The Breed History
The Italian Greyhound breed origins are not clear, though their place of origin is thought to be in Greece and Turkey, dating to the birth of Christ. In Italy in the 16th century, these dogs were portrayed in artwork of the Renaissance.The English Kennel club listed them in their first studbook, and in the AKC registry, they first appear in 1886, but were rare (less than 50 registrants) until the 1950s.
Breeding for Function
Historically, they were companion dogs and today they can be seen in obedience trials, agility, and in bench shows. They were possibly originally bred for small game hunting, deriving as they do from the sight hound group.
Height at Withers: 13-15" (33-38 cm).
Weight: 5-15 lb (2.3-7 kg).
Coat: Any colors are acceptable except brindle or the black markings associated with black and tan color pattern. These are not accepted in the show ring. The fine, soft, shiny, smooth short haircoat lays flat.
Longevity: 13-14 years
Points of Conformation: The Italian Greyhound looks like a miniature Greyhound, though he is much finer in constitution. The action is much more animated and high stepping. The skull is long and narrow, the stop is slight, and the nose is darkly pigmented. The eyes are dark and medium-sized, ears are small, carried back and folded and the leather is fine; hair on pinnae is silky and short. The neck is long, arched and fine though well-muscled. The topline is curved starting at the loin. The tuck up in the abdomen is pronounced. The thorax is deep and chest is oval in cross section. The limbs are finely boned, long and straight; metacarpals and metatarsals are short. Dewclaws are usually removed. They possess a hare type foot with moderately arched toes. The tail tapers at the tip, though it is very fine along the full length, and is carried low, reaching the tarsus at rest.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Very affectionate, slightly aloof with strangers, adapts well to rural or urban environment, needs regular exercise but quiet around the home. Playful, easy going, sensitive, intelligent, good with other pets and children (gentle ones); they are needy of human contact and do not do well if left alone. An Italian Greyhound demands lots of attention; some have a degree of stubbornness. Easily bored, has a short attention span. For their size, they have a loud bark. Not tolerant of extreme temperature, especially cold. Sweater coverage is needed in cold weather. Overall, not as easy to housetrain as some other breeds. Not an outdoor dog but adaptable to both rural and urban living. The Italian Greyhound is noted for high energy levels, particularly as puppies. In a pack, the dog may be assertive.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Sight hounds have lower normal ranges for T4 and T3 concentrations compared to other breeds.
Anesthesia: Sight hounds require particular attention during anesthesia. Their lean body conformation with high surface-areato- volume ratio predisposes them to hypothermia during anesthesia. Impaired biotransformation of drugs by the liver results in prolonged recovery from barbiturate and thiobarbiturate intravenous anesthetics. Propofol, and ketamine/diazepam combination are recommended induction agents.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. OFA reports 3.1% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Too few Italian Greyhounds have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Hip Dysplasia and Legg-Calve Perthes Disease: Polygenically inherited traits causing degenerative hip joint disease and arthritis. Occuring at a very low frequency in Italian Greyhounds.
Vitreous Degeneration: A liquefaction of the vitreous gel which may predispose to retinal detachment or glaucoma. Identified in 22.11% of Italian Greyhounds CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Dental Disease: Gingivitis (13.63%), Tooth Loss (9.67%), and Retained Deciduous Teeth (8.53%) are reported in the 1993 IGCA Health Survey.
Cryptorchidism: Retained testicles. Can be bilateral or unilateral. Reported at a frequency of 11.26% in the 1993 IGCA Health Survey.
Demodicosis: Demodectic mange dermatitis has an underlying immunodeficiency in its pathogenesis. Primarily seen as a focal disease in young Italian Greyhounds. Reported at a frequency of 10.42% in the 1993 IGCA Health Survey. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Leg Fractures: Seen at an increased frequency due to reduced bone density in thin leg bones. Reported at a frequency of 9.81% in the 1993 IGCA Health Survey.
Inherited Epilepsy: Generalized seizures. Control with anticonvulsant medication. Reported at a frequency of 6.55% in the 1993 IGCA Health Survey. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Cataracts: Anterior or posterior intermediate and punctate cataracts occur in the breed. Onset 2-3 years of age. Identified in 5.86% of Italian Greyhounds CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Italian Greyhound with a cataract.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 4.4% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Color Dilution Alopecia: Hair loss seen in some blue or dilute colored Italian Greyhounds. Reported at a frequency of 3.12% in the 1993 IGCA Health Survey. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Deafness: Reported to occur in the breed. Congenital deafness can be unilateral or bilateral. Diagnosed by BAER testing.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is reported to occur in the breed. Causes retinal deterioration and progressive blindness. Identified in 1.89% of Italian Greyhounds CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Assumed autosomal recessive inheritance.
Primary Lens Luxation: Occurs at an increased frequency in the breed. Often progresses to secondary glaucoma and blindness. Reported relative risk of 8.44x versus other breeds.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 1.00% of Italian Greyhounds CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Hemangiosarcoma and Hemangioma: Italian Greyhounds are at increased risk of developing visceral and nonvisceral hemangiosarcoma and hemangiomas.
Brachygnathism, Corneal Dystrophy, Persistent Right Aortic Arch, Prognathism, and von Willebrand's Disease are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Tests of Genotype: Direct genetic test for black, brown and fawn is available from HealthGene.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip radiograph, CERF eye examination (at 36 months and then annually to age 10), thyroid profile including autoantibodies (at 3 years of age), and patella examination. (See CHIC website; www. caninehealthinfo.org). Recommend elbow radiographs and cardiac examination.
- Breed name synonyms: Piccolo Levrieri Italiani.
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 61 (1,450 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Italian Greyhound Club of America: www.italiangreyhound.org
The Italian Greyhound Club of Canada: www.igcc.ca
The Italian Greyhound Club UK: www.theitaliangreyhoundclub.co.uk
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