Looking after our ageing workers
March 29, 2019
While dogs on flatter country may continue to work into their later years, dogs on big hill country tend to slow down a bit sooner.
How do we ensure that we are supporting these dogs as best we can, and helping to extend their working lives?
There are lots of factors to consider, nutrition is definitely a key one. Feeding a premium diet like Eukanuba Premium Performance can help towards keeping dogs fit and healthy into their prime. Providing dogs with highly digestible animal proteins also helps ensure they have good lean muscle tone, which can help to prevent soft tissue injuries. Antioxidant rich nutrition nourishes the immune system and helps defend against freed radicals, especially important as these dogs age.
It’s important to consider their diet right from the day you get them. Raising pups on a premium diet such as Eukanuba Large Breed puppy or Eukanuba puppy ensures that they get the best possible start. Providing growing pups with tailored levels of calcium and phosphorous will help to develop strong healthy bones which is vital to help prevent injuries later in life. Medium breed dogs such as heading dogs should ideally be fed a puppy food until they are 1 year old, while large breed huntaways need to be fed puppy food until they are 18 months to 2 years old.
Keeping dogs warm at night will also help to protect older joints, and help alleviate those that have some arthritis already. During the night, kennel temperature can drop drastically, particularly during the colder months. Not only are dogs’ joints affected by the cold, they also need to shiver to keep themselves warm - burning calories all night which can result in needing to feed higher rates of food to keep body condition up.
Padding kennels with bedding that won’t hold moisture, and isn’t too expensive to replace, is a great start. Hessian sack mats are popular as they are relatively cheap, but make sure that they are aired out on warmer days as they will hold water. Stuffing kennels with hay or wool is another option, making sure that dogs aren’t ingesting either with their dinner (can lead to blockages).
Another relatively cheap and easy method is to cut up old canvas horse rugs. They are durable and water resistant, and provide good padding for joints.
Covering dogs, particularly older dogs or those who struggle to maintain condition, is a really easy way to help protect joints and keep body condition up. Initially working dogs may find it a little weird, but pretty soon they will be lining up for their jackets at feeding time. There are some durable and relatively cheap ones around, and they can make a huge difference in the long run.
Ensuring that kennels are draught free is essential - try leaving a thermometer in the kennel over night so you can record the temperature over a period of time.
Allowing older dogs to catch a ride on the bike or trailer will also help to save their joints, and avoiding lots of jumping on and off bikes, over rails, and out of kennels will also buy them some time. Especially with your big huntaways.
Working dogs very rarely go in to see the vet unless there is something wrong, but it may be an idea to do a yearly check up in your older dogs. This way joint, teeth and other age related issues may be picked up on early enough to keep on top of them.
These dogs are an invaluable asset to any farming operation, and so extending their working career through nutrition and husbandry will save money in the long run.
When they do eventually reach the age where they can no longer keep up the pace, there are options for retirement. Royal Canin and Eukanuba are proud sponsors of Retired Working Dogs NZ. This is a charity dedicated to rehoming retiring, injured, and young failed working dogs. If you would like to know more about the process, or you have a dog to retire or rehome, the contact details for this charity are below.