Hounds, as a group of dogs that were bred for hunting and not for show, are generally very healthy dogs. The major health issues that are seen are no different than for many of working dogs and they tend to be issues that are either genetic or those that can be relatively easily managed, treated and prevented provided owners are aware of the symptoms and respond quickly.
One of the biggest issues with most of the hounds, especially the scent hound breeds, is that they tend to be prone to weight gain if they are fed incorrectly and are not provided with enough routine exercise. The same can happen with the sight hounds, although they tend to be more likely to self-exercise than the larger, heavier boned and slightly slower scent hounds. Two or more long, intensive walks per day combined with as much outdoor time as possible is the best option. Hounds that are kept with other dogs or several companion dogs will be much more likely to self exercise than a hound that is a single dog in a family. Off-leash areas, walks in the country and the park and even jogging with the owner is a great way to keep your hound in shape as well as exercised both physically and mentally. Avoid following the same old path, try new variations to keep your dog alert and mentally active when on an outing.
With regards to feeding, almost all of the hounds, because of their body shape, are very prone to a potentially life threatening condition known as bloat. Bloat is more correctly known as gastric torsion or gastric dilation-volvulus, and occurs typically within one to two hours after eating followed by exercise. Dogs with deep chests and overall larger body size are much more prone to this condition. Bloat occurs when the contents of the stomach expand and distend the stomach. This build up of gas, fluids and partially digested material sits in the stomach and pushes outwards, then when the dog exercises the pressure can cause the stomach to rotate or even completely flip over on itself. The resulting torsion and restriction of the passage of the material down the intestine increases the pressure upwards, pressing on the heart and lungs. In some conditions death can occur within just a few hours.
Signs of bloat are not hard to miss. They include distension of the abdominal area, anxiety, discomfort and distress and often very rapid panting and excessive salivation. The dog may be attempting to vomit by retching over and over without producing anything other than saliva. This is the dog's attempt to relieve the building pressure in the stomach and on the chest cavity. Immediate vet assistance is needed as if the torsion is cutting off the blood supply to the stomach and tissue is dying. The vet, when a torsion situation occurs, will have to surgically correct the twist, remove any dead tissue and then attempt to tack the stomach in place to prevent the issue from happening again.
Owners can help to prevent bloat by feeding several small meals a day rather than one or two large meals, avoid any type of exercise for their dog after eating for one to two hours and restrict the dog from drinking large amounts of water during or after eating. Holistic types of natural food diets, also known as BARF diets are also less likely to cause bloat than lower quality kibble that may swell in the stomach.
Ear infections are common in the hound group as well. This is because the ears are long, pendant and close to the head, trapping warm, moist air in which yeast and bacteria can thrive. Routinely cleaning the outer part of the ear with warm water or ear cleaning solution and thoroughly drying the area is typically all that is required to prevent chronic types of ear infections.
Entropion or turned in eyelids are common in the scent hound group but not as common in the sight hounds. The loose skin on the face of the scent hounds can allow the droopy lower lid's eyelashes to turn in, scratching and irritating the eye's surface. With constant rubbing this will lead to a thickening of scar tissue, often resulting in significant risk of infections and permanent vision loss. Entropion is somewhat hereditary so be sure to ask if is found in the line. The condition is typically very easy to correct with a simple surgical procedure that tightens the eyelid and repositions the eye lashes to the outside.
Some of the larger hounds such the Scottish Deerhound, Irish Wolfhound, Borzoi, Saluki, Bloodhound and the Otterhound have a relatively short lifespan. This is partially due to inherited health conditions within the breed including heart problems and cancers, but also do the dog's large size. The Irish Wolfhound is perhaps the shortest lived, with an average lifespan of about 8 years. Most of the other large sized hound breeds will live between 10-12 years when healthy. Some of the smaller hound breeds will live up to 15 years on average, again depending on genetic issues, exercise and overall health.
The sight hounds, particularly the Greyhound, Afghan Hound, Saluki and the Ibizan and Pharaoh hounds and the Whippets are very thin skinned dogs are more prone to skin injuries such as cuts, allergies and hot spots. In general these dogs also show a marked sensitivity to any type of drugs or chemicals and may have severe reactions to shampoos, flea medications, perfumes or dry powders or other chemicals used around the house. Carefully checking the skin on a regular basis is important to manage any injuries and control possible secondary infections due to rough, irritated or damaged skin areas.
In addition these same breeds are also slightly more prone than other breeds to various types of skin tumors and growths. Early treatment and removal of these tumors can often prevent more significant issues from developing. Since skin conditions tend to be hereditary, it is important to know the breeding lines and select from lines that don't have a history of these types of health problems.