Canine care ques­tions an­swered

Man­age your barn dog’s diet, soundness and chew­ing habits so that you’ll have more time to spend with your horse.

EQUUS - - Equus - By Melinda Freck­le­ton, DVM


Are raw di­ets bet­ter?

Q:My neigh­bor keeps telling me how great her dogs have been since she switched them to a raw diet. Is this some­thing that might ben­e­fit my dog? He’s very ac­tive, and I’d like to do what­ever I can to keep him this healthy.

A:Raw di­ets are cer­tainly pop­u­lar in some cir­cles. Pro­po­nents say that this ap­proach to feed­ing---which in­cludes raw meats as well as or­gan meat, bones, fruits and veg­eta­bles---is health­ier be­cause it is closer to the diet a dog evolved to eat. And, cer­tainly, some dogs seem to thrive on these di­ets. You can buy com­mer­cially pre­pared raw dog foods, which tend to be ex­pen­sive, or you can make your own.

How­ever, be­fore you head for the butcher counter, do your home­work and be aware of the in­cred­i­ble amount of work it takes to get this type of diet right. The com­pa­nies that pro­duce the ma­jor dog food brands em­ploy canine nu­tri­tion­ists with PhDs, who ded­i­cate their ca­reers to cre­at­ing for­mu­las with bal­anced nutrition to sup­port the health of your pet. If you start mak­ing your own dog food, you’ll lose the ben­e­fit of their ex­per­tise, and your dog may not be get­ting all the vi­ta­mins, min­er­als and other nutri­ents he needs.

Also, raw meats can har­bor a wide range of pathogens, in­clud­ing sal­mo­nella, kleb­siella, E. coli and many oth­ers, which can cause se­ri­ous ill­ness in the hu­man mem­bers of the house­hold as well as the dog. If you go this route, it is im­por­tant to main­tain a high level of hy­giene around ev­ery­thing that comes in con­tact with these foods. With com­mer­cial raw foods, be sure to fol­low the pack­age di­rec­tions for stor­age.

For most busy horsepeo­ple, I would think that it makes more sense to stick with a well-bal­anced main­stream diet. The ma­jor brands of­fer safe, bal­anced nutrition for­mu­lated for ev­ery stage of a dog’s life. And that leaves you more time to spend with your horse.

When my dog limps

Q:When my horse is lame, I know to check his hooves for rocks and in­jury and feel his legs for heat and swelling. But I’m not sure what steps to take when I no­tice my dog

limp­ing a bit. How do I de­ter­mine if it’s some­thing mi­nor that might pass ver­sus some­thing more ur­gent that re­quires a vet­eri­nar­ian?

A:Ac­tive dogs who spend their lives around horses are likely to injure them­selves, de­vel­op­ing lame­ness, now and then. Since we don’t have to worry about rid­ing them, we may tend to pro­cras­ti­nate, or “wait and see,” be­fore seek­ing vet­eri­nary care for our dogs. But that is not a good idea. If your dog is limp­ing, take him to see a vet­eri­nar­ian.

In the mean­time, check the leg care­fully, start­ing at the toes. But keep your­self safe. Just as you know that any horse in pain may kick you, you must also as­sume that any dog in pain will bite you, no mat­ter how docile he nor­mally is. Put­ting a muz­zle on him would be a good pre­cau­tion.

Start by gently run­ning your fin­gers over and be­tween the toes and toe­nails, foot­pads and foot joints. Look and feel care­fully, be­cause hair and shad­ows can ob­scure small but painful in­juries. Then move on up the leg. For chronic lame­nesses, the el­bow, sti­fles and hips are the most com­mon sites of pain in dogs.

If you find any­thing that looks swollen or in­fected, if your touches cause your dog to re­act in pain, or even if you can­not find any­thing wrong but your dog con­tin­ues to limp, be sure to see your vet­eri­nar­ian as soon as you can. As with horses, many in­juries or chronic is­sues are eas­ier to deal with when treat­ments are started as early as pos­si­ble.

Do not try to treat your dog with your own med­i­ca­tions or with your horse’s. Cor­rect dosages and prod­uct safety varies dra­mat­i­cally be­tween species and even be­tween breeds of dog!

Q:My dog loves chew­ing on the hoof trim­mings he finds on the ground after the far­rier leaves. Is there any rea­son I shouldn’t let him?

A:Hoof trim­mings are non­toxic and nat­u­rally very at­trac­tive to dogs, but it’s not a good idea to let your dog have them. One rea­son is that they of­ten cause vom­it­ing a few hours after they are in­gested, so you may end up with bits of hoof de­posited on your liv­ing room car­pet or in your bed. In rare cases the hoof trim­mings could cause an ob­struc­tion in the gas­troin­testi­nal tract and re­quire the canine equiv­a­lent of colic surgery.

The other ma­jor rea­son to keep hoof trim­mings away from dogs is be­hav­ioral. In seek­ing these treats, a dog could eas­ily de­velop the bad habit of in­sert­ing him­self close to the horses as your far­rier works, adding another un­pre­dictable fac­tor to an al­ready dan­ger­ous job. This be­hav­ior in­creases the risk of in­jury to the far­rier, the horse, the per­son hold­ing the horse and the dog, too.

For ev­ery­one’s safety, it’s best to keep dogs well away from both horse and far­rier while work is be­ing done.

Chew­ing on hoof trim­mings

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