IS YOUR DOG OVER 4 YEARS OLD?
Have you noticed them lagging behind the pack or taking longer to recover after a big day’s work?
They may be showing the first signs of Osteoarthritis.
A good dog on farm is as helpful as a reliable working machine, but can be taken for granted. We tend not to appreciate how smoothly a dog is running, until something breaks or parts wear out. Sometimes it’s wear and tear on dogs’ joints that cause them to slow up or break down. With winter approaching it’s time to ensure that everything has been done to ensure these valuable experienced workers are maintained to maximise your investment in them.
Colder weather exacerbates the subtle signs of mild arthritis, so you’re more likely to start noticing symptoms. Degenerative joint disease or Osteoarthritis is a debilitating disease whereby pain and stiffness develop as a result of wear and tear on the joints. Cartilage reduces stress on bones by acting like a shock absorber, minimizing impact on joints. Over time, excessive repetitive forces damage cartilage, and inflammatory changes occur, eventually leading to cartilage destruction, subsequent damage and remodeling of the underlying bone; joints become painful causing lameness.
These changes are not curable, but you can lessen the pain and inflammation associated with them. As farm dogs put much more strain on their bodies than pet dogs, arthritis is an almost inevitable occurrence at some point in their lives. Taking a proactive approach to extend the longevity of dogs’ careers will pay dividends financially and can be viewed as a best practice welfare policy.
How many different osteoarthritis signs can you recognise in your dogs?
- - Less energy, lagging behind the pack, sleeping more
- - Stiffness, especially first thing, increased stretching
- - Slower to rise after rest or recover after a big day
- - Hesitating jumping on and off the ute or over fences
- - Swollen joint/s or licking a single joint frequently (pain)
- - Lameness or shortened strides
- - Change in behaviour/aggression, less patience with young dogs
How can you help them stay top performing athletes for longer?
Discussing your dog’s issues with a vet and getting a thorough clinical exam is a great place to start. In moderate to severe cases the vet may prescribe pain relief/ anti-inflammatory medication. There are also joint supplements available without prescription for mild arthritis, or to use in conjunction with anti-inflammatories.
Reconsider your kennel setup… could it do with some renovations? Fully waterproof and draft free are bare necessities. Ensure dogs have a good layer of insulation underneath them to alleviate transfer of cold from the ground. Thick padded, dry beds help alleviate excess pressure on sore joints and provide more warmth. Dog jackets are a great idea too, especially for the light conditioned and older dogs.
If breeding, consider seeking hip and elbow radiography scores when selecting a Heading or Huntaway stud and bitch. In many other breeds of dog this is an established technique to improve joint architecture, using genetics to reduce the predisposition towards arthritis in future generations.
A good quality diet is essential for any working dog, but the right ratio of calcium: phosphorus given to growing dogs is critical to help avoid degenerative joint disease initially.
Balance the workload. When work on farm for the dogs is erratic, they must have at least one exercise period every day to help prevent stiffness. Steady, little and often work for dogs on treatment for arthritis is better than massive muster days followed by long periods of no work.
It just makes sense, welfare wise and financially, to get the most out of the quickest workers on the farm, for as long as you can!