Welfare issues and hock injuries in racing Greyhounds

Dr David H Larratt and Star the Greyhound

Dr David H Larratt BVSc., IVAS (pictured with rescued greyhound, Star)  is a wonderful Vet that has helped with many of our ‘broken’ rescued Greyhounds.

He writes ‘a persistent serious orthopaedic welfare issue continues to plague the greyhound racing industry with animals suffering severe trauma in the same joint in the right rear leg, with the frequent outcome of surgical repair or euthanasia.’

His article The Brutal Reality of Hock Fractures in Racing Greyhounds examines this major orthopaedic issue and challenges the commonly held view that hock fractures are spontaneous and random.  The article shares Radiographic Guidelines for the Early Warning of Impending Fracture with the aim of preventing these career-ending fractures.

‘This vulnerable joint is the Tarsus (colloquially known as the hock) and is equivalent to the ankle in humans.

This Report highlights the two main welfare concerns with tarsal fractures in racing greyhounds:

1. An increased risk of fracture, by 400% after only 12 months of racing

2. The primary cause of the demineralisation that may lead to fracture, can remain clinically undetected until an injury occurs.

Injuries to the tarsus account for 25% of all greyhound racing injuries (Sicard et al., 1999). Despite this historical high prevalence, the

GWIC quarterly Analysis of Greyhound Racing Injuries does not actually identify the specific number of tarsal injuries.

The vast majority of greyhound racing is on circular tracks and all circular tracks in the world race in the counterclockwise direction. The impact of circle racing as the major contributor to tarsal fracture is supported by the finding in the Victorian study by Beer (2014) which states that circle tracks have a 5 to 12 times increase in incidence of tarsal fracture in comparison to straight track racing.’

He believes racing greyhounds deserve similar preventative welfare initiatives as those commenced in the racehorse industry.

‘The radiographs presented in this report reveal a number of diagnostic markers that can be used for decision making about whether a dog should be rested from racing, if it appears to be at risk. Therefore, the implementation of the Radiographic Tarsal Screening Guidelines (Pg. 22) may prove to be an important form of tarsal fracture prevention and reduce the numbers of Major racetrack fractures and euthanasia.

In his acknowledgement, he writes…

‘I dedicate this report to all the greyhounds with fractured hocks that I had to euthanise or surgically repair, and to all of the dogs whose injuries may be prevented by the introduction of radiographic screening.’

Download pdf of full article here

Download synopsis of report here