Livestock dogs that work on farms and ranches bridge the divide between pets and livestock. They are unique and special animals that are tough as nails and often don’t know when to quit; as Sioux Nation Pet Clinic’s Jessica Divine, DVM says, “They will go all day long and not
Sometimes, these dedicated working dogs get themselves into a position where they can become injured. Dr. Jessica explains, “Cattle dogs are very prone to injuries, which often happen as a result of charging ninety miles an hour without ceasing.” One of the most common injuries sustained by cattle dogs is blunt force trauma to the head and is typically the result of cattle or horse kicks. In cases of head trauma, brain injuries are a concern. As Dr. Jessica says, “When the brain is involved, that can be a touchy spot and can take a long time to heal.” Other areas that could potentially be affected after head trauma include the eyes, skull, jaw, teeth, tongue, and facial nerves. Dr. Jessica advises, “Head injuries can lead to severe issues, often require a longer time to heal and should not be taken lightly.”
There are many other injuries that cattle dogs can sustain. Working around cattle can be dangerous, and colliding with ATVs and other vehicles can be deadly. Dr. Jessica and her staff treat many fractures, dislocation of bones, and see muscle, tendon, and ligament sprains, strains, and tears. She cautions owners to keep an eye on their injured dog, saying, “Broken bones often heal, and the dog is usually fine. Dislocations can be hit and miss, seeming to be fine and then causing issues later.”
Lacerations are another issue common to cattle dogs as they often encounter barbed wire fences. Seeking medical attention right away is vital in these cases. Dr. Jessica says, “The sooner we see the dog, the better as they will heal and more quickly return to work.” Addressing lacerations immediately will also help keep the dog from licking the affected area. She points out that licking introduces more bacteria into the wound and is one of the worst things that can happen.
Steps to take during an emergency
Injuries happen quickly and unexpectedly. Before the dog reacts by fleeing the scene, Dr. Jessica advises owners to catch them and assess the situation. “Are they cognitive and recognize you and what you are saying to them? Do they have any physical issues such as a leg they don’t want to use?” If an injury is present, she says that the next step is to contact your veterinarian to get them evaluated as soon as possible.
The workplace of a cattle dog can be remote, which can add complexity to the situation as Dr. Jessica admits, “Cattle dogs often get injured in an inconvenient setting such as a pasture.” These situations might necessitate an owner performing some triage work in the field. A belt or t-shirt can be used as a tourniquet to reduce bleeding and extra care should be taken to stabilize an animal with a protruding bone. Because animals may display self-protection instincts when in pain, Dr. Jessica advises that a belt or shoelace holding their muzzle shut can help owners avoid getting bit.
Working dogs can be very active. To keep them in top shape, Dr. Jessica encourages owners to provide quality dog food and joint supplements that will support dogs through arthritis or other issues they can face after years of running and jumping.
Parasite prevention is another concern of any dog owner, particularly cattle dogs who often eat manure. Dr. Jessica says, “Let’s be honest, dogs eat things they aren’t supposed to.” She instructs that de-worming dogs 2-3 times each year will make them healthier and reminds owners that their animals may not show any signs of parasites as she says, “Just because you don’t see them, that doesn’t mean they are not there. You will only see the worm itself if you are watching every time the dog poops, and the worm is already dead. Living worms are still inside. Microscopic eggs are passed that we do not see.”
Considering the impact that working dogs have on our farms and our families, giving a little extra attention when they are hurt and providing quality food and health supplements are the least we can do for them.