The Breed History
Whippets have been compared to the English Greyhound, in miniature. They originate from England, and were given official breed status there in 1891. The breed was derived from crosses of small English Greyhounds with both rough and smooth-coated terriers. Later, Italian Greyhound was added to the mix. AKC recognition occurred in 1888.
Breeding for Function
These medium-sized sight hounds were bred for function so their conformation development was focused on maximal speed and agility. Racing, including steeple chasing was a favored sport. Over a short stretch their speed was so great they could pass a Greyhound. Their speed is the fastest in this weight range of domesticated animal (35 mph or 56 km/hr). Rabbit coursing was another sport that the Whippet was tasked to; informal betting earned them the historical nickname "poor man's racehorse". Other talents include ratter, lure coursing, agility, flyball, and obedience. Companion dog is a common purpose of this breed today.
Height at Withers: female 18-21" (45.5-53.5cm), male 19-22" (48-56 cm).
Weight: females 14-25 lb (6-11 kg), males 17-28 lb (7.5-12.5 kg).
Coat: The very short coat is firm textured but not coarse, lays flat and hairs are straight. Any colors are accepted. A longhaired whippet association exists, though the breed standard for AKC or any other major registry does not mention these. They cannot compete as whippets in racing and coursing etc. In the longhaired standard, miniatures are described and for these dogs; the upper size limit is 10 lb (4.5 kg).
Longevity: 12-14 years
Points of Conformation: They have a long narrow skull and tapered muzzle, though the skull is wider between the eyes. The stop is minimal. Their gait is graceful and smooth. They possess light bone and lithe musculature. The nose is black, and eyes must be same color and large, and dark with pigmented palpebral margins. Small fine-leathered ears (rose ears) are carried back and folded. The neck is arched, long and fine, though well muscled. The back is broad and the loin is long. The topline is arched starting over the loin. The thorax is deep and ribs are well sprung. They possess a well tucked up abdomen. The tail is long, thin, tapering and carried low between the legs. It is gently curved upwards, reaching to the tarsus. Leg bones are straight, feet have hare-to-cat-like shape and the pads are hard and thick; toes well arched. Dewclaws may be removed. Metatarsals are short.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Very active outdoors but quiet in the household, affectionate, intelligent, not barky, and generally tolerate visitors well, like to sleep on the couch or bed. Not biters or snappers, easy to handle though very excited while running around, gentle, good with children, low grooming needs but don't tolerate temperature extremes well. Love to chase. They need to be a house pet; not kenneled. Whippets need close human contact. Invisible fences are not good since they will lose a fight with intruding dogs, and may go through the boundary if quarry is sighted. Should not be allowed off leash in open areas. Puppies may chew, and early obedience training recommended. They have low shedding, and low doggy odor. Good for indoor living, but if in an apartment, should get a daily run.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Sight hounds have lower normal ranges for T4 and T3 concentrations compared to other breeds.
The breed can be prone to having eccentrocytes; RBCs that appear in a peripheral blood smear to have their hemoglobin shifted to one side of the cell.
Vertebral Heart Size: In lateral views, the VHS was 11.0 +/- 0.5 vertebrae (mean +/- SD) on right-to-left lateral and 11.3 +/- 0.5 vertebrae on left-to-right lateral radiographs, being larger than the 9.7 +/- 0.5 vertebrae proposed by Buchanan (P < 0.0001). The VHS was 10.5 +/- 0.6 vertebrae on dorsoventral radiographs and 11.1 +/- 0.6 vertebrae on ventrodorsal radiographs. Both values were larger than the 10.2 +/- 1.5 vertebrae (dorsoventral) (P < 0.0082) or 10.2 +/- 0.8 vertebrae (ventrodorsal) (P < 0.0001) proposed by Buchanan. Dogs out of racing pedigree lines had a significantly larger VHS than those out of show pedigree lines, and trained dogs had a significantly larger VHS than nontrained dogs.
Electrocardiogram Normal Values: Whippets can have normal ECG values that fall outside of the normal range for other breeds, probably relating to their vertebral heart size. These include: P-amplitude (0.30 to 0.42), R-amplitude (3.02 to 4.32), ST-segment (0.06 to 0.20) and T-amplitude (0.42 to 0.84).
Echocardiographic Normal Values
Parameter Mean Mean В±2SD Range
Body weight (kg) - 13.2 9.0-17.4 9.3-17.2
Body surface area (m2) - 0.56 0.44-0.68 0.45-0.68
Heart rate (bpm) - 93.9 48.5-139.3 54.0-158.0
IVSd - 9.4/ 7.0-11.8/ 7.1-12.9
LVDd - 37.3/ 29.7-44.8/ 25.7-47.5
LVWd - 8.8/ 6.6-10.9/ 6.4-11.5
IVSs - 12.0/ 9.0-15.1/ 9.0-15.5
LVDs - 26.9 /19.8-34.1/ 17.0-36.1
LVWs - 12.4/ 9.3-15.4/ 8.6-17.2
EPSS - 4.2/ 1.4-7.1/ 0.4-9.2
Ao(sa) (mm) - 19.0/ 15.7-22.3 /14.8-24.0
LA(sa) (mm) - 26.5 /20.2-32.8/ 18.4-33.7
LA/Ao - 1.4/ 1.1-1.7/ 1.1-1.7
LA(la) (mm) - 32.0 /26.5-37.6 /23.5-38.7
M-mode measurements: IVSd, interventricular septal thickness in diastole; LVDd, left ventricular internal diameter in diastole; LVWd, left ventricular wall thickness in diastole; IVSs, interventricular septal thickness in systole; LVDs, left ventricular internal diameter in systole; LVWs, left ventricular wall thickness in systole; EPSS, E-point to septal separation. 2D measurements: Ao(sa), aortic root diameter from short-axis view; LA(sa), left atrial diameter from short-axis view; LA(la), left atrial diameter from long-axis view.
Anesthesia: Sight hounds require particular attention during anesthesia. Their lean body conformation with high surface-area- to-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.
Drug Sensitivity: Longhaired Whippets can be homozygous for the autosomal recessive MDR1 mutation allowing toxicity due to high CNS drug levels of ivermectin, doramectin, loperamide, vincristine, moxidectin, and other drugs. Testing in the US shows 58% carriers and in Germany shows 60% carrier and 15% affected. A genetic test is available.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 1.4% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited trait causing stifle instability and arthritis. Too few Whippets have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Too few Whippets have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Gross Muscle Hypertrophy (Bully Whippets): An incomplete dominant mutation in the myostatin gene produces gross muscle atrophy in the homozygous state, and increased muscle mass and athletic performance in the heterozygous state. Affected dogs can show intermittent cramping and stiffness. A genetic test is available.
Cryptorchidism (Retained Testicles): Can be bilateral or unilateral. Reported at a frequency of 19% in the Whippet Health Survey.
Canine Pattern Baldness: Progressive alopecia developing at the post- and/or pre-auricular regions, along the ventral neck, thorax and abdomen, and on the caudomedial thighs. The hair loss starts around 6 months of age and gradually progresses over the following year, but remains restricted to the described areas. Reported at a frequency of 12% in the Whippet Health Survey, primarily affecting females.
Demodicosis: Overgrowth of demodex mites causing hairloss and dermatitis. The condition has an underlying immunodeficiency in its pathogenesis. Reported at a frequency of 8% in the Whippet Health Survey. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Vitreous Degeneration: A liquefaction of the vitreous gel which may predispose to retinal detachment resulting in blindness. Identified in 5.19% of Whippets CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Allergic Dermatitis: Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). Reported at a frequency of 3% in the Whippet Health Survey.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 2.9% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Deafness: Congenital sensorineural deafness can be unilateral of bilateral. Diagnosed by BAER testing. Not associated with a specific color variety in this breed. Strain reports 2.4% bilaterally deaf Whippets through BAER testing. Reported at a frequency of 1% in the Whippet Health Survey. Undetermined mode of inheritance.
Cataracts: Anterior cortex and nuclear punctate cataracts predominate in the breed. Identified in 2.35% of Whippets CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Whippet with a cataract.
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 1.21% of Whippets CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Primary Lens Luxation: Occurs at an increased frequency in the breed. Often progresses to secondary glaucoma and blindness. Reported relative risk of 4.57x versus other breeds.
Color Dilution Alopecia: Associated with the blue (dilute) coat color in Whippets. Tardive alopecia occurs in areas covered by darkly pigmented diluted hairs, while the non-pigmented or lightly pigmented hairs remain unaffected.
Hemangiosarcoma and Hemangioma: In one study, Whippets had an increased frequency of visceral and nonvisceral hemangiosarcoma and hemangiomas.
Brachygnathism, Corneal Dystrophy, Ectodermal Defect, Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus, Micropapilla, Osteochondritis Dessicans- Shoulder, Prognathism, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, and von Willebrand's Disease are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Phosphofructokinase Deficiency: Two male Whippet littermates presented at 1 year of age with pallor, tachycardia, systolic heart murmur, dark yellow to orange feces, intermittent lethargy, pigmenturia, and muscle shivering or cramping after exercise. They were anemic, with increased serum creatine kinase activity and hyperkalemia. They were homozygous for the mutation in the PFK gene found in English Springer Spaniel dogs with PFK deficiency.
Lung Lobe Torsion: A four-year-old, entire male whippet was presented with a three-day history of lethargy, inappetence, occasional retching, a soft cough and intermittent episodes of haemoptysis. Thoracic radiographs suggested a diagnosis of lung lobe torsion. A concurrent lung lobe torsion of the right cranial and right middle lung lobes was confirmed at exploratory thoracotomy. Management included resection of both of the affected lung lobes.
Membranoproliferative Glomerulonephritis and Nephrotic Syndrome: A 2-year-old spayed female Whippet with proteinuria and decreased serum albumin was diagnosed by kidney biopsy to have membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis.
Malignant Lymphoma: A 4-year-old Whippet was diagnosed with malignant lymphoma with cardiac and bone involvement, using radiography, histology, nuclear scintigraphy of the skeleton and heart, and cardiac ultrasonography.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for MDR1 (ivermectin sensitivity) is available from Washington State Univ. vetmed.wsu. edu/depts-VCPL/test.asp (Longhaired Whippets). Direct test for CEA/CH (Collie Eye Anomoly/Choroidal Hypoplasia) is available from Optigen (Longhaired Whippets).
Direct test for coat length gene is available from VetGen.
Direct test for Bully Whippet gene is available from DDC Veterinary.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes CERF eye examination, ECHOcardiogram by a cardiologist, BAER testing for deafness, and entry into the Whippet Health Foundation database. Optional testing includes hip radiographs and thyroid profile including autoantibodies. (See CHIC website; caninehealthinfo.org).
Recommend elbow radiographs and patella evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Snap-dog (historical).
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 63 (1,435 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: American Whippet Club: americanwhippetclub.net
National Whippet Club of Canada: whippetcanada.com
The Whippet Club (UK): thewhippetclub.com
Longhaired Whippet Association: home.ica.net/~westwood/
Whippet Health Foundation: whippethealth.org
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