Common health problems with Whippets

May 20, 2024 - 4 min read
A light brindle Whippet lying down against a light beige background, looking directly at the camera with alert ears and a calm expression.

Slender, graceful and athletic, Whippets are an English-made breed ideal for those looking for a laid-back, sleek pet that suits their active lifestyle. 

But like any pedigree, they're prone to some health issues. Below, we discuss the most common Whippet health problems, how vets diagnose them, how to treat them and more.

Most common Whippet health problems 

A close-up of a Whippet's face, showing its profile against a light beige background. The dog has a light brown and white coat and is looking off to the side with alert eyes.

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)

A genetic defect leads to the gradual degeneration of the cells lining the retina that are critical for vision. The earliest sign of this disease is often night blindness, and as vision deteriorates, dogs may start to bump into objects and develop poor vision in daylight, too. Dogs will eventually become blind, although the disease is not painful.

While there's currently no treatment to reverse the disease process, most dogs will adapt well to their vision loss and go on to lead very functional and happy lives.

Mitral valve disease (MVD)

illustration of a healthy heart and damanged heart with mitral valve disease

When one of the heart valves degenerates, it allows blood to flow in the wrong direction. This results in an increase in blood volume and pressure inside the heart.

A vet may detect a heart murmur during a physical exam, but diagnosis requires an ultrasound scan.

When the heart’s overwhelmed—called congestive heart failure—dogs may show signs of:

By the time symptoms of MVD become apparent, it often indicates the beginning of heart failure. Sometimes, a heart murmur is the only sign of the disease. If a vet detects this, they may recommend a referral for an echocardiogram. This is a heart ultrasound, which can diagnose MVD before symptoms develop.

Early diagnosis is essential to delay the onset of heart failure, especially since there's medication vets can use. These help improve heart function and reduce fluid accumulation in the circulatory system.

Cuts and scrapes

Whippet with a pink circle drawn over its body

Due to having naturally thinner skin and a lack of protective fur, Whippets are more prone to skin damage than other breeds. Their tendency to sprint and zig-zag during play makes them more likely to injure themselves.

We recommend checking a Whippet's coat for signs of injury after being outdoors. Signs of a skin injury include visible grazing, bleeding and lameness if the foot or pads are affected.

Vets should always treat deep or painful wounds, cuts that continue to bleed or those that begin to discharge.

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Corns happen due to excess keratin growth at the bottom of a Whippet's paw. We don't fully understand the cause, but some explanations point to viral infection and repeated pressure. 

The main symptom is lameness, which may look more pronounced when walking on hard surfaces. A vet may be able to see the corn growing on the pad, although to confirm a diagnosis, they might need to sample the lump.

The most effective treatment method involves removing the corn surgically, and although recovery rates are high, corns will typically regrow in the future. 

Immune-Mediated Haemolytic Anaemia (IMHA)

Whippet with a pink arrow drawn to its body

This condition involves the body’s immune system inappropriately attacking and destroying its red blood cells. This causes anaemia in affected dogs, and symptoms of this include lethargy, an inability or reluctance to exercise and, in severe cases, collapse.

If a vet suspects IMHA after examining a patient, they'll carry out specific blood tests to confirm a diagnosis. While it may not be possible to predict when a dog will begin to develop symptoms of IMHA, treatment with immunosuppressive drugs will help to stop symptoms from recurring.

The drugs help prevent further destruction of red blood cells. Severely anaemic patients may also need a blood transfusion and hospitalisation in the initial stages of their recovery.

For this reason, dogs must receive the correct dose of medication, given at the correct time(s) of day and for the exact number of days instructed. 

Not only does this improve the chances of treatment success, but it also prevents several potential side effects from occurring if these medications are abruptly stopped. 

How to care for a Whippet

Image of a brown Whippet in the Scottish highlands

Using protective clothing 

Being particularly prone to skin damage, you can help protect your Whippet’s coat from cuts and grazes by using protective clothing while outdoors. Investing in a coat and protective dog boots will help.

Treating minor scrapes

If your dog does manage to scrape themselves on a walk, cleaning the area with a saltwater solution made by dissolving one teaspoon of salt in one pint of boiling water (and allowing it to cool) for several days will help prevent infection.

A buster collar will also help to stop them from licking the wound, but veterinary advice should be sought if any signs of infection develop (redness, swelling, heat, discharge). 

Prioritizing good foot health 

While the exact cause of corns isn’t understood, prioritising good foot health may help to prevent them.

Regular nail trimming helps, while applying moisturiser to dry pads strengthens the skin barrier. Protective boots, as mentioned above, will also provide additional cushioning to the pads during walks.

Making adjustments if they have PRA or vision problems

The best way to help dogs with PRA is to support them as they transition to a life without vision. Relying more on verbal cues to let them know of your presence, walking more during the daylight as dogs start to lose sight, and being careful not to rearrange the house furniture too often are all helpful measures.

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*pre-existing conditions excluded. See your policy for details.