MORE THAN A TOOL?A solid diet, yearly vaccinations and a warm, soft bed help to keep working dogs in good condition.
Keeping your working dog healthy and happy
Ask the vet
Esther Van Luipen
Working dogs are often the most important ‘tool’ a farmer uses around the farm. They round up cattle and sheep like no other. When a herd needs to be brought back to the shed or another field, or brought in for dosing or a cattle test, a dog can do in ten minutes what a handful of people would take half an hour to do. Whether it is a cattle dog or a sheepdog, a guard dog or hunting dog, working dogs all do their share and save their owners a lot of time and hassle.
Yet even though they do a great job, working animals are often overlooked when it comes to good veterinary care or good food. To give a good performance, an animal needs to be looked after like an athlete, focusing on maintaining proper health and preventative care. This will guarantee a proper working ‘tool’ ready to use when needed and a happier dog.
For instance, a good bed is essential. Loads of working animals sleep in draughty sheds with no proper bedding. A good bed should be warm, dry and draught free. A bed on straw could be a good option, only remember that straw often carries little bugs, so it should be replaced on a regular basis. Cardboard is a good and cheap option as a basis to insulate the animal from the cold ground. On top of that you could put a cushion or a warm blanket. This will prevent the animals from getting arthritis, which will slow them down and make them unfit to work at a much younger age.
If arthritis sets in and you see your animal getting stiff, slowing down or limping there are lots of options that will make your animal comfortable that you can discuss with your vet, like anti-inflammatories and food supplements.
Lots of working dogs have to work on a diet of scraps or low-grade dog food. As is the case with sports people, good food can really enhance the performance of a dog. It doesn’t need to cost the earth, so it is certainly worth looking into and getting good professional advice on a good solid diet for your dog.
Vaccinations are another thing that is vital. The most important disease that dogs should be vaccinated against is Leptospirosis, or Weil’s Disease, which can be transferred to humans and is potentially lethal. When giving your animal its yearly vaccination the vet will also give it a full health check, which can catch illnesses that have only just started as well as parasite infections.
Worming is also of crucial importance. I advise having your animal wormed every three months. When worming an animal, make sure you get a proper wormer that will not only worm roundworms but also tape worms and all other species of worms. Your vet will be able to recommend one that suits. When worming a collie or collie cross, make sure not to use a wormer with milbemycin, ivermectin or moxidectin in it: Many collies have died a horrible death after getting into the sheep dip or being treated with the pour on that should be used for cattle.
All and all working dogs are indispensable; they really are man’s best friend. Considering the fantastic job they are doing, working dogs should be respected and treasured every day of their lives.
Esther van Luipen is a veterinary surgeon in Claremorris Small Animal Practice. Feel free to contact her with any of your small-animal concerns on 094 9373955 or at email@example.com.