As far as purebred dog breeds go, Whippets are a pretty healthy bunch. However, as with all breeds there are certain ailments and conditions that Whippets more experience more frequently than others. In this post I’m going to look at common Whippet health problems and provide a brief explanation of each one.
I should say that I’m not a veterinary professional and the information on this page is only designed to provide an overview of severe and more common Whippet health problems.
If you’re at all concerned about a particular Whippet health problem, be sure to visit a qualified veterinary professional for a thorough and detailed examination.
Table of Contents
- A General Note on Whippet Health Problems
- Uncommon Whippet Health Problems
- Mitral Valve Disease
- Canine von Willebrand’s Disease
- Canine Hemangiosarcoma
- Common Whippet Health Problems
- Skin Lacerations & Tears
- Orthopaedic injuries
- Anaesthesia sensitivity
A General Note on Whippet Health Problems
Contrary to what some people believe based on the Whippet’s lean appearance (they’re supposed to look skinny, Whippets tend to be a very healthy breed compared to some other purebred dogs.
Find out more detailed information about how much exercise a Whippet needs.
Of course, Whippets need suitable exercise, proper care and a healthy diet… but in general Whippets can have a healthy life of up to 12 to 15 years.
Regular veterinary visits to ensure you’re up to date with vaccinations, flea and worming courses are required too. However, this is part and parcel of responsible dog ownership.
A final note… some of the Whippet health problems I’ve listed here may seem frightening, and indeed some are. It must be remembered though that by buying a whippet puppy from a reputable breeder and providing proper care, Whippets tend to remain happy and healthy throughout their lives.
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Uncommon Whippet Health Problems
This is not an exhaustive list, but the following serious health problems are known to affect Whippets.
Mitral Valve Disease (MVD)
Mitral valve disease is the most common form of canine heart disease seen in older dogs. It seems to affect Whippets more than many other breeds, which suggests it’s an inherited health problem.
MVD affects one of the four cardiac valves (the mitral valve), that work together to control blood flow entering and exiting the heart. It results in a thickening of the valve itself, which affects its ability to open and close properly.
If the mitral valve doesn’t close properly it makes the heart inefficient and means it has to work harder to move blood around the body
Common symptoms of MVD can be:
- Heart murmurs
- Decreased energy
- Weight loss
MVD tends to affect Whippets at more advanced ages, but doesn’t always present obvious symptoms. However, it’s a health problem that usually worsens progressively and can result in heart failure in Whippets.
Sadly, there’s no cure for mitral valve disease, but once identified, factors such as regular veterinary checks, medication and regular non-strenuous exercise can help to manage the condition and prolong life.
Find out more about Mitral Valve Disease.
Canine von Willebrand’s Disease
Canine von Willebrand’s Disease is a disorder that prevents blood from clotting properly. Like MVD, there is a higher prevalence of the disease in Whippets compared to some other breeds. This too suggests it’s an inherited health problem.
The danger of this condition is that it can cause excessive bleeding in cases of surgery or injury. In sever situations where blood loss is uncontrollable, Canine von Willebrand’s Disease can be life-threatening.
The symptoms of Canine von Willebrand’s Disease can be:
- Excessive bleeding after surgery or injury
- Minor injuries don’t stop bleeding
Like MVD, there isn’t a cure for Canine von Willebrand’s Disease but it can be diagnosed through a blood test.
If your Whippet is diagnosed with this health problem, the best treatment is careful management and awareness to avoid injury.
Find out more about Canine von Willebrand’s Disease.
Canine Hemangiosarcoma seems to be another inherited health problem for Whippets, since it seems to affect them more than some other breeds.
Hemangiosarcoma is a type of cancer that usually affects middle-aged to older Whippets. The cancer develops in cells formed in the lining of blood vessels, from where it can spread aggressively.
The symptoms of Canine Hemangiosarcoma are may not be at all apparent because it doesn’t cause pain and often doesn’t result in symptoms.
Sadly, because hemangiosarcoma is an especially aggressive type of cancer, and the prognosis isn’t good and late stage identification usually means survival is unlikely.
Find out more about Canine Hemangiosarcoma.
Common Whippet Health problems
These are perhaps the health problems your Whippet will likely suffer from, since the appear to be the most common issues affecting them.
Skin Lacerations and Tears
Whippets are typically lean and athletic. They have short coats and very little body fat and so they have little protection against scrapes and scratches. Consequently it doesn’t take much for them to pick up cuts and skin tears.
Indeed this is something we’ve experienced.
In mid-2020, we took our Whippet Misty on a woodland walk close to where we live. Unfortunately for us she ran rather too close to an upturned tree that had its roots exposed and caught the skin of her hind leg against it. This resulted in a pretty serious gash that required stitches and a stay overnight at a veterinary clinic.
Although Whippets have a great sense of themselves, they can be quite scatty. Given that they’re such fast runners, a small scratch for some dog breeds can result in something far more serious for Whippets.
The best thing to do to protect this particular health problem is to take care when your Whippet is off the leash, especially when you’re walking them in forested areas or where there’s underbrush they can catch their skin.
Find out about our experience of a Whippet skin tear injury.
Unfortunately for Whippets, they are prone to orthopaedic and musculoskeletal health problems.
Since Whippets are speed merchants with slight frames, they can injure bones, joints and muscles when they’re running at full pace. It’s not uncommon at all for some Whippets to experience:
- Fractures (especially to toes)
- Patellar luxation (kneecap slippage)
- Cruciate ligament damage
- Pulled muscles
- Paw pad corns
While Whippets need to stretch their legs and open up the gears, it’s important to be aware of the type of surface their running on. Unseens potholes and turf divots can jar joints, muscles and bones and result in an orthopaedic injury requiring veterinary intervention.
It’s worth keeping some medical supplies for your Whippet at home. Find out what to put in a dog first aid kit.
Although Whippets are not as prone to allergies as some breeds, they can still suffer allergic reactions to pollen, mold and dust.
In Whippets, allergies tend to manifest in itchy skin on their feet, tummy, skin folds or ears but they can also present as ear infections.
Whippet puppies can also have allergic sensitivity to certain foods, which causes vomiting or diarrhoea.
The good news is that allergies can be treated with diet, medication and avoidance of allergens.
Are you allergic to dogs? How hypoallergenic are Whippets?
Although not that common, some Whippets suffer from hereditary deafness. While this presents certain problems, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a happy home with a deaf Whippet.
Of course things like traffic can be a concern for owners of deaf Whippets, but in reality you should never allow any Whippet off the leash when traffic is near… even Whippets with the sharpest hearing will ignore the sound of traffic if they spot something they can chase.
Since Whippets can suffer from ear infections, this too can affect hearing. If your Whippet appears to have a problem with its ears, it should be checked as soon as possible. Ear infections left unchecked are painful and can cause lasting damage.
If you believe your Whippet suffers from any type of hearing problem, pay a visit to a veterinary professional.
For some reason Whippets seem to be more sensitive to anaesthesia than some other dog breeds.
Historically this has been attributed to Whippets having a low body fat to muscle ratio, resulting in an inability to properly break down and remove anaesthetic drugs from the body. Recent studies have suggested it’s the Whippet’s liver that cannot properly absorb and remove anaesthetics.
Regardless, Whippets seem to be at risk of hypothermia and resultant serious complications when under anaesthesia.
Your veterinary surgery should be aware of the risk of anaesthesia to sighthounds… but it never hurts to ask should your Whippet need treatment requiring anaesthetics.
My hope is that this post on Whippet health problems doesn’t frighten you or give you concern that Whippets are unhealthy dogs… they’re not.
Of course, any symptom of potential illness can often be attributed as something potentially serious by us as loving owners. However, most of us are not veterinarians and so diagnosing Whippet health problems should be left to experts.
If you are ever in any doubt about your Whippet’s health, don’t wait to see if what you’re worried about will just go away. Always see a veterinary professional as soon as possible, even if it’s just for peace of mind.
Do you have experience of other Whippet health problems I’ve missed. Drop me a comment below to let me know about them.