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Livestock Guardian Dog Health/Care FAQs

The answers on this page should not be used in lieu of Veterinary attention! There is no substitute for "in-person" evaluation by a professional veterinarian.
What should my LGD eat?
How much should my dog eat?
I want to get my dog spayed, but I heard they are sensitive to anesthesia. What kind of anesthesias are ok to use?
Should I be concerned about using flea collars or bug sprays?
My dog is boney, how can I fatten her up?
My dog seems sick after shots, are LGDs prone to reactions?
My dog is loosing hair and there are little red bumps/pimples under the skin. What could it be?
My dog has "hot spots". What do I do?
My dog has a "Lick Granuloma". What causes this? What do I do?
My LGD seems to have an ear infection. How should I treat it?


What should my LGD eat?

Weaned LGD puppies should eat puppy chow until they are about 4 mos. old. Goats milk can be mixed in to make it tastier if available. Between 4 and 6 mos old, puppy chow can be mixed 1/2 and 1/2 with adult diet food until they are eating solely adult foodby 6 mos of age. Most LGDs do better on natural lamb and rice diets. Some do have food allergies. Often a dog food can be found which does not cause reactions. Never feed a dog maggot infested or spoiled food. Never feed pups raw meat. Dogs can be supplemented with cooked liver or stewed boneless chicken. However, too much will overbalance the diet with too much protein.

Dogs will often eat stock feeds. Snacking is not usually a problem. If they are eating too much, they might not be getting the nutrition they need, and things like urea found in some stock feed could make them fairly ill. They should not be allowed to eat hoof trimmings as the sharp edges could cause serious intestinal damage.

Some dogs (particularly ASDs) will supplement their diet with rodents and small birds. Rabies shots should be kept current.

How much should my dog eat?

Consumption peaks between 6 and 12 mos and then ramps down until by about 3 yrs they should be eating about 6 cups of kibble. Many dogs eat less over time and can eventually sustain themselves on as low as 3 cups per day. A good barometer is that you should be able to feel ribs. LGDs should not be fat. Some breeds, such as Anatolian Shepherd dogs, are more likely to stay lean throughout their lives. Most active adults eat between 3 and 6 cups of kibble per day.

Most LGDs go through periods where they fast, especially in the heat of summer. Most put on weight in the fall which they will often loose in the winter cold. They often then put weight on again in the spring.

I want to get my dog spayed, but I heard they are sensitive to anesthesia. What kind of anesthesias are ok to use?

Isoflorane gas is the safest anesthesia and is used successfully even on LGDs which are known to be sensitive to anesthesias. Prior to anesthesia, it is good to avoid spraying yards or using flea products to minimize the possibility of chemical interactions and overloads.

Should I be concerned about using flea collars or bug sprays?

Some LGDs have been known to have reactions to flea collars and pesticides. LGDs are outdoor dogs and flea collars will overload the pesicide if they get wet. On such a big dog, flea collars are not that useful anyway.
Spraying the area with insecticides can have negative effects. There are now biological alternatives to spraying the ground
Applications of Advantage, Frontline or Spot-On directly to the dog have been known to be useful. There are some LGD breeds which are even sensitive to heartworm medication.
.

My dog is boney, how can I fatten her up?

Try adding goats milk, stewed boneless chicken and vegetables, other cooked meats to spice up the kibble. Realize that many of these dogs, especially working dogs or immature dogs will keep themselves lean. It is better to have an immature dog which is lean than to have one that is putting extra weight on growing bones and cartilage. Watch for reactions or sensitivity when using milk, for adult dogs that are not used to it it may cause diarrhea, and should not be used in these animals.

My dog seems sick after shots, are LGDs prone to reactions?

Some LGDs do have reactions to shots. A dog which is known to have reactions should be evaluated with your veterinarian to see if shots are worth continuing. Each dog should be monitored for 24 hours after shots are given.

My dog is loosing hair and there are little red bumps/pimples under the skin. What could it be?

The problem could fall into a number of categories: food allergies, demodex, environmental allergies, low thyroid, or reactions to medications. If there are actually pimples, it is usually an infection of the skin and needs medical attention. In puppies this can progress to puppy strangles in a few cases. Dogs with these symptoms need medical attention BEFORE or concurrent with the dietary changes, etc. Delaying medical attention can be harmful to many of these dogs.

If your dog is not on a natural lamb and rice or venison and rice kibble, then you should change foods to one that is natural or another food in order to minimize or eliminate any food-related involvement as a possible allergy source.

If this continues or other symptoms arise, then it would be wise to have a full thyroid panel done and send it to Michigan State or an OFA certified lab for analysis, and also do the blood testing for allergies.

My dog has "hot spots". What do I do?

Before any treatment is begun, you need to see your own veterinarian for diagnosis to treat your specific problem. What follows is a general statement on hot spots and does not substitute for a veterinary visit.

Most times no one knows what causes hot spots. But, they tend to appear as a moist area of skin irritation and infection in hot weather, thus the name. Did your vet clip the fur down? This is really important, as getting air to the spot really helps healing a LOT.

Gentocin, in my experience, only half works. Cortisone may be helpful if advised by a veterinarian, as well as antibiotics. However, it you've been to the vet, and he hasn't done this, try a couple of things at home before heading back. First, you can get an overthe counter cream with dexamethasone and antibiotic. You can use this THINLY (as thinly as possible) over the area once to twice a day for a few days. The ointment tends to keep air from getting to the wound, so it is sometimes helpful, sometimes not. You can get a Betadyne (povidone iodine) solution from the pharmacy OTC, too. This is NOT tincture of iodine! It can be diluted to a light tea color, and swabbed on the spot several times a day. This is really helpful, and I like it. You can also find Domeboro solution at some pharmacies, and this is a great drying solution. Use according to directions for humans once or twice a day. And, you can use an Aveeno anti-itch soap or bath on the entire dog or just the spot for relief of the itch. Favorite treatment: clip, short acting steroid injection, oral antibiotics. Next, betadyne. Then, Domeboro or Aveno. Dexamethasone and antibiotiotic cream last. (Don't use the dex cream for more than a few days, without consulting your vet.)

Joanne Howl, DVM

on Kaopectate, Athlete's foot powder, corn starch....

I remember that one! Well, it wasn't the pink stuff -- it was Kaopectate. Basically the same sort of "stomach cure" but I don't have labels handy to compare ingredients. I haven't tried it for hot spots. The recommendation of athlete's foot powder sounds pretty good. Haven't tried that either. Would seem to soothe the burning itch and dry the wound. My vet once recommended just using corn starch to help dry the lesion. Didn't have any hot spots to put corn starch on at the time so I don't know how well that would work.

Basically, you want to dry the wound up, it will heal much more quickly once it dries. As long as the skin itches like mad, the dog will still chew or scratch at it, and it will grow from a minor patch to a very large one if one doesn't act quickly. Using some bitter coating, an elizabethan collar or cut-up bucket, or putting a T-shirt on the dog might be helpful. But it must be a miserable feeling to itch so bad and get a bad taste when one chews at it, or to have to wear an e-collar! A hydrocortisone shot might be helpful to slow down the burning itch, just long enough to help the wound start to heal.

I *have* used some commercial stuff from the pet supply store called "Allercaine" which stops the itch and has a bitter taste. Works like a charm if you get the wound before it gets bigger than a quarter. :(
Arrrghhh, fleas!!

Janice Frasche'


My dog has a "Lick Granuloma". What causes this? What do I do?

Before any treatment is begun, you need to see your own veterinarian for diagnosis to treat your specific problem. What follows is a general statement on hot spots and does not substitute for a veterinary visit.

This is a really tough problem. If the area is very well healed now, great. Try such things as Bitter Apple or even Vicks VapoRub on the area to keep the mouth off of it(the vicks should be discontinued if the dog proves it will like it off) If the area is NOT well healed, you may find that antibiotics -- perhaps long term -- will give you some control.

Dogs lick because of a physical or psychological reason. Often a physical reason is the beginning and the psychological (behavioral) reason keeps it up. Physical reasons can be allergy (food, inhalation, anything), infection, mites or parasites, injury to the nerves in the area, or some other things. Psychological include boredom, anxiety and habit.

If your current treatment it not working, it is worth spending some money to get to the bottom of the problem... allergy testing, biopsy, and if the lesion is on the hind leg consider hip x-rays (dysplasitic dogs can sometimes have nerve impingement on the leg when arthritis forms), and thyroid testing. I advocate this for young dogs like yours. The fact that the dog has been doing this for 8 months is discouraging... no doubt whatever cause was there is now complicated by thickened skin which feels strange to the dog, habit and usually a secondary skin infection.

Other treatments your vet might try include steroids, antihistamine, long term antibiotics, topical tresaderm, topical steroids, Bitter Apple or other noxious tasting preparations, some have used cobra venom or DMSO. Also betadyne soaks have occaisionally worked. If it becomes obvious that it is
behavioral, then changing the routine to decrease boredom or anxiety is very important. Additional exercise, half hour play times on a routine basis, sometimes a new job to do (obedience work, guarding), or a new pet in the house will straighten these guys out. And, if all else fails there are anticompulsive medications such as clomipramine ($$$ expensive in a dog your size), anti-anxiety drugs such as elavil, or the panacea of the human world, Prozac, to try. (FYI, I've had luck with clomipramine, but have not tried elavil and will not try prozac unless it is a last resort....)

My own favorite shampoo for itchy dogs, or for hard to control lick granuloma dogs (my own!!!) is Relief shampoo. It is an oatmeal based shampoo (reminiscent of Aveeno products that fees so WONDERFUL on my dry skin), with a little topical anesthetic. The anesthetic works only a short time, but it can break the itch cycle. The shampoo leaves my dog (Anatolian) beautifully white, the fur is soft and shiny, and he usually will leave the chewing alone for several days. The best I ever kept his lick granuloma was when he was able to take weekly baths, and no other med was used.

A hint -- almost ALL shampoos will kill fleas that they actually contact. The trick is there is no residual activity -- even with the flea shampoos.

Joanne Howl, DVM

The TM's I am aware of who have had Lick Granuloma problems usually fall into a broad category of lowered [or hyper] immune-response ranging from one or more causal factors which may include food allergies, environmental allergies (which can be prevalent in regions of heavy rain, dampness or humidity, to areas where pesticides or other fertilizers or chemicals are present, etc.), serum intolerance, low thyroid, medications which may cause reduced immune-response such as antibiotics or steroids (steroids are commonly given and the problem usually is much worse when withdrawn).

I would have a full thyroid panel done and send it to Michigan State for analysis, and also do the blood testing for allergies. The last TM that I had dealt with who had demodex was finally cleared of the demodex, but persisted in licking her paws until they bled. Blood testing discovered the allergy fungal involvement. She was immediately cleared of this problem when moved to a home of very high elevation where the air was either hot and extremely dry in the summer or cold and extremely dry in the winter. A Komondor was going to be put down because of such horrible skin problems and immediately cleared up in the same high altitude environment.

If this dog is not on a venison and rice kibble, that is the only kibble I would use with this type of a problem. Also giving Beta Carotene capsules (buy at grocery store) may help and vitamin C and E supplementation. Lots of fresh air and sunshine also tends to help. I would never put this type of dog in a kennel or keep it confined in a house where the dog may not receive
enough sunlight. Aloe Vera jell and Flowers of Sulfur (have your pharmacist order it in) mixed together with some Witch Hazel to dilute it enough to spray from a spray bottle onto the lick spot several times a day may assist in the healing, but repeat involvement would probably keep cropping up due to an internal weakness. The immune systems do mature with these dogs as the dog matures, so if you can keep this girl's problems down to a roar until she is three or four, her immune system may override the problems with age.

The old writings describing TM's who were first taken out of their high elevation Tibetan villages to the lower regions of Nepal, etc., where the climate is so different describes these dogs as taking a year and a half to acclimate (if they survived the process, and many were never well in the hot/humid environment). It may be that a percentage of our dogs may be subject to this type of fungus susceptibility because they have not evolved in an environment where there systems work well in wet climates, but would thrive in extremely cold/hot dry conditions of high elevation and extremely high daily (blinding) sunlight exposure.

Sandy Kempe

I have tried a couple of things that seem to help.

1 - Ambusol (or any topical anesthetic that will numb the
area and make it not itch)

2 - Alum (there are several sources on the market) to dry up
the area and make it taste very bad.

Sandie King

My LGD seems to have an ear infection. How should I treat it?

Before any treatment is begun, you need to see your own veterinarian for diagnosis to treat your specific problem. What follows is a general statement and does not substitute for proper diagnosis.

My favorite basic cleansers are Chlorhexiderm, and Epiotic. There are other good veterinary products. I've seen some dogs and cats develop allergies/ irritation to cleansers, so if the ear is reddened more than four or five hours after cleaning, you have a dog sensitive to the cleaner and you need to switch.

A home made cleanser that is excellent is tap water mixed with acetic acid (plain old household vinegar that is). The ratio is 1:1, or 50% water to 50% vinegar. White or cider doesn't matter much, I use white. Fancy herbals or fruit vinegars are lower acid and not as good as the white or cider, same with wine -- for the curious among you! The vinegar is astringent (drying), antifungal and antibacterial. The dilution with water keeps it from being too harsh. Any of you heard of taking vinegar baths for healthy skin? Similar here, only a stronger solution.

The best way to clean ears is simply by filling the internal ear canal with the cleanser, rub gently for a few minutes (the big benefit of this is that it allows the cleanser to be in contact with the ear longer by not allowing the dog to shake it out). You should then let the dog shake well, and after several minutes go ahead and swab out what you can reach with a gauze pad, or a terry cloth towel, or the like. I don't like using Q-tips in the ear canal, especially beyond where you can see, unless you are a vet and have a otoscope and the ability to do an ear flush if you need to (cleaning under gentle pressure). Q tips can pack bacteria from the outer canal into the inner canal, and start or continue an infection. It can also pack debris in so well that no air can get into the inner canal, requiring a flush.

I also don't like a lot of cleaning -- but many vets like to do it once a week routinely or more. I see dogs do better if the ears are treated completely and thoroughly for any infection present (often several weeks and several visits until the ear is deemed cured), then keep stuff out of the ears except at bath time, or if the dog swims or does a lot of activity where you would expect the ears to have gotten dirty from the outside. Then clean. Maybe it makes sense at Santana time .... I have no experience with that here in Maryland.

If you notice that the ear gets dirty frequently, it is likely NOT dirt but a low grade infection. If you go to a vet for an ear infection, your vet should swab the ear and look under the microscope... there are many things that live there, and they are treated differently. They also change with treatment, so you need recheck and re swab. If your vet does not do this, he or she is treating with an educated guess ONLY and has no real way of knowing either what the infection is or when it is cured. I've cured a lot of ear cases that other vets have let smolder for YEARS, and it's no trick except you MUST look under the microscope! If your vet resists, I do suggest you find one that is comfotable doing this for treatment of the ears... you can still keep your regular vet for everything else, if you like. Improper treatment causes bacterial strains resistant to most antibiotics, and they can be very expensive and nearly impossible to cure!!!

Hope this helps.

Joanne Howl, DVM


Livestock Guardian Dogs