Northumberland vet gives advice on working dogs

A dog may be one of the smaller animals on the farm, but they are among the most important - and most valuable

Pam Brown of Alnorthumbria Vets
Pam Brown of Alnorthumbria Vets

A dog may be one of the smaller animals on the farm, but they are among the most important – and most valuable.

Recently, a Border collie sold for a world record-breaking price of almost £10,000 in Yorkshire, so it makes sense to take steps to keep your dogs healthy, says Pam Brown of Alnorthumbria Vets.

Failing to keep working dogs’ health MOTs up-to-date could cost livestock farmers more than they bargained for and ultimately lose them valuable contracts with the major supermarkets.

Brown, a vet with the Wooler branch of Alnorthumbria Vets, said: “Worming is a very important issue for livestock farmers, because those who are selling into supermarkets will need to demonstrate their worming regime. We know that some retailers are requesting that all farm dogs (including those that live in the farmhouse) are wormed every four weeks.

“Adult dogs do not often succumb to the effects of worms, but there are zoonotic risks of transfer to food-producing animals and humans.”

Ideally, puppies should start their worming programme from three weeks old, receiving treatment every four weeks before starting an adult regime of every one to three months. Working dogs are particularly at risk from round and tapeworms, which can be hazardous to children.

Alnorthumbria Vets are also treating a rising number of sheepdogs, working terriers and gundogs infected with Leptospirosis, a rat and water-borne disease which can prove fatal. Vaccinations as puppies then annual boosters safeguard against the disease.

Brown said: “We have certainly seen an increasing amount of cases of Leptospirosis in the last year. Dogs show symptoms of being off-colour, jaundiced, not eating and vomiting. Even with prompt treatment, some cases will not survive.

“The disease is carried by rats and therefore working dogs are much more likely to come in contact with them. Vaccinations can ensure your dog doesn’t suffer and we’re keen to encourage owners to take this simple step.”

Fleas, ticks and other external parasites are another concern. Fortunately, treatment with insecticides is fast and effective – but they must be specific products licensed for use on dogs.

“Sheep dips and cattle preparations are not licensed for dogs and can be very toxic,” said Brown.

“Collies are especially sensitive to these and can die.”

Unfortunately, as a consequence of the recession and losses from last year’s bad weather, some farmers have opted out of basic health maintenance, which has resulted in a rising number of sick dogs treated by the practice. For a relatively small annual outlay, you can ensure you have a safe and healthy small workforce. Taking advantage of the practice’s quieter summer period after lambing and before the heavier workload of autumn starts again, Alnorthumbria is offering a series of discounts on treatments for working dogs to get their vaccinations and routine treatments back on track as well as discounted microchipping.

Brown added: “From April 2016 all dogs have to be micro chipped and we know only a very small percentage of working dogs are.”

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