The articles below cover a number of topics about the health, behaviour and welfare of working dogs. There are more articles in The Basics section too. If you're looking for something in particular then use the search box above. If not, then browse the article titles and see what there is to help you. If you can't find an answer here then why not ask in our discussion forums? One of the very friendly and helpful members is sure to be able to help you.
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Dogs That Kill Sheep
This is a major problem where town meets country and is getting worse. Here are some basic facts based on research in Western Australia. New Zealand dogs are no different.
1080 Poisoning in dogs
Signs may appear from as little as half an hour to as much as several hours after poisoning.
Don't let your dog spread measles
Access across farmland to public waterways and hunting grounds has long been a custom in New Zealand.
Dog First Aid
Working dogs are valuable animals and often have accidents a long way from a veterinary clinic.
Fact Sheet on Hydatids
About the Parasite
Hydatids is caused by the tapeworm Echinoccoccus granulosus which lives in the gut of dogs. Its life-cycle also involves an intermediate host, which in the case of New Zealand is mainly sheep and, to a lesser extent, cattle. Pigs and deer are rarely involved. Humans are also a host.
Dogs become infected by eating fertile hydatid cysts in raw offal of sheep (liver or lungs). Sheep become infected by grazing on pasture contaminated with tapeworm eggs passed in dog faeces. Neither dogs, nor intermediate hosts, develop clinical signs following infection, so it's difficult to determine whether or not live animals are infected.
Humans can also become infected by contact with infected dogs, and control programmes all over the world are implemented on human health grounds. Dogs are most likely to infect their owner or owner's children.
What effect does hydatids have on humans?
The effect on people can vary from no symptoms to severe illness and death, depending on the number of cysts formed and their site and size.
Generally speaking, the formation of cysts in the body is dangerous and their surgical removal is never straightforward. A major concern during surgery to remove cysts is that the cyst may rupture and spread the disease throughout the body.
Detection of Hydatids in Animals
The only way to detect infection in sheep and cattle is by examination of the offal of slaughtered animals. This occurs in all abattoirs and export meat works in New Zealand, and any sign of hydatids cysts results in laboratory tests being carried out. When infected animals are detected, they are traced back to the property of origin, allowing investigations to be carried out and, if necessary, animal movement controls to be put in place. Investigations can be difficult because the slow growth of cysts in sheep and cattle (as with humans) means that cysts detected at slaughter may have been the result of infections that occurred many years earlier. In the intervening time the animals may have changed owners several times.
History of Hydatids in New Zealand
The parasite was probably introduced to New Zealand with sheep imported from the United Kingdom in the 19th century. It was first identified in humans in New Zealand in 1862. By the first quarter of the 20th century it had been recognised as a significant human health problem.
The first attempts at control were made in 1938, but efforts lapsed during the war years. In the 1950s farmers established local, voluntary, hydatids control committees. The passing of the Hydatids Act in 1959 and the setting up of the National Hydatids Council marked the start of the national control programme that continues today. Funding was largely through a tax on dogs that was added to the dog registration fee and most of the field work was carried out at the district council level. The control programme continued under the Dog control and Hydatids Act 1982 until the Biosecurity Act took over in 1996.
At the beginning of the programme, up to 80 percent of adult sheep carried hydatid cysts and approximately 10 percent of dogs were infected with the tapeworm. Initial control efforts were inspection at slaughter, the regular testing of dogs at dog dosing strips and educating dog owners about the hydatids life cycle and the risks to humans. The mass dog dosing with anthelmintics that started in the 1970s caused a very dramatic decline in incidence. By the mid-1990s the finding of any cysts, fertile or not, was considered an unusual event that warranted property investigation.
Since fertile cysts were found in 1995/96 from three sheep off Arapawa Island, no cysts have been detected in any sheep at post-mortem. From 1996 to 1998, individual cysts in cull cattle were found from one property per year, indicating infection a long time previously. In 1999 and 2000 cysts were detected on one property in cull cows that had been imported from Australia as two year olds in 1994.
However, from 2001 onward no cysts have been found in any animals at slaughter, which each year comprises about 26 million lambs, almost six million adult sheep, 3.5 million cattle and about half a million deer. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry declared New Zealand provisionally free of hydatids in 2002.
For further technical information, see the following articles written by Howard Pharo, National Adviser, Risk Analysis, MAF Biosecurity Authority: 'New Zealand declares 'provisional' freedom from hydatids', Surveillance magazine, Volume 29, No. 3, issue date 20 September, 2002; and 'The long road to Hydatids freedom in New Zealand, Vetscript, 1 October 2002.
Winters chills affect working dogs
There are too many dogs housed in cold damp kennels and a few unfortunate dogs have no shelter at all. Animals suffer just as much in cold damp winter conditions as humans do.
Farm Dogs - Food Water and Shelter
Farm dogs are usually very intelligent animals and willing workers. They learn quickly, they can think for themselves, they are very active and they are easily bored.