TeamMate Working Dog Project

Looking after your working dog

A working dog is a key part of any sheep and beef farming operation. They are your number one worker and require significant time and monetary investment. As a high-performance athlete, they have special needs to keep them at peak health.

Vetlife conducted a study into the health of working dogs in partnership with Massey University, which we called TeamMate. This four-year study of 641 South Island working dogs has resulted in two published papers so far. It is the first study of this kind and scale dedicated to NZ working dogs. We believe that there are many areas of health and wellbeing that can be improved for working dogs.

This includes vaccinations, regular worming (dosing), addressing musculoskeletal issues, improving sleeping conditions and nutrition. Vetlife want to help farmers address these areas of need and have put together a booklet, to ensure that your working dog is kept at top condition to prolong their career as long as possible.


Keeping a dog up to date with their vaccinations is a key part of responsible dog ownership

Vaccination is the best way to protect dogs against Parvovirus, Kennel Cough and Distemper, and also to prevent them from passing them on. We can also vaccinate against Leptospirosis if required. To get your dogs vaccinated, call us to arrange an in-clinic vaccination or to let us know what time works for you on-farm.

Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus which can spread either by exposure to an infected dogs’ faeces or indirectly, via contact with a contaminated environment, person or object. The symptoms of this potentially deadly virus include severe bloody diarrhea, anorexia, lethargy, vomiting, fever, weight loss, depression, dehydration and weakness.

To fully protect your dog, they need to be vaccinated every three years after the initial puppy vaccinations and booster.

Kennel Cough
Kennel Cough is a respiratory infection and is highly contagious, spreading from infected dogs and shared objects. This illness causes an inflammation of the dog’s upper respiratory tract and the main symptom is a harsh, hacking cough. We can provide you with a vaccine for your dogs to protect from Kennel Cough.

To fully protect your dog, they need to be vaccinated every twelve months.

The TeamMate study included:

  • Only 24% of dogs were vaccinated as adults, from yearly to sporadically

Vetlife can come to you and vaccinate all your dogs at the same time.  If you would like to book in an on-farm vaccination run, please call your local clinic.


Regular worming (dosing) is critical to keeping a dog parasite free

Regular worming (dosing) is critical to keeping a dog parasite free. Best practice recommends you should worm your dogs every 30 days in a 3-month rotation. There are many parasites that can affect the health and well-being of dogs including whipworms, hookworms, roundworms and tapeworms.

Sheep Measles
The Taenia ovis tapeworm causes Sheep Measles, which results in unsightly cysts in a sheep carcass. Dogs get infected by eating raw / untreated meat and spread the eggs through faeces which are then ingested by grazing sheep. Worming your dogs will prevent the spread and also stop excess cutting or downgrading of sheep carcasses at meat works.

TeamMate Facts

  • 85% of owners feed meat as a part of their dog’s regular diet


  • Sheep measle cysts are killed by freezing meat to a minimum of -10˚C for 10 days or cooking to core temperature over 72˚C.


The average working dog travels an estimated 20km a day

This makes them high performance athletes of farming, which takes a toll on their body. Arthritis (a musculoskeletal condition) in dogs is extremely common and as dogs get older, the cartilage surface of their joints begins to wear, and this can cause cartilage cells to die. The resulting release of enzymes cause inflammation and excess joint fluid.

Symptoms include difficulty in scaling heights, difficulty jumping up or down, disinterest in running, holding a limb in an irregular position and discomfort in the colder months.

If you have any questions relating to the health of your working dog, please call us.

TeamMate Facts

  • Clinical abnormalities were found in 74% of dogs
  • 43% of abnormalities were in the musculoskeletal system


Improving your working dog's sleeping conditions for may positively impact their health and wellbeing, as well as their career longevity

The study reported that 86% of dogs were housed in uninsulated kennels, 44% had kennel bedding and 52% were not given a coat at any stage.

The recommended housing temperature to house a healthy dog is 20-26°C . Temperatures in the South Island regularly drop below 0°C in winter.

With low levels of body fat, working dogs are susceptible to cold stress. 16% of dogs studied had some form of pressure callous, caused by lying on hard surfaces.

TeamMate Findings

  • Dogs that are housed in warm kennels use less energy on thermoregulation, and consequently have lower energy requirements.
  • Appropriate bedding can help with preventing pressure sores on dogs’ elbows and hocks