Italian Greyhounds, Sighthounds and Anesthesia: What's the big deal?
It is no secret that Italian Greyhounds and other sighthounds (also known as gazehounds) are an ancient breed group that have been selectively bred for low body fat, and lean muscle mass to enhance their speedy pursuit of prey. This combination gives us the sleek athletes that we adore today; it also engenders them with certain idiosyncrasies that can lead to potential adverse anesthesia reactions, which can include death even.
The sighthound group possesses:
A nervous demeanor which can result in stress-induced complications to include hyperthermia (dangerously high body temp);
Lean body mass with high volume to surface area that contributes to hypothermia (low body temps) during anesthesia;
Blood differences to include higher packed cell volume and lower protein which can complicate pre-anesthesia blood work and;
Impaired metabolism through the liver and since they have a lower fat body ratio, those drugs that metabolize through the fat can reach dangerously high blood levels.
In combination, these things lead sighthounds to be extra sensitive to anesthesia, and something that all Italian Greyhound owners should be fully aware BEFORE dropping off your dog for a routine dental cleaning, spay or neuter, or other surgical procedure.
What does all this mean?
Anesthetic agents that should be avoided for Italian Greyhounds and other sighthounds during surgical procedures include Thiopental. Other anesthetic agents that are safer to use include Propofol, a ketamine/diazepam combination or methohexital. It should be noted that even with propofol, these dogs experience slower recovery times than many other breeds, and should be closely monitored. In terms of inhaled agents (also known as sleeping gas) the best choice available is isoflurane.
As Italian Greyhound caretakers, we highly recommend owners talk with their vet prior to any surgical procedures. Ask what their preferred choice is for anesthesia for sighthounds, and bring this article if needed. Ask if they use warm blankets or hot water bottles, or heated rice bags, both during and after the post-operation or dental cleaning period to keep the dog warm. More-and-more vets are intubating, starting IV fluids and even monitoring oxygen levels during anesthesia, and it is certainly recommended for sighthounds, but also depends on the procedure being performed and the overall length of anesthesia.