Retired racing greyhounds may be susceptible to white-coat syndrome

Greyhounds who have retired from racing may show a blood pressure spike while at the vet's office, a study finds
(Karen Tapia / Los Angeles Times)

If your blood pressure spikes when you’re in the doctor’s office, you probably have what’s called white-coat syndrome, a stress response to being in a clinical setting. You’re not alone--some greyhound dogs may have it as well.

A study finds that retired racing greyhounds may have temporarily elevated blood pressure when in the veterinarian’s office or animal hospital. The dogs, which are often adopted when their racing career ends, are known to be shall we say this...high strung compared with some other breeds. Other studies have shown that their blood pressure may even be slightly higher normally than that of other types of dogs.

In this study, researchers took blood pressure readings on 22 healthy adult retired racing greyhounds who were part of a blood donation program. The measurements were taken under three different conditions: at home by the dog’s owner, at home by a veterinary student wearing scrubs, and at a veterinary medical center by a vet student wearing scrubs. Home readings were taken a week to 28 days later to preclude any effects caused by the blood donation.


The average systolic pressure (that’s the top number) measured at the hind limb was about 132 when measured at home by the vet student or the owner, while at the clinic the average reading was 165. Systolic pressure measures the force in the arteries between heart beats.

Cats and some other dogs may have higher blood pressure at the beginning of a clinic visit, but after a while it usually goes down when they become acclimated. For racing greyhounds that’s not always the case. Normal blood pressure for dogs is generally about the same as humans, 120 over 80.

Researchers discovered that systolic readings were somewhat higher when taken at the greyhounds’ hind limbs compared with the front limbs, although the cause is not known. They also found that dogs who were considered veteran donors--they’d donated blood a number of times--had substantially lower heart rates compared with less experienced dogs. However, blood pressure readings were the same.

Because of the high reading in a clinic setting, the study authors suggested that blood pressure readings should be done at home to get an accurate measurement. They also recommended doing more studies to see if this temporary spike can lead to kidney damage or disease.

The study was published recently in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.