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Article by Gay Robertson published in the BSFA
Newsletter - July 1996 on the topic of Injuries in Coursing


Every sighthound owner knows that every time their dog is out of their direct control, i.e. offthe lead, there is a risk of it running into trouble. This risk is significantly increased if the dog is actually chasing something - like a lure. It is a risk we are all prepared to take, for our hounds' well-being and for the pleasure of seeing them run but even on BSFS grounds where hazards are kept to a minimum, to the extent of filling in holes, smoothing the track and avoiding obsta- cles that we would take for granted in a natural "field" situation, there is a risk that we must acknowledge is ours alone.

In fact, injuries at BSFA meetings are few and far between but because I have been running whippets competitively, racing and coursing, for more than twenty-five years, I have been asked to pass on a few of the tips I have learned from sometimes bitter experience. The first and most important is do not run an unfit or unsound hound. It seems obvious but because we are there for a fun day out and not trying to win anything, there is a temptation to think, "it's only 500 yards, he/she will enjoy it". And so they may, but an unfit hound is still going to run as fast as it is able while lax muscles or extra pounds of fat will leave it wallowing on the turns and in danger of putting more than one foot wrong - which is all it'takes for it to pull a muscle, knock up a toe or a number of other minor injuries that will take it out of the show ring for a month or more. In this context, all bitches that have been in season during the previous three months are by definition unfit. Changes of hormonal levels affect their muscles, however much exercise they get, and greatly increase the risk of injury. If you are not worried about this level of risk, fine but be aware that you are stacking the odds against your hound. The same goes for unsoundness. If a dog pulls up.even slightly larne, do not run it a second time unless you know for sure that the lameness is chronic and will not be made worse by galloping. Intermittent lameness is usually in the foot and may be a corn (often showing as a tiny ring on the pad with a black dot in the centre) which will have to be surgically removed. A slightly larne hound is very likely to give itself a second, worse injury by galloping in a way that saves pressure on the first one.

Once a hound has been injured, it will always have a potential weakness that needs manage- ment. It is always worth seeking a specialist vet - I have found that the majority of'pet" vets cannot even tell that a dog is lame ( like many show judgesl ), let alone what is wrong with it. And even the most skilled greyhound vets tend to underestimate the necessary lay-off from galloping, since they are thinking in terrns of a single race.

After a muscle or tendon injury, once the inflammation and/or the swelling is under con- trol, the specialist will probably advise two ten minute walks per day on a surface like a cricket pitch (not the road), working up gradually to an hour, followed by a lot of lead walking on all surfaces. After six weeks (I prefer eight), three short gallops on good going, at least three days apart and then, the hound should be ready to run. Do not panic if the hound is a bit lame after these gallops, it is probably due to the scar tissue breaking down. Having taken all that trouble to get it sound - and there are no short cuts - it makes sense to take a bit more, when it runs. Massage the muscles and make sure that they are warm before taking the hound on the field and massage it again after it has run.

I mentally grade my dogs in terms of risk: 'A' means they have never been injured and pro- vided the ground is reasonable, they can take their chances. I run 'A' bitches for the first three weeks after they have been in season (lure coursing only, not anything I want them to win because I know they won't run well enough) and then not for the next nine weeks. 'B' dogs are those who have recovered from quite serious injuries like severed tendons but have had no recurrent lameness or are so old (over 8) that a few days recovering from swollen toes or other old injuries, seem worth the fun they have. I don't run 'B' bitches for a fi~ll 13 weeks from their season. 'C'dogs are those with neck or spine damage or other recurring injuries that mean they must be really fit ~o run: 'C' bitches are not let o~the lead at all for the 13 weeks.

Some of my whippets have been injured on the coursing field but much of the worst damage has been incurred in circumstances no one could forsee - a foot almost severed on newly mown racehorse gallops, a bitch ripped stem to stern by a muntjac in a bramble bush and last autumn, farm machinery broken by the hard ground and left out on the field. Every time I unclip the lead, I wonder if it will mean a trip to the vet. But they are sighthounds: they need to gallop and owners who cannot accept the risk should find another breed

(Thank you very much for this interesing article
Gary Peskett
4 Church Lane
West Parley
01202 570394)


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