Super-fast is the best way to describe the Greyhound. Bred for racing, he is sleek and athletic. He can outrun a horse if need be, but there is so much more to this breed of dog than racing and putting their strong, but sensitive legs to the test. The Greyhound is often found in shelters after its racing days are over and these loving dogs have so much more to give as family pets beyond their racing careers. The Greyhound is a peace loving canine friend. If you have a Greyhound, you will know that the couch is one of his favorite spots. He enjoys a good run a couple of times a week, but does not need mountains of exercise. The Greyhound prefers a quiet environment without noisy outbursts and can be prone to stress related shivering and shaking. Your Greyhound may tremble for various reasons and knowing what to expect, and how he will react to different circumstances, will improve your relationship with him. The secret is to know what is mild and what is major in dealing with Greyhound shakes.
The Root of the Behavior
The Greyhound, although he looks slim, is a very muscular dog. A large portion of his muscles are in his flanks where trembling, associated with muscle tone can occur. This is known as fibrillation and it helps to build muscle. There are other breeds that are associated with this warming up of their muscles, but it may not be as obvious if they have a longer coat. The Greyhound has a nervous and sensitive disposition and shaking, especially in his legs, can just be his way to tell you he is not comfortable or happy in the situation you are in at that time. He can also express excitement in this way as you come home, or he anticipates an activity he enjoys. The Greyhound needs calming and reassuring if he is showing signs of stress or nervousness. It is a good idea to go through a process of elimination with your dog in case the trembling is associated with a reaction to illness or caused by a need for medical intervention. A visit to the vet can illuminate any muscular and physical problems.
Your vet can examine and treat your Greyhound accordingly. The vet will look out for kidney problems, trauma or injury, arthritis with the onset of age, genetic, or congenital disorders associated with the breed. Your vet will be very pleased if you have already made a note of any changes to your dog’s appetite, bladder or bowel movements, and observed any physical pain. A vet will know what to look for in terms of the common ailments that the Greyhound suffers from. However, the trembling in your Greyhound's legs may not be that serious and knowing how your dog reacts in certain situations will also be helpful. Many dogs are fearful of thunder or fireworks and shaking, trembling legs of a long-legged dog is a sure warning of fear or stress. Greyhounds do not like to be confined and can become very stressed in this situation. The stress leads to muscle shaking and trembling and the dog starts to overheat. Their reaction is to start panting, but the panting in this situation does not manage to cool the stressed Greyhound down and if left unattended, can lead to hypothermia and renal failure. This all sounds very concerning, but is something to be aware of and to act upon immediately.
Encouraging the Behavior
Knowing the difference between normal, happy shaking and serious medical tremors will always give you peace of mind with a dog that is prone to stress and more sensitive to their surroundings. The Greyhound loves a quiet peaceful life. He is not an aggressive dog and will not enjoy confrontation. His desire to run is part of his genetic drive and his natural build. When the hare, mechanical or real, runs, the Greyhound gives chase. He may just like to shake after a good run as he cools down his muscles and appreciates the exercise. The Greyhound may have worked out that you spoil him more than ever when he shakes and shivers so he will do it more often. Also, his thin coat could need an extra layer to give some warmth on a chilly day, but the average happy domestic Greyhound will be content to enjoy his home comforts. Greyhound owners soon know the difference between natural little shivers and shakes and the more serious tremors and possible seizures.
The root of some of the problem tremors can be attributed to a defective gene. This gene causes an imbalance and increases in calcium at the animals’ cellular level. The result is repeated muscle contraction and so the muscle mass contracts uncontrollably. If you feel the trembling and shaking is a fearful behavior it is vital to stay calm yourself to provide a calming state for your dog. Never punish fearful behavior, but rather take some time to make a peaceful, secure environment and sit with your shaky Greyhound while calming him until the trembling subsides. It may be over quickly, but if it persists and the source of the problem no longer exists then the shaking may have another origin and you should investigate further.
Other Solutions and Considerations
The Greyhound is a lovable and loyal canine companion. His leg shakes may just be a nervous disposition or the need for some extra warmth and a cuddle or two. Your vet will reassure you that there are no major health issues when you go for a regular checkup but be sure to mention that your Greyhound has a tendency shake at the knees. A sound knowledge of the breed is always helpful. There are families looking for a sporty dog and the Greyhound will always look athletic especially if you put a jaunty jacket on him. He is just as happy however, to be a home body and sit elegantly in a corner of the house. He is a very serene dog often compared to a cat in his elegance and composure.
The style and speed of the Greyhound can be compared with the cheetah. Poetry in motion, like the fastest African animal. The Greyhound can fly around the race track at a great speed. Racing is in his blood, but compared to a racehorse, he is more like a ‘grace-horse.’ A wonderful, quiet companion. His trembling may be just a Greyhound's way of saying, life is good!
By a Rhodesian Ridgeback lover Christina Wither
Published: 05/04/2018, edited: 01/30/2020