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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Greyhounds are elite athletes. They need a palatable, low bulk, high energy ration so they can maintain speed and stamina within a set body weight. They need minerals, especially calcium and phosphorus, vitamins, especially A, C, D, and E and electrolytes. All are essential to maintain musculo-skeletal soundness, optimal metabolic activity, strong immune system, and overall health and wellbeing. Coming up with all this is a combination of experience of the farmer or trainer and science. More research is needed into the nutritional and energy requirements of racing greyhounds.

Racers in the U.S. are fed once/day a meal of 50-70% meat and the rest dry food plus vitamin/mineral/electrolyte supplement and various additives like pasta, rice, and vegetables. There are probably as many race diets as there are trainers, but this is a basic profile. An all dry food diet is bulky, may be deficient in vitamins and minerals and is less palatable to greyhounds. They prefer a moist diet. Meat is a nutritious, high energy source with less bulk, and they like it.

Beef is the most common meat fed to greyhounds. It is fed raw because many believe that is the best way to preseve the quality of the proteins, fats, and vitamins in it. The common source of beef is dairy or beef cattle that have been injured or treated for an illness and are therefore unacceptable for human consumption. Their meat is still high quality, but the processing is less strict, which leads to two very important risk factors.
First is the possible presence of drug residues in the meat. A cattle source may be treated with an antibiotic in an attempt by the farmer to save the animal, or it may be humanely euthanized with a barbiturate. These drugs are contaminants and can be detected in the greyhound's urine in extremely low levels (procaine penicillin 0.05 ug/ml). Analytical techniques of today are highly sensitive. A study at Oregon State University (Craig, 1989) evaluated whether small, trace amounts of procaine affected race performance. Results documented that performance was not altered. Studies like this provide valid data to racing officials so they can make informed decisions regarding inadvertent drug residues.

Secondly, and far more serious, is the risk of fecal contamination by pathogenic organisms, most commonly Salmonella. Sometimes as much as 40-60% of a batch will have some amount of Salmonella contamination. Being a carnivore, the dog's digestive system is equipped to handle these pathogens, very much more than ours is. Antibacterial enzymes are in saliva. The stomach has strong hydrochloric acid which dissolves food and bacteria. The short intestine and relatively quick passage of food through it doesn't leave much time for any bad bacteria to multiply. A healthy dog can overpower most contamination and build some natural immunity in the process. Puppies, whose immune systems are not active until 6-8 weeks of age, should be fed cooked meat to lessen the chance of Salmonella infection.

Greyhound handlers are much more at risk than their dogs are. Good overall sanitation practices reduce the risk. Wear gloves when handling meat. Thaw meat and feed in as short a time as possible. Wash and disinfect feed pans. Pick up turnout pens immediately. Basically, practice good hygiene. This is also true for the newer raw pet diets. Salmonella, Listeria, E.coli O157:H7 and other significant pathogens have been isolated from commercial raw meat diets. Any raw meat source, however processed, has the potential for contamination.

Researchers are working on ways to target Salmonella invasion mechanisms so we can hopefully reduce Salmonella in all agricultural animal populations. We will all benefit from this . Advances are also happening in vaccine development, which could mean protecting farm animals, dogs, and people.