Working Dogs: Common Health Problems

dog xray

Looking after your workers is easier when you know what to look for and what to avoid.

In a survey of New Zealand working dogs the most common health problems were related to musculoskeletal trauma and injuries.

The limb injuries included ligament injuries of the stifle joint, injuries of the Achilles tendon, the tarsus region of the hind foot, the carpus joint in the front leg and hip dislocation. The obvious risk factors for traumatic injury include fences, gates, stock work, vehicles and poor weather conditions.

Surgical treatment will often be indicated for traumatic injuries.

These injuries, along with osteoarthritis, septic arthritis, degenerative joint disease, lumbosacral disease, dog bites and hip dysplasia are all associated with discomfort, pain and loss of mobility which will reduce working performance and increase welfare concerns.

Arthritic dogs should be examined and offered the appropriate multimodal treatment.

The other most important causes of loss were GDVs (twisted gut), mammary neoplasia (cancer), constipation, whelping problems, female reproductive tract disorders, cardiac disease and poisonings.

Constipation is mostly related to the dog’s diet. Do not feed bones, dog tucker that has not been skinned (wool, hair and fur) and meat placed on bedding (straw sticks to it and is eaten) as these materials can bind up the bowels.

Spondylosis (boney fusion) of the back and tail base can narrow the pelvic outlet, as can an enlarged prostate gland in an entire male dog. Dogs with recurring episodes of constipation secondary to benign prostatic hypertrophy may benefit from being castrated.

Constipation can be a very serious medical condition and affected dogs should be treated promptly.

- Hugh Hasselman


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