Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Florida Study: Racing Greyhounds are Underfed

Puppies at a Kansas breeding farm, circa 2013
Over the years, I have heard the claim that greyhounds are intentionally underfed while at commercial racetracks. I always assumed this was a misunderstanding based on the sleek greyhound physique. It turns out, however, that this claim may in fact be true.

According to a 2005 study, it is a "common practice" for greyhound trainers to "mildly restrict" the food intake of racing dogs "to reduce body weight." The study, titled "Effect of mild restriction of food intake on the speed of racing Greyhounds," was conducted by the University of Florida, University of Minnesota, University of Aberdeen, and the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition. It was also supported by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Novartis.

The Florida study found that dogs were "significantly faster" when food intake was restricted. It also found that when dogs were restricted food, they had "slightly fewer neutrophils," white blood cells that form an essential part of the immune system.

Finally, the study also comments on the general body condition score of racing greyhounds:
"A body condition score of approximately 3.5 on a 9-point scale is normal for a trained Greyhound in racing condition."
According to the widely cited Nestle Purina Body Condition System, 3.5 is considered "too thin." It describes this designation as:
"Ribs easily palpated and may be visible with no palpable fat.  Tops of lumbar vertebrae visible. Pelvic bones becoming prominent. Obvious waist and abdominal tuck."
This is yet another standard practice that the dog racing industry uses to increase profits while at the same time reducing costs. The racing industry can't exist without cutting corners, and it's always greyhounds who pay the price.