Care and Feeding of Deerhounds

Care of Scottish Deerhounds
Feeding of Scottish Deerhounds
Health Concerns of Scottish Deerhounds

Care of Scottish Deerhounds

Generally, Deerhounds are healthy and vigorous. All they need is good food, a yard and exercise, a comfy bed, and the companionship of their human and canine friends. They enjoy being in the house, but in a mild climate they can live outside with an appropriate shelter. They are sensitive to heat and must have shade available at all times. Their favorite weather is cool and brisk (think Scotland). As pups, Deerhounds will self exercise in a big yard, but as adults they get lazy and must be taken on walks, preferably off lead in a safe fenced or remote place. Good fencing around their yard is a must, to keep Deerhounds in and other critters safely out. Exercise areas must be away from traffic, as when a Deerhound gets to running, he won't be watching for cars.


Grooming a Deerhound is simple. A proper wiry coat sheds burrs easily, so a quick brushing weekly or after outings in the field is all that is necessary. For showing, most Deerhounds only need some trimming to accentuate a pretty face or shapely outline, and some brushing out of undercoat for those with a softer coat. As with all dogs, they benefit from routine ear cleaning and toenail clipping.


If you ask a group of respected Deerhound owners and breeders how they feed their dogs, you will get a variety of answers ranging from free choice commercial kibble to home raised organic bones and raw food. The guidelines that everybody agrees on apply to the feeding of any large dog:

  • Feed more than once a day.
  • Whatever you feed should be fresh and of good quality.
  • If you don't feed a balanced commercial diet, learn how to put together meals which are designed for dogs - don't guess.
  • Go easy on table scraps; they are very rich.
  • Don't leave wet food out after the Deerhound has eaten his fill; it will spoil.
  • Don't feed right before or after vigorous exercise.
  • Always have fresh clean water available.

Some Deerhound owners feed a raw diet, saying that it increases vigor, overall health, coat quality, keeps teeth clean, and solves many chronic problems such as allergies. However, many vets discourage such diets, citing digestive problems from food borne germs and damage from splintered bones. Other owners choose to cook meals from fresh food, thus avoiding the sometimes questionable contents of commercial food and the dangers of raw foods.

To learn about holistic care and feeding, see NCDC member Christie Kieth's website at


The three main health issues in Deerhounds are the same as in most large breeds: heart disease, bone cancer, and bloat/torsion. All tend to run in families, but are thought to be more or less a combination of genetic tendency and environmental factors. Dilated cardiomyopathy appears at midlife, and can respond well to medication for many years after diagnosis. Osteosarcoma also appears midlife, usually as a lameness which leads to discovery of a lesion. Chemotherapy and amputation are both used and can add time to a dog's life, but generally the prognosis is poor. Bloat/torsion is when the stomach fills with air that can't be released, often rotating and cutting off the circulation. It is fatal if not treated immediately, and can happen any time in a dog's life. Studies show that predisposing factors include a narrow deep chest, an easily stressed disposition, feeding of dry kibble only, feeding once per day, eating too quickly, and a family history of bloat. The study recommends feeding a kibble which does not have fat as one of it's first three ingredients and does not contain citric acid, and, contrary to previous belief, not feeding out of a raised dish.

Recently, it has been discovered that a genetic condition called cystinuria exists in the Deerhound breed. The amino acid cystine appears in the urine because the kidneys do not return all of it to the blood during filtration. It can crystallize and form bladder stones. Urine testing has shown it to exist in much of the breed, but only a few cystinuric dogs develop stones. Ongoing research is looking for other factors which are involved in the stone forming process.

Skin allergies to insects, pollen, dust, and stickery plants can occur in Deerhounds, as can strains and sprains in youngsters who are still gangly. As with most sighthounds, Deerhounds can be sensitive to drugs, and should not have sulfa drugs or be sedated with barbiturates. Procedures requiring general anesthesia should be undertaken with caution.