Vet Services Hawkes Bay Ltd

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Keeping your working dog working

Working dogs are the hardest working and cheapest labour unit on your farm.  Here are a few points to consider to ensure they are in optimal health and are able to give you their best.


This is the most important factor influencing the health of working dogs and also the most neglected!  Feeding a premium working dog diet with high levels of protein and fat daily is the best way to ensure totally balanced nutrition. It has been shown that a dog fed 19% protein is eight times more at risk of soft tissue injuries than a dog fed 24% protein.

Remember bones have no nutritive value and can lead to constipation, broken teeth and possible gut obstruction!

An ideal body condition is the ribs not showing and a slip of fat cover over the ribs, a good quality coat and an obvious waist line. Working dogs tend to be more under optimum weight than over.

Twisted stomachs (GDV, bloat) are more commonly seen in Huntaways. Twisted stomachs often result in a dead dog, expensive vet bill or both. Ways to minimise GDV risk include:

·         Feeding from ground level.

·         Separation of dogs when feeding, so they eat slower.

·         Avoiding exercise 2-4 hrs after feeding so their stomach cannot twist. 

·         Checking your dogs at night is important. The chances of survival are directly proportional to the time between the stomach twisting and surgical intervention. 


Working dogs are high performance athletes working to extremes.  Sometimes they break!  Fitness plays an important role in the incidence of musculo skeletal injuries. Unfit and tired dogs suffer more injuries.  Dogs coming back into work after a quiet period need to be worked carefully to re build previous fitness and stamina levels before you need them to do the hard yards.  Some common injuries causing lameness include:

Worn pads – prevention is best by limiting road work and giving time for the pads to harden up after rest period, especially soft pads after a wet winter. Once pads are worn and painful the only effective treatment is rest. And this may take months to fully heal 

Toe/ nail infections – Working in wet conditions infections or working when the ground is really hard predisposes to nail/ toe. Signs generally are swelling at the end of the toe and pain on touching the nail. Prompt antibiotic treatment is crucial to prevent the spread of infection into the bone and joint and subsequent toe amputation, but usually if the nail is infected it needs to be removed under general anaesthesia or sedation. We can and do keep older dogs working well and comfortable with targeted treatments.

Arthritis - There are multiple management options available and these are tailored to each individual dog’s needs. Common treatments include management of exercise levels, anti-inflammatory drugs, and joint supplements.

Hip dysplasia - Using Penn Hip x-ray screening in pups from 4 months of age can give an indication of hip dysplasia and the risk of subsequent hip arthritis. It is always heart breaking to see young Huntaways at 2 -3 years of age breaking down due to severe hip arthritis. This situation can be prevented by early hip screening and is especially important if you plan on breeding from the dog.

When to call the Vet

Any non-weight bearing or toe touching lameness should be seen as soon as possible.  Remember that the reason dogs do not bear weight on a leg is because it is painful. Never work a dog on three legs, it is in pain.

A mild lameness that is unresponsive to 2-3 days’ rest should also be seen.


Read more >Thursday 28th of March 2019: Mis-mating is always a hot topic. If this does occurs and you don't want to breed from that bitch in the future, we recommend having her speyed. Speying is a permanent solution and will not affect her working ability, saves you having to worry about her when she is on heat, and in most instances saves you money as you can reduce the amount of food you feed by about a third. If you don't want her speyed, the only other option is to abort the pregnancy. This uses a very expensive drug and is often more expensive than having her speyed. If you do want to breed from her in the future we recommend having her scanned 25 days after mating. At this point we can still give her the abortion drug. The abortion drug works best given < 21 days (99% effective) but if we scan her and she is not pregnant this will save you a lot of money. The injection given at 21-45 days is 95% effective. Give us a ring to discuss further if you have any questions.

ARTHRITIS- The biggest issue limiting working dogs performance

Read more >Thursday 28th of March 2019: This grading system is helpful to use as guide to get the most out of your working dog team. The following will be a brief description of the four grades along with their corresponding treatment options:

Stitch Up – What can you do to help?

Read more >Thursday 28th of March 2019: Unlike a surgical incision with smooth edges, a laceration is often jagged and irregular and as a result, there can be variable degrees of damage to the underlying tissue and structures depending on the depth and force of the trauma that caused the laceration.

Coughing and Wheezy Horses

Read more >Thursday 7th of March 2019: The classic âcoughing horseâ is a common sight and sound at this time of year, and often transient viral respiratory disease is to blame. But as much as we love to blame a virus, they are not always the cause!

Encysted Strongyles – Small worms, big problems

Read more >Thursday 7th of March 2019: âSmall Strongylesâ or âCyathostomesâ are the terms used for a group of over forty different species of parasites affecting horses. They tend to be the most prevalent parasite within the horsesâ gastrointestinal tract and although small, heavy burdens can result in big problems!

Stomach Ulcers and Gastroscopy

Read more >Thursday 7th of March 2019: Stomach ulcers (gastric ulcers) are a hot topic! Stomach ulceration is a somewhat confusing syndrome â the syndrome can have a multitude of clinical signs, ranging from very subtle performance issues, or picky eating, to weight loss and colic. There is also a multitude of products on the market which claim to help with ulcers, not all being equal.

Slug Bait Poisoning

Read more >Friday 30th of November 2018:

Pet Insurance

Read more >Friday 28th of September 2018: Many people know the importance of insuring their items, their house or car, even their own health. Fortunately we are also able to insure pets, for not only medical and surgical care but in some cases routine visits can be covered (including vaccinations and wellness checks/blood tests).


Read more >Friday 28th of September 2018: When a flea bites, its saliva causes the dog to itch. Fleas not only cause skin problems for dogs and us but can also cause other disease such as anaemia, flea allergy dermatitis and tapeworms.

Healthy Teeth

Read more >Friday 28th of September 2018: Dogs, like us, have two sets of teeth during their lives. The deciduous (baby) teeth appear shortly after birth and are replaced by the permanents at around four to six months of age. Deciduous teeth cause few problems except where they are retained beyond about eight months of age. If this occurs, displacement of the erupting permanents may result.

Have you got an itchy dog?

Read more >Friday 28th of September 2018: During the spring and summer months we see high numbers of dogs with itchy skin.In the past, the only way to manage atopy (itchy skin) was through medications such as steroids and antihistamines but Royal Canin nutritionists and veterinarians have developed a new Prescription Diet specially formulated to help manage environmental sensitivities in dogs.


Read more >Thursday 30th of August 2018: When a flea bites, its saliva causes the dog to itch. The adult fleas you see on your dog only represent 5% of the whole flea population. Flea problems can appear to come and go. This is because the immature stages of the flea (eggs, pupae) wait in the environment for the right conditions (Warmth, humidity and stimulation) When this happens they tend to hatch all at once onto the unsuspecting animal.


Read more >Thursday 30th of August 2018: Ticks live in areas of long grass and dense shrubs. They wait for animals to come along, and then grab onto their fur. Once on the animal, they find areas of thin skin and attach with cement-like saliva to feed on blood.

Toe Nail Injuries

Read more >Thursday 30th of August 2018: A break in the toe nail or dewclaw causes a cracked nail with an exposed nail bed. This can be extremely painful. If left untreated, nail infections can spread up to the joint of the toe and can lead to irreparable damage such that the toe itself has to be amputated.

Constipation Issues

Read more >Thursday 30th of August 2018: Constipation is an obstruction of the colon with difficulty to pass faeces or the inability to defaecate at all. Clinical signs are:

- Straining to defaecate
- Defaecating small amounts of dry hard firm stool
- Straining with small amounts of liquid stool
- Occasional vomiting
- Not wanting to eat
- Depression / Lethargy

Heat Stroke

Read more >Thursday 30th of August 2018: Heat stroke can be an extremely deadly emergency.

We see it mainly in summer but it can occur at any time.

During hot summer days, start work early if you can. Try to avoid the main hottest parts of the day. If you have large work days, alternate your team, so dogs get a good chance to rest.


Read more >Friday 27th of July 2018:

Equine Annual Warrant of Fitness

Read more >Friday 27th of July 2018: With the equestrian season kicking off in most disciplines, Spring is a good time for your horse to have its annual âwarrant of fitnessâ.


Read more >Wednesday 25th of July 2018: We have had a couple of interesting cases over the last few months where our Vets have been able to use the endoscope to help diagnose and address issues.

The endoscope is a flexible camera/video /light source that we can use to help investigate respiratory tract in horses as they allow us to gain access visually to some of the nooks and crannyâs that make up a horses upper and lower respiratory tract.

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