggy odor". They get along with most dogs but tend to prefer the company of other IGs. They are wonderful and infuriating. A true IG person will never be without one (or two, or three!)

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Buyer Beware

On this subject I feel I am somewhat of an expert. As a novice, I’ve made nearly every mistake imaginable in the acquisition of my first few puppies. My downfall, in the early days was, interestingly, emotion. I find the first mistake a person trying to get into the breed is to make puppy selections with his/her heart, not his/her head.

I had been afraid of dogs since one bit me years ago. My husband, a dog lover, convinced me that Italian Greyhounds (IGs) would be a good choice. He took me to a local pet store (first mistake) where I saw my first IGs, a pair of male and female littermates. Although my husband urged caution, I had the pair bought (along with a host of accessories) within five minutes. I had my first two dogs (Max and Wegi). I thought I knew my stuff since I had “papers” on the dogs.

Three weeks later I was in my local mall when I saw a “doggie in the window”. I saw the apparently underage IG in a dirty cage and felt she needed to be rescued. I immediately went into the pet store and paid the exorbitant ransom. A grateful “Lilly” was on her way home. Here too, I could justify the purchase to my husband…Lilly had IG papers.

Well, within a few months I learned of my second mistake. Not all “papers” are created equally. My first two IGs, Max and Wegi, grew into Whippets and Lilly (riddled with health problems) began to show Chihuahuan traits. Although I love my pets, my experience taught me the importance of research and responsible breeding. My advice to anyone who is interested in obtaining show dogs is to, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. I found the Internet to be very helpful as both a learning tool and a resource for contacts, those with the knowledge you need. Though be VERY careful online. A red flag should go up about any breeder who accepts credit cards or who “Ship(s) anywhere”. I can’t say it enough, do your homework.

When seeking a puppy source it is important to be objective. I found helpful tips in this regard on www.italiangreyhound.org/buydog.html

Following their advice, I contacted numerous breeders around the country in search of my first show dog. Along the way I got massive amounts of info on breeding, dog selection, as well as the insight on other breeders.

Needless to say, I have come along way and feel confident I now having the dogs and the basic knowledge to successfully contribute to the breeds I own.

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Fractured Limbs

Due to their slight and slender stature, it is not surprising that IGs and Whippets are prone to extremity fractures of the limbs and tail. Within my population, one of my dogs, Zack, has suffered both. Research doesn't support a hereditary cause, nor does diet exercise or size appear to be linked. Given that most fractures statistically occur in young dogs (4 to 12 months old) it can be hypothesized that these injuries result from a dog simply not knowing its own limitations.

In Zack’s case, the tip of his tail was fractured as a 14-week-old puppy when Lilly (his IG playmate) grabbed him. No treatment was required, but he, to this day has a slight crook in the last inch of his tail.

At 6 months of age, Zack jumped off a chair onto a newly waxed hardwood floor, causing a complete fracture just above his left pastern (wrist). That night he received immediate treatment, a splint, at the local emergency clinic. The following day he was taken to an orthopedic veterinarian who performed internal fixation surgery by placing 6 pins and a plate. See copies of radiographs (x-rays) below. As the limb was internally fixed, no cast was needed. After 6 weeks of in-home care separated from the other dogs, Zack has fully recovered with no ill effects.

Zack's Radiographs
(Click Picture for a larger view)

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When first getting involved with purebred Whippets and Italian Greyhounds I never expected to have a “Mangy Mutt”. Having eight dogs, I have experienced nearly every problem at least once. Mange was no exception.

Soon after getting my fifth dog, a whippet named Maggie, she very suddenly developed a red skin rash and lost large patches of fur. In a panic, I took her to her veterinarian who, after a scrape test, diagnosed Demodex Mange; the worst case he’d ever seen in 25 years of practice. There are two primary types of mange, Demodex and Sarcoptic. Sarcoptic Mange results from infestation of scabies. Although less common than the Demodex, it stems from a mite infection allowed by immune system weakness.

Since Maggie suffered from generalized Demodex, I will elaborate on her case and course of treatment I followed after extensive research.

Soon after Maggie was diagnosed, I contacted her breeder and found out that Maggie’s six littermates also came down with the disease. In no time, the breeder as well as the other littermate owners euthanized their dogs. Although Maggie’s case was a severe case, I was determined to see her through it and back to health. This is her story…

Demodex mange (also known as “red mange”) is a relatively common skin disorder in dogs. All dogs carry the Demodex Canis mite in hair follicles. This infestation is usually benign, however, should the dog be immunocompromised, the mite can take over, resulting in generalized itching, redness, hair loss, and in extreme untreated cases, death. The more minor form, localized mange, usually resolves without much treatment other than extremely good hygiene. Maggie’s veterinarian performed a scrape test, which involved scraping the affected area with a scalpel and looking for the cigar shaped mites under a microscope.

Different treatment options were discussed including the traditional series of “dips” in Amitraze. I was very concerned with the side effects of the toxic dips, mostly notably sleepiness and depression. It is important to note that successful treatment of generalized mange is very time consuming and expensive. This may have led to the decision of the other owners to euthanize their dogs. Although treating the mange is important, treating the underlying immune system problem is just as critical. As I was not in favor of dipping, I agreed to have Maggie undergo treatment with Ivermectin, (a drug not FDA approved for this condition, but for heartworms) and antibiotics for any super infections that arose. My veterinarian had confidence in this form of treatment so we began daily doses for the next eight weeks combined with neem oil and neem shampoo applications. With the treatment of the “outside” underway, Maggie was treated on the “inside” to help develop her weakened immune system. Online I discovered www.naturalcanine.com where I adapted their mange kit, a regimen of homeopathic care, combined with a BARF diet.

After 4 months of the combination of allopathic, and homeopathic care as well as a lot of love, Maggie recovered fully.

There is strong suspion that the defect in the immunity may be hereditary. Although there is no medical research to back this up, it is strongly recommended to have dogs suffering from this form of mange be fixed. I would not want any of my dogs to go through want Maggie went through. So it is NOT worth the chance. Remember breed you dog only when you feel you can BETTER the breed. Following Maggie’s recovery she was spayed.

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