Working Dogs

Your working dog is a vital staff member to your business. Working dogs have slightly different needs to your pet dog, especially in terms of nutrition. We are here to advise you on how to get the best from your four legged staff member.


Working Dogs - Click for more information:

  • For smooth running, most farms rely on the athleticism of the working dogs:
    Unsurprisingly their energy requirements are at least two to three times higher than pet dogs, and on some farms considerably more. It has been estimated a Huntaway after a hard day’s work, on a cold day, will need to consume up to 5000 Calories, to replenish losses; twice what we would need.
    A recent survey showed that one of the most common health concerns farmers had for their dogs was that they were underweight. Most dogs are fed a mix of commercially prepared biscuits and farm-kill meat. Many dogs flourish on this diet, but there are some points to be aware of. Meat in NZ has been found to be marginal or deficient in several minerals including iodine, B vitamins and A & E vitamins. Without bones, a meat-based diet alone is severely deficient in calcium. However, feeding bones has the accompanying risks - gut blockage, perforation, and constipation. Energy is required for all functions in the body, including digestion. If the diet is not easily digestible, there can be a loss of energy from the body, simply through trying to digest the indigestible. The same occurs to a lesser extent, when chilled meat is fed, especially on cold days. The body has to heat the food in order to digest it, using energy in the process.
  • Points to consider when choosing a working dog diet:
    Look for a high-calorie, low-bulk diet - this ensures that the dog isn’t ‘filled up’ with low energy materials; 20% fat is ideal - this level of fat provides the right energy source for dog muscles in hard work; 30% high-quality protein promotes lean muscle mass and aids in growth and repair of muscles.
    • One study showed that there was an 8 fold increase in soft tissue injury (ligament, tendon and muscle) in working dogs fed a 20% protein diet, compared with a 30% protein diet. Nutrition-related disease is still seen in some working dogs.
    • Symptoms such as poor healing of the skin, susceptibility to fractures, joint problems and a lowered immune system have all been linked with poor nutrition. Dogs in poor condition are also much less able to cope with serious illness or injury.
    • Most dry diets contain three to four times the nutrients of wet food on a dry matter basis so are more economical to feed.
  • When is best to feed working dogs:
    Feeding immediately after exercise promotes recovery and replenishes muscle stores of both glycogen (carbohydrate) and protein. These are replenished more completely and rapidly when food is given within 2 hours of exercise.
    Feeding prior to exercise can cause abdominal pain, vomiting and even stomach dilation and torsion (GDV; a condition, to which, Huntaways are particularly sensitive). Giving a small feed prior to exercise has not been shown to improve endurance.
    Feeding working dogs once a day meets many of these requirements. However, during periods of high exercise levels some dogs may not be able to physically eat enough food in one sitting to fully replenish what has been used. Hard working dogs will, therefore, need to eat a high quality food even on days they have not worked, to make up for the losses on really hard days.
    Have a think about what you are feeding your dog, and do not hesitate to contact us about your dog’s diet. We want to ensure you to get the best performance out of one of your hardest working members of staff.
  • To ensure that working dogs are up to date with their vaccinations, we hold an annual dog vaccination run:
    The vaccines being used protect against distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, parainfl uenza virus, leptospirosis and coronavirus. Of these diseases, parvovirus and leptospirosis are the most prevalent and significant in our areas. Following an initial course of 2 shots, 3 to 4 weeks apart, the vaccination gives approximately 12 months protection against leptospirosis. With this disease, prevention by vaccination is definitely preferable to trying to treat an infected dog.
  • Parvovirus infection is generally easily recognised by dog owners:
    Parvovirus infection is generally easily recognised by dog owners, as it causes reluctance to eat, depression, vomiting and diarrhoea, usually in unvaccinated puppies.
  • Leptospirosis is a growing cause of dog illness and death in our area:
    Leptospirosis is a growing cause of dog illness and death in our area. Leptospirosis is caused by a bacterium, with dogs usually infected by ingesting food or water contaminated by the urine of infected rats. The organism can then be transmitted from dog to dog via urine. The disease syndrome varies, but often the infected dog is off its food, depressed, sometimes vomiting, and may show few other symptoms for 2 to 4 days. Because of the vague initial symptoms, presentation to the vet is often delayed and, by the time we see the dog, the leptospirosis organism has already caused irreversible and often fatal damage to the liver and kidneys, so early treatment is vital. As well as causing significant disease in dogs, leptospirosis is also a zoonosis – a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans.