DEAR DR. FOX: I really think there is a need to get the word out about the prey drive in retired racing greyhounds.
Oh, yes, I am very familiar with the advertisements by the rescue groups that emphasize such qualities as "sweet," "mild-natured," "not aggressive" and "couch potato." Well, guess what! One such sweet, non-aggressive couch potato tried to kill my miniature poodle a few days ago!
I was walking Evette along a sidewalk that bordered a parking lot when I saw a greyhound leaning his head outside a window and barking. I am used to seeing dogs guarding their cars, so I calmly continued to lead Evette along the sidewalk, thinking all would be well as long as we stayed away from the car. I was about 30 feet away from the car when I heard the dog's owner yell. I turned and saw the greyhound hit the ground after diving his narrow body through the window. He charged at full greyhound speed toward Evette and me. There was no question that this dog was in violent predator mode, charging for the kill. I pulled Evette into my arms and managed to kick the greyhound away from both of us as he was making a leap for Evette. At that point, the owner caught up with him, grabbed the dog's leash and pulled the greyhound toward the car. I walked away with Evette in my arms. The last I saw of the dog, he was fighting ferociously to break free of the leash and get to Evette.
At home, I did some research that confirmed that my experience was not a unique one. I read an article in Greyhound Companions of New Mexico by Judy Kody Paulsen that shares an even more harrowing story of an attack on a 3-month-old puppy in Nashville, Tennessee, by two greyhounds acting together as a team. In her article "Dog Parks: Are They a Good Idea?" it is clear that Paulsen is a person who truly loves greyhounds and knows a lot about them, but she expressed concern that rescue groups frequently fail to educate retired racing greyhound adopters of the reality of their prey drive and the precautions that need to be taken to avoid harm to smaller animals -- and especially small children. She warns that the episodes of prey drive can be highly unpredictable and that a greyhound can be docile for a long period of time before an unexpected circumstance causes the prey drive to suddenly explode. Her advice is to muzzle a greyhound in situations where it is exposed to other animals and to keep it out of all situations where dogs are running loose, such as dog parks.
Unfortunately, it has been nine years since Paulsen's article was published. Her prudent advice is clearly not being heeded now. I hope you will renew the advice that retired racing greyhounds can be wonderful pets, but they have a powerful prey drive that once led them to chase a small object around a track. For the sake of the greyhounds as well as everyone else, that prey drive needs to be acknowledged and appropriately dealt with. -- C.P., Falls Church, Virginia
Dear C.P.: Your experience and additional documentation does raise a red flag of caution for these poor dogs, many of whom are exploited and treated like throw-away equipment by the racing industry.
They have been bred and trained to chase, and some may lack the ability to discriminate between a lure to chase on the track and a small, lurelike dog or other small creature, including a human infant in a park or other open space. I see this as a human-created problem and do not blame these fine dogs. Unfortunately, some people may deem this breed untrustworthy because of selective breeding and training as a "gaze" or "sight" hound. I would never advocate any breed-specific legislation as per the wave of bills banning ownership of pit bulls or any kind of dog that looks like a bull terrier. But some greyhounds coming off the track after a miserable life in a small cage or pen may well have cognitive and affective post-traumatic stress disorder and need to be handled by adopters with appropriate, responsible care and understanding.
DEAR DR. FOX: My almost 1-year-old golden retriever ate kibble and canned food for several months without much interest in his food, frequently leaving much of the kibble in his bowl.
I supplemented his food with probiotics and apple cider vinegar but did not feel he was getting the proper nutrition. About three weeks ago, I switched him to a raw food diet, using the highly rated frozen portioned patties available at the upscale dog store near me. He is doing great and loves the food. I do not want to prepare the food myself; I want to continue to use a commercially prepared, balanced food.
My question is this: In ranking dog food, would you say that a raw diet is better than a cooked diet, as you describe in your columns? I want to feed my dog the best possible food, but if you feel a cooked diet is better, I will switch. -- L.L., Oak Hill, Virginia
DEAR L.L.: I think of the many poor dogs and cats who have to eat the same dry kibble every day, which makes them feel sick and lose their appetites, or else they are so hungry for lack of essential nutrients that they actually overeat and become obese, diabetic and develop other health problems. While my holistic veterinary colleagues are advocating biologically appropriate, nutrient-complete, home-prepared or freeze-dried and frozen cat and dog foods, the mainstream pet food industry seems to be in a state of alarm over such competition. They are overdramatizing the risks of potentially harmful bacterial contamination of frozen products, which has resulted in several major market recalls of dry pet foods over recent years.
Handle all pet foods with care! The alternative is to prepare your own, and both my basic dog and cat food recipes can be put in a grinder and fed raw, or lightly cooked. Cooking does destroy some nutrients, but it also kills off potentially harmful bacteria. Some nutrients harmed by heat during cooking are added as supplements after cooking in my home-prepared dog and cat foods, which you can find at DrFoxVet.net.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)