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Working Dog Centre: Working hard for working dogs – Presented by W. Baltzer, DVM, PhD

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Working Dog Centre: Working hard for working dogs

Massey University established the Working Dog Centre in 2008 to advance the health and welfare of service and working dogs in New Zealand. The Centre has drawn together a group of researchers from medicine, surgery, epidemiology, behaviour and ethics. The Centre’s activities include a range of research projects with police, guide and farm dogs as well as providing consulting services. New Zealand has an estimated 200,000 working farm dogs and they make an economic contribution to farming as mustering stock without them would be impossible on many farms. The main health issues affecting working dogs are musculoskeletal injuries. A total of 634 dogs were enrolled between 2014 and 2016. Dogs belonged to 127 owners on 121 farms. Each owner had a mean of four working dogs. Forty-six percent of dogs were female and 54% male. Six percent were neutered. Median age was four years (interquartile range (IQR): 3 – 7 years). Median body condition score (BCS) was 4/9 (IQR: 3 – 5). Thirty percent had a BCS below four, which is considered underweight in pets. The proportion of dogs with at least one clinical finding was 64%. Musculoskeletal system findings (44%) were most common, followed by skin (23%), eyes (11%), mouth and teeth (9%) and the reproductive system (9%). Using these results, we will develop best-practice guidelines for care and husbandry to improve the health and career longevity of working farm dogs.

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