The line between the working dog and the dog performing in competitive sports is blurred and ancient. Greyhounds were so treasured in ancient times that only the aristocracy was allowed to own them. Although, Greyhounds were commonly used for hunting there is evidence at least as far back as 2500 BC that dogs looking very much like our present-day Greyhounds were used for competitive racing. Greyhound racing became a staple in Great Britain. The artificial lure, oval track in the 1920â€™s and legalized parimutuel betting in the 1930â€™s set the stage for widespread Greyhound racing in the United States.
Of course, for centuries Foxhounds, Deerhounds, Beagles, Pointers and many other breeds were hunting companions. These animals were responsible for many a meal eaten in homes around the world.
Although training methods were studied in great detail, it wasnâ€™t until the fact that the same scientific approach to human diseases was applicable to our sporting companions that veterinary medicine became involved with sporting animals. This area of interest started to blossom in the 1950â€™s and 1960â€™s. Bateman in Veterinary Record noted in 1950 the accessory carpal bone fracture common to racing Greyhounds and described a surgical repair.
In the last two to three decades, an entire new area of canine human interaction has proliferated. Canine events are held by the thousands all over the world with very close knit-societies formalizing the rules and standardizing competitive achievements and goals. Likewise, the marriage of veterinary medicine to the improvement of dog health has given valuable hunting animals a second chance rather than the alternative of being replaced.
Veterinarians are just starting to recognize their potential role as valued partners in recommending fitness protocols as well as their medical role in treating sporting injuries.
Popular and competitive sports such as agility, flyball, lure coursing, weight pulling, dock diving, Greyhound racing, disc dog, carting, mushing and fox hunting are activities that not only need specialized training but also each has their own set of potential physical injuries determined by the stresses that the dog may encounter. Also, specific conformations may expose the competitor to specific injuries not common to different individuals competing in the same event.
The demands placed upon the animal competing in events based predominately upon confirmation also have many areas that would make the veterinarian the natural expert. Areas such as nutrition, dental and skin health, as well as overall conditioning are critical in conformation competitions. Today veterinarians are playing an increasingly active role in bringing these beautiful animals to perfect form.
Our hospital is actively involved in conditioning animals for competition and in recognizing common injuries in those animals that compete. We are becoming more aware of the forces and conditions that lead to injury. We are proud to bring our expertise to this new area of veterinary medicine and have a great facility and staff to make these athletes get to their next level of competition.