Acidosis can be fatal, but it is also often avoidable.
It is a muscular condition that is perhaps more common in greyhounds than any other species, because greyhounds push themselves to capacity in pursuit of that elusive lure.
Leading greyhound veterinarian Dr Chris Boemo discusses acidosis in his latest first aid video to feature on Greyhound Racing Victoria’s Care & Standards website.
“Acidosis is a painful muscular condition associated with exercise which can occur in greyhounds that have run too far or too hard, when they’re not adequately prepared for it, or when they run a much faster time that they would normally run, and they end up pulling up sore,” Dr Boemo said.
“The level of severity can range from minor soreness to major muscular breakdown. In more severe cases, where there is a large amount of muscle breakdown, dogs need hospitalisation, intravenous fluid therapy and pain medication. The worst-case scenario is that they can go into renal failure and die,” Dr Boemo said.
The racetrack potential of greyhounds subjected to acidosis will diminish to the point that they will run slower times than was previously the case.
“Weight loss is associated with acidosis and can stay with them for several months because their muscles die as part of the condition. Muscles don’t have a really good ability to regenerate, so once they die, they aren’t replaced by new muscles. Sometimes, so much muscle mass is lost through acidosis that the greyhounds lose lengths permanently,” Dr Boemo explained.
Dr Boemo said that racing greyhounds over distances that they are suited to and physically prepared for is a key to avoiding acidosis, along with good hydration.
“It’s super important that greyhounds are well hydrated before and after they race, especially in hot weather.”
“To avoid acidosis, it‘s super important that greyhounds are well hydrated before and after they race, especially in hot weather.”
“If your dog has had a particularly hard run, electrolyte supplementation and replacement is imperative, as is providing your dog with a good, nutritious meal within two hours of the race to minimise its chances of developing acidosis, or to at least minimise the effects of it.”
The symptoms of acidosis sometimes take 24-48 hours to fully surface.
“The common signs of acidosis are stiffness and soreness. It could be mild soreness through to severe soreness whereby the dog can hardly move and is almost cramping up,” Dr Boemo said.
“If you’re checking your dog (for soreness/injury) the day after a race, or two days after a race and you run your hand along his back and he’s in pain; or if he’s having difficulty getting on or off his bed, that could be a sign of acidosis. Then, if you take him out to the paddock for a run and he doesn’t want to run, and you run your hand along his back and he’s either painful through his saddle region or through his back area, or if he’s got tight, painful legs and he’s starting to scuff his toes, at that point in time he should definitely be seen (by a vet).”
“If your greyhound has got a minor muscle soreness and it’s not seeming to progress, some anti-inflammatory treatment may be all that he needs along with high levels of fluid intake in his food for the next 4-7 days.”
Dr Boemo said rest was important for greyhounds with acidosis, even when it’s a mild case of the condition.
“We don’t want to be exercising a greyhound with acidosis excessively because we don’t want to be worsening the muscle activity while it’s recovering. We want to be resting the dog and doing little more than light walking for the first 5-7 days.”