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With a few precautions, barn dogs rock

I love barn dogs. These are dogs that get to be real dogs. They get to run as a pack, swim in the creek, roll in the mud and eat horse poo. When they come to the clinic they are (usually) calm and well behaved because they burn off all their excessive energy at the farm. I get to see a lot of barn dogs because of where my practice is, right in the middle of the horse capital of the world, and also because I spend the majority of my non-working hours at a barn.

I thought I'd put some observations/thoughts together about some Veterinary stuff that applies to these wonderful companions that enjoy the barn life as much as their horsey humans do.

1. Barn dogs are more at risk for wandering off or getting lost. They don't always have their collars on, and collars can break. Get your barn dog microchipped! Also, there are some really cool gps monitoring dog tags that link to an app so you can see exactly where your dog is, and that can alert you when they wander off a set area.

2. Parasites: barn dogs are much more at risk of infection from all kinds of nasty little critters than their suburban counterparts. Use a monthly parasite prevention, or a combination of whatever products work for your dog, to prevent fleas, ticks, heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms. There are tons of effective, safe products out there, just ask your vet!

3. Ticks = Lyme disease. There is a canine vaccine for Lyme disease, and lots of ways to prevent tick attachment in the first place. Do both, ticks can carry diseases other than Lyme that we can't vaccinate against.

4. Horse feed and cat food are full of calories. Watch out that your dog doesn't start to get a little pudgy! Keep the barn cat food up high ( I know, sounds obvious) and if your dog keeps eating the horse feed put less dog food in their bowl.

5. DON'T GIVE YOUR DOG HORSE MEDICATIONS WITHOUT CONSULTING A SMALL ANIMAL VET. This is a common problem, the worst offenders are phenylbutazone ('bute') and dewormers. Yes, there are some medications that you might have on hand in the feed room to treat a medical condition that your dog has, but don't take it upon yourself to guess which one and what dose. I've seen that end very badly. The mg per kg dose can vary hugely between species. Play it safe and ask your vet first. Don't google it either, anyone can put anything online and it might be incorrect information.

6. Most barn dogs have more freedom than an urban/ suburban dog, and don't spend a whole lot of time on a leash. However, they need to be on a leash sometimes, usually when they come to the vets office, so make your vets / vet technicians life easier and teach your barn dog how to walk on a leash. They will appreciate it!

7. If you decide to use your bandaging skills on your dog, please go easy on the vet wrap. Don't put it on as tight as you do on a horses leg, and make sure to use a layer of padding under it. Don't put it directly on the dogs body. Make sure bandaging is the correct thing to do, I have seen a lot of unnecessary bandaging!

8. Vaccines: typically barn dogs come in contact with a lot of other dogs that come and go from the farm. This is perfect for disease transmission. Barn dogs should be kept up to date with all their vaccines, especially kennel cough and influenza if that's applicable to where you live. Dogs will be dogs, so to make sure your a££ is covered, have your dogs rabies vaccine current, and keep the tags/ vaccine certificate somewhere you can find it. Saying your dog will never bite is like saying your horse will never kick.

So, to summarize, barn dogs rock, prevention is better than cure, watch out for parasites and don't mess around with medications. If in doubt, check with your vet!

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