Your Scottish Deerhound
Caring for Your Faithful Companion
Scottish Deerhounds: What a Unique Breed!
Your dog is special! She’s your best friend, companion, and a source of unconditional love. Chances are that you chose her because you like Deerhounds and you expected her to have certain traits that would fit your lifestyle:
- Mild-mannered and easy to get along with
- Sweet, gentle, and sensitive
- Good with children
- Quiet—not much of a barker
- Friendly with strangers
- Eager to please and responsive to training
However, no dog is perfect! You may have also noticed these characteristics:
- Early obedience training and socialization is recommended
- Takes up a lot of room due to her massive size
- Can be rambunctious and rowdy, especially as a puppy
- Sees cats and small animals as prey unless trained otherwise
- Needs daily exercise
- Can be difficult to housetrain
Is it all worth it? Of course! She’s full of personality, and you love her for it! The Scottish Deerhound is a proud and gentle giant. Her favorite game is chase, but after a good run she settles down indoors. Because of her nature, she makes a great family companion.
The Scottish Deerhound originated in Scotland in the 16th century. They were originally bred for hunting deer and ownership was limited to nobles or chieftains. The Deerhound is courageous and loyal but not known as great watchdogs because they tend not to bark – even when the doorbell rings. They love to lounge and need a comfortable spot to stretch out. Scottish Deerhounds run swiftly and can jump great heights and therefore need a safe place to exercise. Deerhounds thrive on affection from their family but are not overly demanding of attention. The Scottish Deerhound is a generally healthy breed with an average lifespan of 8-11 years.
Your Scottish Deerhound’s Health
We know that because you care so much about your dog, you want to take good care of her. That is why we have summarized the health concerns we will be discussing with you over the life of your Deerhound. By knowing about health concerns specific to Scottish Deerhounds, we can tailor a preventive health plan to watch for and hopefully prevent some predictable risks.
Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed. There is a general consensus among canine genetic researchers and veterinary practitioners that the conditions we’ve described herein have a significant rate of incidence and/or impact in this breed.That does not mean your dog will have these problems; it just means that she is more at risk than other dogs. We will describe the most common issues seen inScottish Deerhoundsto give you an idea of what may come up in her future. Of course, we can’t cover every possibility here, so always check with us if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms.
This guide contains general health information important to all canines as well as the most important genetic predispositions for Scottish Deerhounds. This information helps you and us together plan for your pet’s unique medical needs. At the end of the booklet, we have also included a description of what you can do at home to keep your Deerhound looking and feeling her best. You will know what to watch for, and we will all feel better knowing that we’re taking the best possible care of your pal.
General Health Information for your Scottish Deerhound
Dental disease is the most common chronic problem in pets, affecting 80% of all dogs by age two. And unfortunately, your Scottish Deerhound is more likely than other dogs to have problems with her teeth. It starts with tartar build-up on the teeth and progresses to infection of the gums and roots of the teeth. If we don’t prevent or treat dental disease, your buddy will lose her teeth and be in danger of damaging her kidneys, liver, heart, and joints. In fact, your Deerhound’s life span may be cut short by one to three years! We’ll clean your dog’s teeth regularly and let you know what you can do at home to keep those pearly whites clean.
Scottish Deerhounds are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections—the same ones that all dogs can get—such as parvo, rabies, and distemper. Many of these infections are preventable through vaccination, which we will recommend based on the diseases we see in our area, herage, and other factors.
Obesity can be a significant health problem in Scottish Deerhounds. It is a serious disease that may causeor worsen joint problems, metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain and heart disease. Though it’s tempting to give your pal food when she looks at you with those soulful eyes, you can “love her to death” with leftover people food and doggie treats. Instead, give her a hug, brush her fur or teeth, play a game with her, or perhaps take her for a walk. She’ll feel better, and so will you!
All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Deerhound’s body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest herskin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into hersystem in a number of ways: drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or a family member and are a serious concern for everyone. For your canine friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even death, so it’s important that we test for them on a regular basis. We’ll also recommend preventive medication as necessary to keep her healthy.
Spay or Neuter
One of the best things you can do for your Deerhound is to have her spayed (neutered for males). In females, this means we surgically remove the ovaries and usually the uterus, and in males, it means we surgically remove the testicles. Spaying or neutering decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted puppies. Performing this surgery also gives us a chance, while your pet is under anesthesia, to identify and address some of the diseases your dog is likely to develop. For example, if your pet needs hip X-rays or a puppy tooth extracted, this would be a good time. This is convenient for you and easy for your friend. Routine blood testing prior to surgery also helps us to identify and take precautions for common problems that increase anesthetic or surgical risk. Don’t worry; we’ll discuss the specific problems we will be looking for when the time arrives.
Genetic Predispositions for Scottish Deerhounds
Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus, also known as GDV or Bloat, usually occurs in dogs with deep, narrow chests. This means your Deerhound is more at risk than other breeds. When a dog bloats, the stomach twists on itself and fills with gas. The twisting cuts off blood supply to the stomach, and sometimes the spleen. Left untreated, the disease is quickly fatal, sometimes in as little as 30 minutes. Your dog may retch or heave (but little or nothing comes out), act restless, have an enlarged abdomen, or lie in a prayer position (front feet down, rear end up). Preventive surgery in which the stomach is tacked down or sutured in place so that it is unlikely to twist is an option. If you see symptoms, take your pet to an emergency hospital immediately!
When it is time for a dental cleaning, surgery, or minor procedures such as suturing a wound, anesthesia is usually necessary. Scottish Deerhounds have a number of idiosyncrasies that can increase the risk of anesthesia. The good news is we have many years of experience with sighthounds and know to pay special attention to anesthetic problems such as:
- hyperthermia (body temperature dangerously high) in nervous dogs
- hypothermia (body temperature dangerously low) in dogs with a lean body conformation
- prolonged recovery from some intravenous anesthetics and increased risks of drug interactions
While we cannot eliminate his risk entirely, we are able to use anesthesia safely in these pets.
Scottish Deerhounds are prone to multiple types of heart disease, which can occur both early and later in life. We’ll listen for heart murmurs and abnormal heart rhythms when we examine your pet. When indicated, we’ll perform an annual heart health check, which may include X-rays, an ECG, or an echocardiogram, depending on your dog’s risk factors. Early detection of heart disease often allows us to treat with medication that usually prolongs your pet’s life for many years. Veterinary dental care and weight control go a long way in preventing heart disease.
Scottish Deerhounds are especially prone to a life-threatening heart condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM, in which the heart becomes so large, thin, and weak that it can no longer effectively pump blood to the body. As this problem advances, he may act weak or tired, faint or collapse, breathe in a labored way, or cough. We’ll conduct a yearly electrical heart screening(ECG) and/or an echocardiogram starting at age one to look for abnormal heart rhythms early. If found, we’ll treat this condition with medication and may also recommend dietary supplementation.
Heart failure is a leading cause of death among Scottish Deerhounds in their golden years. Most heart disease in dogs is caused by weakening of a valve. A heart valve slowly becomes deformed so that it no longer closes tightly. Blood then leaks back around this valve and strains the heart. Pets with heart valve disease (sometimes called mitral valve disease) have a heart murmur. If your dog has a heart murmur or outward signs suggesting heart problems, we’ll perform testing to determine the severity of the disease. The same tests will need to be repeated at least every year to monitor the condition. If heart valve disease is diagnosed early, we may be able to prescribe medications that could prolong his life for many years. Veterinary dental care and fatty acid supplementation can help prevent heart disease and weight control can help diminish symptoms.
Sometimes the sinus node, which is the part of the electrical system that signals the heart to beat, doesn’t work properly. If your Deerhound has this condition, called sick sinus syndrome, he will have a very low heart rate and may faint with exercise. Mild cases can be treated with medication. If his symptoms are more severe, he may need more advanced care. We’ll perform a test of the electrical activity of the heart (ECG screen) each year as well as before he undergoes anesthesia to provide the best care for your friend.
Your Deerhound is more likely than other dogs to have a liver disorder called portosystemic shunt (PSS). Some of the blood supply that should go to the liver goes around it instead, depriving the liver of the blood flow it needs to grow and function properly. If your friend has PSS, his liver cannot remove toxins from his bloodstream effectively. To check for this problem, we’ll conduct a liver function test in addition to a standard pre-anesthetic panel every time he undergoes anesthesia. If he develops symptoms such as stunted growth or seizures, we’ll test his blood and possibly conduct an ultrasound scan of his liver. Surgery may be needed, but in some cases, we can treat with a special diet and medication.
In humans, an allergy to pollen, mold, or dust makes people sneeze and their eyes itch. In dogs, rather than sneeze, allergies make their skin itchy. We call this skin allergy “atopy”, and Deerhounds often have it. Commonly, the feet, belly, folds of the skin, and ears are most affected. Symptoms typically start between the ages of one and three and can get worse every year. Licking the paws, rubbing the face, and frequent ear infections are the most common signs. The good news is that there are many treatment options available for this condition.
Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s )
Addison’s Disease is an endocrine system disorder that occurs when the adrenal glands fail to produce enough hormones to keep the body functioning normally. Left untreated, hypoadrenocorticism can be fatal, and symptoms often mimic many other diseases. Fortunately, we can run a specialized timed blood test to check for this condition. Though any dog can acquire this disease, Deerhounds seem to get it more frequently. We’ll be watching for clinical signs at every exam, and will periodically check his electrolyte levels to screen for this problem.
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency
The pancreas has two major functions: regulating blood sugar and helping digest food. The enzymes that digest food are made by the exocrine part of the pancreas. Scottish Deerhounds are at an increased risk of having too few digestive enzymes (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency). This causes inadequate digestion and absorption of nutrients, weight loss, foul smelling greasy diarrhea and a dry and flaky coat because of his inability to absorb dietary fats. Lifetime dietary supplementation with digestive enzymes is an effective therapy.
Deerhounds are prone to a common condition called hypothyroidism in which the body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. Signs can include dry skin and coat, hair loss, susceptibility to other skin diseases, weight gain, fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes. We’ll conduct a blood screening test annually to screen for the disease. Treatment is usually simple: replacement hormones given in the form of a pill.
There are several types of inherited bleeding disorders which occur in dogs. They range in severity from very mild to very severe. Many times a pet seems normal until a serious injury occurs or surgery is performed, and then severe bleeding can result. Von Willebrand’s disease is a blood clotting disorder frequently found in Scottish Deerhounds. We’ll conduct diagnostic testing for blood clotting time or a specific DNA blood test for Von Willebrand’s disease or other similar disorders to check for this problem before we perform surgery.
Bone and Joint Problems
A number of different musculoskeletal problems have been reported in Scottish Deerhounds. While it may seem overwhelming, each condition can be diagnosed and treated to prevent undue pain and suffering. With diligent observation at home and knowledge about the diseases that may affect your friend’s bones, joints, or muscles you will be able to take great care of him throughout his life.
Normally, as a puppy grows, he first builds the form of his bones in cartilage, then fills it in with bone later. Sometimes this process goes wrong, and there is an abnormal growth of cartilage and bone in early development. Some dwarf breeds, like the Dachshund or Basset Hound, have been selectively bred to have this condition. When it occurs in your Deerhound, though, it is considered abnormal. There is no treatment for the condition, which is not painful, it just means that the dog will have shorter legs than normal. The trait is inherited, so responsible breeders recommend not using affected individuals for breeding.
Arthrosis of the cervical facet joints in Scottish Deerhounds is a severely painful condition caused by abnormal vertebrae in the neck. Movement or manipulation of the head or neck is painful to these dogs. Diagnosis is made via radiographs (X-rays) or CT imaging of the cervical spine. A wide range of treatment options are available as needed to help manage symptoms.
Osteosarcoma is the most common bone tumor in dogs. It typically afflicts middle-aged large and giant breeds like your Deerhound. Early symptoms include lameness and leg pain. Early detection is critical! Call right away if you notice that your dog is limping. This is a painful and aggressive tumor, and the sooner it is removed, the better his prognosis.
Anal Gland Problems
Scottish Deerhounds are prone to this painful, long term condition in which one or more areas around the anus develop sores. Signs include straining or apparent pain when defecating, bleeding, constipation, licking of the area, or smelly discharge around the rectum. The condition can be difficult to treat, and requires lifelong medications, prescription food, and sometimes even surgery.
Cataracts are a common cause of blindness in older Deerhounds. We’ll watch for the lenses of his eyes to become more opaque—meaning they look cloudy instead of clear—when we examine him. Many dogs adjust well to losing their vision and get along just fine. Surgery to remove cataracts and restore sight may also be an option.
Bladder or Kidney Stones
There are a few different types of stones that can form in the kidney or in the bladder, and Scottish Deerhounds are more likely to develop them than other breeds. We’ll periodically test his urine for telltale signs indicating the presence of kidney and bladder stones; they are painful! If your buddy has blood in his urine, can’t urinate, or is straining to urinate, it is a medical emergency. Call us immediately!
Orthostatic Tremor is the medical term for an inherited condition that causes the legs to tremor when the dog is standing. It usually appears in young adult giant breeds like Deerhounds. It doesn’t hurt, but their legs can’t seem to stop bouncing or quivering, only while the dog is standing still. Walking, running, lying down or other activities cause the tremors to go away. This rare problem usually progresses slowly and can be treated with anti-seizure medication.
Taking Care of Your Scottish Deerhound at Home
Much of what you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is common sense, just like it is for people. Watch her diet, make sure she gets plenty of exercise, regularly brush her teeth and coat, and call us or a pet emergency hospital when something seems unusual (see “What to Watch For” below). Be sure to adhere to the schedule of examinations and vaccinations that we recommend for her. This is when we’ll give her the necessary “check-ups” and test for diseases and conditions that are common in Deerhounds. Another very important step in caring for your pet is signing up for pet health insurance. There will certainly be medical tests and procedures she will need throughout her life and pet health insurance will help you cover those costs.
Routine Care, Diet, and Exercise
Build her routine care into your schedule to help your Deerhound live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine.
- Supervise your pet as you would a toddler. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block off rooms as necessary. This will keep her out of trouble and away from objects she shouldn’t put in her mouth.
- Brush her coat as needed, at least weekly.
- Scottish Deerhounds generally have good teeth, and you can keep them perfect by brushing them at least twice a week!
- Clean her ears weekly, even as a puppy. Don’t worry—we’ll show you how!
- As an adult she has a tendency to be lazy so you must ensure she receives adequate exercise by providing daily walks and ample room to play.
- She has a strong chase instinct, so she needs to be leash walked and a fenced yard is a must.
- Keep your dog’s diet consistent and don’t give her people food.
- Feed a high-quality diet appropriate for her age.
- Exercise your dog regularly, but don’t overdo it at first.
What to Watch For
Any abnormal symptom could be a sign of serious disease, or it could just be a minor or temporary problem. The important thing is to be able to tell when to seek veterinary help, and how urgently. Many diseases cause dogs to have a characteristic combination of symptoms, which together can be a clear signal that your Scottish Deerhound needs help.
Give us a call for an appointment if you notice any of these types of signs:
- Change in appetite or water consumption
- Tartar build-up, bad breath, red gums, or broken teeth
- Itchy skin (scratching, chewing, or licking), hair loss
- Lethargy, mental dullness, or excessive sleeping
- Fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes
- Dull coat, hair loss, sluggish, weight gain
- Lumps or bumps – regardless of size
Seek medical care immediately if you notice any of these types of signs:
- Scratching or shaking the head, tender ears, or ear discharge
- Inability or straining to urinate; discolored urine
- Cloudiness, redness, itching, or any other abnormality involving the eyes
- Dry heaving or a large, tight, painful abdomen
- Coughing, exercise intolerance, rapid breathing at rest
- Slow or stunted growth; sometimes seizures after eating
- General listlessness, droopy facial expression, vomiting, diarrhea
- Greasy poops, weight loss, dry flaking coat
- Straining to defecate, bleeding, licking of the area around the rectum, or smelly discharge
- Leg stiffness, reluctance to rise, sit, use stairs, run, jump, or “bunny hopping”
Partners in Health Care
DNA testing is a rapidly advancing field with new tests constantly emerging to help in the diagnosis of inherited diseases before they can become a problem for your friend. For the most up-to-date information on DNA and other screening tests available for your pal, visit www.Genesis4Pets.com.
Your Deerhound counts on you to take good care of her, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that she lives a long and healthy life. Our goal is to provide the best health care possible: health care that’s based on her breed, lifestyle, and age. Please contact us when you have questions or concerns.
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- Gough A, Thomas A. Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats. 2nd Edition. Wiley-Blackwell; 2010.
- Crook A, Dawson S, Cote E, MacDonald S, Berry J. Canine Inherited Disorders Database [Internet]. University of Prince Edward Island. 2011. [cited 2013 Apr 11]. Available from: http://ic.upei.ca/cidd/breed/scottish-deerhound
- Breed Specific Health Concerns [Internet]. American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, Inc. [cited 2013 Apr 11]. Available from: http://www.akcchf.org/canine-health/breed-specific-concerns/?breed=scottish-deerhound