Exertional rhabdomyolysis, sometimes simply called rhabdomyolysis, is an overexertion condition related to heat. Greyhounds may be especially susceptible to rhabdomyolysis since they love to run and can potentially overexert themselves if they aren't monitored. Know the signs of rhabdomyolysis in greyhounds so you can seek immediate help if needed.
Subacute Exertional Rhabdomyolysis
Dogs with subacute exertional rhabdomyolysis, the least severe type, will run more slowly than they normally do. The dog may show muscle sensitivity when her back is palpated. If a greyhound with subacute exertional rhabdomyolysis has to race again the next day, she will typically run with a shortened stride in an effort to compensate for the pain of myositis, inflammation of the muscles. The dog's urine will show a higher pH level if tested and it may also have elevated protein levels. The urine will test positive for myoglobinuria, indicating renal trouble. If a greyhound with subacute exertional rhabdomyolysis is properly treated immediately, the dog can fully recover. If untreated, the disease can progress to the more serious degrees of rhabdomyolysis.
Acute Exertional Rhabdomyolysis
Greyhounds who have acute exertional rhabdomyolysis will display immediate distress following exercise, including panting. The dog with acute exertional rhabdomyolysis will react with pain when his back or hindquarter muscles are gently massaged. His urine may show a red tinge, indicating the presence of blood, and will test positive for myoglobinuria.
Hyperacute Exertional Rhabdomyolysis
Symptoms of hyperacute exertional rhabdomyolysis include heavy panting, obvious pain in the muscles, irregular heartbeat, leg tremors, hind end weakness or collapse and an inability to move from standing to lying down without pain. Dogs in this advanced state may die within 48 hours from kidney failure if they do not receive emergency vet care immediately.
Dogs affected by rhabdomyolysis can be any age from puppy to senior. Although it does occur sometimes in racing greyhounds, trainers generally create very regimented exercise routines and monitor their dogs so closely that it is fairly unusual. Rhabdomyolysis is more common in states with regular hot weather, especially if it is accompanied by high humidity levels. Some recently retired greyhounds who are new to adoptive homes get rhabdomyolysis after being allowed to run freely for too long, which is why exercise must be limited and monitored. As Greyhound Companions of New Mexico says, "Dogs do not possess the ability to gauge their fitness and adjust their level of effort accordingly," but you as the greyhound owner are able to do this for them.
Prognosis for Recovery
Your dog's prognosis depends largely upon how soon you seek treatment. The Brighton Greyhound Owners Association Trust for Retired Racing Greyhounds says that rhabdomyolysis requires urgent veterinary treatment because it can be fatal if ignored or if not treated in time. Treatment generally includes IV fluids and cooling the dog's body as effectively and rapidly as possible without inducing shivering. Dogs with rhabdomyolysis normally need a rest period of at least a few weeks to fully recover. Dogs who are treated quickly can recover well, but individuals differ and preventing the problem completely is the best way to approach it. Monitoring your greyhound's exercise, especially during warm weather, is a vital part of prevention and can help save your dog's life.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.