The extreme pressure, speed and tensile load during greyhound racing cause lacerations or stretching of tendons from the strain. Strained tendons that cause detachment are not very common in pet animals, but racing dogs experience this type of injury often according to Dr. Alessandro Piras at the Oakland Small Animal Clinic. The three main types of tendon injury are progressive in nature with the strain leading to degeneration and then disruption, or rupture.
Strained tendons are the most common greyhound tendon injuries. Strains present themselves as general soreness, mild discomfort and lameness. If the greyhound is given immediate rest and kept as immobile possible, the injuries heal well on their own.
Strained tendons can develop over time. Initial injuries may present as mild injury and lameness. As additional injuries pile on top of the initial strain, they eventually cause a degenerative process and complete lameness.
Degenerated tendons are sometimes called overstretched tendons. The joints they connect to become loose and movement is painful. Ultrasound, massage and rest are the best treatment for tendon degeneration. More severe injuries benefit from splinting to keep them supported.
If the dog is continually subjected to the stress of racing or transportation during injury, strains and degeneration turn into disruption. Disruption involves a complete break, or rupture, in the tissue that connects the muscle to bone. Injury to tendons often begin as muscle injuries because the surrounding tendons absorb shock better and transfer the overload to the muscles instead. If the tendon does rupture completely, the limb is useless. Surgery is the best solution for ruptured tendons.
Disruption, a form of full-detachment, is less common in modern greyhound racing thanks to stricter animal welfare regulations and top veterinary care at racing tracks. Care begins at the beginning of any sign of strain so that it does not develop into worse cases of tendon stress. Splinting or casting is mandatory for complete immobilisation during recovery.
While it is much less likely, complete spontaneous disruption of the tendon can occur during a race. The bumping, straining and sharp turns of a greyhound track can lead to immediate injury. A detachment during a race with no previous indications is more likely when uneven turf is present, or if the dog steps in a hole. The dog needs to have surgery immediately and be kept quiet and rested until the tendon heals. Complete immobilisation is necessary for recovery.