Italian Greyhound Health

Idiopathic Epilepsy in Italian Greyhounds

Idiopathic epilepsy in Italian Greyhounds: supporting canine seizure research

Idiopathic epilepsy (IE) is a life-limiting neurological disorder characterised by recurrent seizures. It is the most common chronic neurological disease in dogs, affecting around 0.7% of the general canine population, including Italian Greyhounds. The condition can have a high welfare impact, with affected dogs showing signs of fear and distress during seizures that can last for several minutes or even hours.

Seizures can take many forms and vary widely in severity. Common signs include collapse, stiffening, rhythmic body movements, leg shaking, head twitching, uncontrolled drooling or urinating, and becoming unconscious. Unfortunately, there is no cure for IE and at present there are no screening tests that could help reduce its occurrence in future populations. 

Treatment remains the only course of action following diagnosis: anti-epilepsy medication can help reduce the frequency and severity of seizures, while dietary changes and trigger avoidance may also be advised.

Working with the Kennel Club Genetics Centre 

The genetic factors underlying IE are the subject of an investigation by the Kennel Club Genetics Centre (KCGC) at the University of Cambridge, in collaboration with the Linnaeus group of veterinary practices and the University of Helsinki.

The UK Italian Greyhound Rescue Charity has been supporting research into IE for many years. The project was originally based at the Animal Health Trust in Suffolk, but following the Trust’s closure in 2020, the research team – along with their DNA database of Italian Greyhounds and several other breeds affected by IE – moved to the University of Cambridge to re-establish the KCGC.

Researchers at the KCGC are aiming to identify DNA variants that may increase a dog’s susceptibility to IE, and to develop tools to identify dogs at greater risk of developing the disease. This work should help improve prevention and treatment and lower the incidence of the condition in future generations.

Has your Italian Greyhound been diagnosed with IE? If so, we need your help…

More specifically, we need your dog’s DNA! By participating in the KCGC’s IE project, you will be playing an important part in research that could be hugely beneficial for canine welfare. 

To take part, please complete the DNA sample kit request form on the Italian Greyhound Rescue Charity website. The sampling process is simple, all that’s required is to rub a few brush-like swabs against your dog’s inner cheek. There is no cost to participate but owners are asked to pay the postage cost to return their sample kit to the KCGC. This cost is minimal as the swabs are light and fit into a standard A5 envelope (provided in the kit).

For more details see the KCGC website:

About the author

The Italian Greyhound Rescue Charity

The Italian Greyhound Rescue Charity is the UK's specialist charity caring for the welfare of Italian Greyhounds and Italian Greyhound crosses throughout mainland UK; Scotland, England and Wales.

We primarily provide emergency care and re-homing to Italian Greyhounds across the country, but also advice and support to owners on the welfare of Italian Greyhounds.

If you would like advice, to adopt, or help placing an Italian Greyhound into our care please feel free to contact us.