Dr Bingham’s tips to reduce joint injury in working dogs.
- Drive, don’t run to the job, reducing energy expended and joint use.
- Avoid jumping up and down onto utes and quads, reducing potential for back and leg injuries.
- Remove obstructions like steel bars on quad bike decks.
- Keep out of trouble: avoid working in yards or close confines where dogs can be knocked around by stock.
- Keep kennels dry and warm to help reduce stiffness and pain in joints.
- Consult your veterinarian for early diagnosis of and treatment when lameness occurs .
- Jerram, A. Cogger, N. & Stevenson, M. Disease and Injury of Working Farm Dogs, New Zealand. Proceedings of the Sheep & Beef Cattle Veterinarians of the NZVA. 2009; 163-167.
The impact of joint problems in working dogs.
Stiff, painful joints are holding many working dogs back from reaching their full potential, and making life miserable for them along the way.
Zoetis Veterinary Technical Advisor, Dr Clive Bingham, has encountered dozens of working dogs suffering from prolonged pain and stiffness in their legs and backs, and he believes the problem is more widespread than farmers often appreciate. The good news is there is now a new anti-inflammatory drug, Trocoxil® Chewable Tablets that may benefit these working dogs.
“The problems we see in working dogs can be caused by injury or genetics, but working conditions can also play a part in why a dog is suffering from joint pain,” he says.“Unfortunately, a lot of dog breeding is based upon bloodline trial performance rather than the dog’s physical condition, and this can result in issues surfacing during their working life.”Conditions like hip dysplasia are recognised more frequently as a result of breeding combinations that accentuate the genetic condition.The stifle, or knee joint, in working dogs is a common site of injury. Injury often results from dogs getting their legs caught in fences and damaging the internal ligaments, ultimately leading to osteoarthritis of the knee joint.
“I have always advised anyone looking to buy an older working dog to check their knees, and if one is thicker than the other, that is a good indication of knee damage.”These initial leg injuries can have an indirect impact on other joints and limbs over time. Continuing to work with unaddressed joint pain will result in dogs favouring other limbs, which in turn causes problems from an increased work load on those joints.Over time the muscles of affected limbs can atrophy or weaken, compounding the problem as more pressure is exerted on the joint surfaces.
Back injuries caused by jumping up and down off quad bikes and utes can also manifest later in life as arthritis. Once this disease process has started, it is irreversible. The sooner you address the pain and inflammation, the better chance you have of slowing down any future deterioration. Like any valuable asset, maintaining your working dogs in premium condition will pay dividends in the future.
A Massey University study of disease and injury in working dogs across 44 farms in the Lower North Island found 17% suffered joint and leg issues including stiffness and arthritis. In semi-retired dogs the problems with joints soared to 25%1.
A common means of dealing with canine joint pain has been to use short acting anti-inflammatory treatments, but often that results in “peaks and troughs” in the level of pain relief.Dr Bingham welcomed the arrival of a new pain relief product, Trocoxil® Chewable Tablets, from Zoetis.Trocoxil is offered in tablet form and is easily administered once a month following an initial loading dose, reducing the risk of forgetting treatment, and ensuring continuous pain relief.“One of the benefits of providing a constant long term treatment for pain and inflammation is the muscles of the affected limb continue to be used, so they don’t waste away, but remain strong and continue to support the joint.”
Prevention is always better than cure, and Dr Bingham urges farmers to treat their dogs like high performance athletes, paying attention to housing, diet and travel to the “job.”“It’s good to see more farmers transporting their dogs out to the back of the farm to start work, rather than have them running for kilometres before they even start mustering.”He also sees more farmers feeding their dog’s high quality, energy-dense dog biscuits which help restore energy levels to meet the demands of a high workload. “Ultimately these dogs have cost you quite a bit of money, and the longer, healthier life we can give them, all the better from both an economic and a welfare perspective.”
(ACVM No. A10459. RVM; Available on under Veterinary Authorisation.)