Spotlight On The Whippet

Like every other month, February has some special pet holidays. One of the pets in the doggy spotlight this month is the Whippet.  Whippets aren’t as well known as their larger kin, the Greyhound, but they need a lot of love. We’re more than happy to celebrate this sweet, lovable pooch! A local Lexington, KY veterinarian offers some insight into the breed in this article.

The Whippet: Breed Basics

The Whippet is a Sighthound, which means it follows its game visually. These sweet pups typically weigh between 25 and 40 pounds, and can live for about 12 to 15 years. They look very similar to Greyhounds, but are a bit smaller. Male Whippets can grow up to about 22 inches, while females average 18-21 inches. 

Fido’s name is derived from a 17th-century word that means ‘to move rapidly’. The description is very accurate: Whippets are extremely fast. Although the Greyhound holds the record for being the fastest dog on earth, Whippets can sometimes beat them. In fact, the Whippet is often considered the “poor man’s Greyhound.” They have the fastest idle-to-running acceleration speed among all our canine pals, and can reach speeds up to 35 mph.

Are Whippets Hard To Care For? 

Whippets aren’t difficult to care for. In fact, because they are often lazy, they can be easy keepers. However, it’s important to be aware of a few things. As with many sight hounds, Whippets can get fixated on things like cats and squirrels. After all, Fido is pretty much hardwired to run after small prey! You’ll need a good leash when walking. Special collars, called Martingales collars, are necessary for these guys, because their small heads can slip out of regular collars.

Are Whippets Hard To Train? 

Whippets are quite intelligent and often pick things up quickly. However, they  tend to forget their training the moment they spot a squirrel. Training is crucial, but that petucation may not be enough to keep Fido from chasing things or running into traffic. Err on the side of caution, and always use a sturdy leash. 

What Is The Whippet Dog Breed’s History?

Fido’s family tree is quite large. His immediate ancestors are English Greyhounds, Italian Greyhounds, and terriers. However, the breed is also closely related to other Sighthounds, like the basenji, Pharaoh hound, and saluki. Sighthounds have been with us for quite some time: they’ve been depicted in ancient art from Egypt and Turkey, and may also have been used by the Celts.

More recently, Whippets became popular racing dogs in 18th-century England. They also became popular with gamblers. Fido became known as a Snap Dog. This is a reference to an old sport, in which the winning dog was the one who snapped up the most rabbits in a certain period of time. (That sport is now outlawed, fortunately.)

What’s A Fun Fact About Whippets?

Fido was supposed to be in Alien 3, but he was too cute for the part and lost his job! 

What Kind Of Coats Do Whippets Have?

The breed standard allows for 12 different coat colors and patterns, including fawn, red, orange, tan, cream, black, brindle, and blue. White or dun are also officially allowed, though these colors are rare.

As far as grooming goes, Fido won’t need to be bathed very often, but should be brushed regularly. Use a soft brush: hard bristles can be too rough for your pup’s delicate skin. 

Like Greyhounds, these guys are very sensitive to chemicals. You’ll need to use a very gentle shampoo.

It’s worth noting that, due to their thin coats and lack of body fat, Whippets are not well-suited for  the cold. Fido will need sweaters and jackets in chilly weather. These guys also dislike hard floors. A comfy bed is essential.

Are Whippet Dogs Good Family Pets?

These sweet pups can be great pets. Whippets are very, very cuddly, and love to snuggle with their owners. They’re good with kids, and usually get along well with other dogs. They rarely bark, which may appeal to those who prefer quiet dogs.

Do Whippets Get Along With Cats? 

As far as cats go, it depends: if Fido is raised with Fluffy, they may get along just fine. However, we wouldn’t recommend bringing a Whippet that hasn’t been around cats into a home with a kitty. 

These guys also aren’t a good match for anyone with bunnies or pocket pets, unless you can be diligent about keeping them separated.

Are Whippet Dogs Hyper?

Not really! Whippets can be a lot of fun. They often enjoy playing with other pups. Your dog may also enjoy chasing a flying disc or lure. 

Many people assume that, because they are so fast, these dogs have high levels of energy. Fido needs a good walk every day, and will appreciate having a yard to play in. However, he tends to turn into a couch potato once he’s burned off his zoomies. After his workout, Fido will probably curl up in his bed to happily nap and dream of chasing squirrels for most of the day.

Are Whippet Dogs Prone To Any Specific Illnesses? 

Whippets are usually healthy, but they do have a few concerns. When considering adopting one of these dogs, it is important to note a few things. 

First and foremost? Obesity can be especially harmful to them, as it can lead to orthopedic problems. Their lean build often causes people to (mistakenly) believe they are underweight and need more food, even when they aren’t. It’s therefore not uncommon for new Whippet owners to overfeed their pets. Fido may not mind the extra treats, but his build isn’t really able to handle excess weight. Follow your vet’s dietary advice to the letter.

The breed standards do recommend a few specific tests. These include the Ophthalmologist Evaluation, BAER Testing, and Cardiac Examination.

It’s also important for potential adopters to know that, like many other Sighthounds, Whippets have a unique physiology. Their blood work may look a bit different from that of other dogs. They’re also very sensitive to chemicals. That will also come into play with things like sedation and parasite control. You’ll even need to be careful with lawn/garden chemicals. Ask your Lexington, KY veterinarian for specific advice.

How Do I Help Whippets?

As you may be aware, former racing dogs face numerous challenges. Sighthounds were once highly sought-after, but unfortunately, treated as a commodity rather than a pet. Sadly, the racing industry often prioritized profits over the animals’ well-being. This resulted in widespread mistreatment and an abundance of rescued dogs. There has been progress in the U.S. in recent decades, especially with the prohibition of dog racing in many areas. However, there are still several Greyhound and Whippet rescues in operation. Fido’s cousins also need some help: in Spain, the Galgos dog, a type of Spanish Greyhound, is often abused. In fact, they are recognized as one of the most mistreated breeds globally. If you want to help, consider contributing to or showing support for a rescue organization dedicated to their cause.

In Conclusion: The Whippet is a sleek and sweet dog that makes a wonderful pet for the right household. Just make sure to do plenty of research before adopting, as they do have a few specific needs.

Do you have any questions about Whippet care? Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns. As your Lexington, KY pet clinic, we provide both excellent care and top-notch service.

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