Funded research projects (2016)

In 2016 the Centre has funded three new projects. The projects are focused on working farm dogs looking at aspects of nutrition and performance, the effect of low carbohydrate diet on glucose and development of a new test to detect T.ovis in faeces. 

The effects of nutrition on the performance of working dogs  - $35,000

A controlled trial in farm dogs suggested that a falling haematocrit during heavy work may be preventable through nutrition (Cave, 2014). However, there is a lack of objective data to make firm dietary recommendations beyond simply avoiding deficiency. In addition, there is a lack of data to define what a healthy, let alone ideal body condition for working farm dogs is. This study aims to address this by assessing the effect of improved nutrition on the body condition score and body weight of working dogs in New Zealand and to validate a body composition assessment technique across a range of condition scores. It aims to assess the benefit of improved nutrition on the haematology profile and to determine the difference in the incidence of injuries. The difference in the key outcome variables, body composition, weight, hematology and injury rates will be compared between groups on the premium and control diets.


Preliminary investigation into the effects of low carbohydrate dietary content on glucose concentrations in working farm dogs - $15,490

In New Zealand farms, there are two types of canine diets that are commonly used to feed working farm  dogs: high carbohydrate diet and low carbohydrate diet (raw food). Yet, very little research has been undertaken to determine which of these two diets are more biologically appropriate to meet the energetic requirements of working farm dogs. Therefore, this study will test the hypothesis that low carbohydrate diet  is associated with increased frequency of periods of low glucose levels under conditions of prolonged strenuous physical activity. This research will analyze the association between glucose and activity levels derived from continuous monitoring of glucose and physical activity in the farms over a period of 48-hours. Outcomes of this study will set the ground to the establishment of guidelines regarding the feeding practices that will improve the overall wellbeing and performances of working farm dogs in New Zealand.


Develop a PCR to detect T.ovis in dog faeces - $6,375

Infection of sheep and lambs with Taenia ovis remains a source of economic loss to New Zealand. The prevalence of T.ovis detected in lambs at meat works remains at low levels (0.66% for 2014) whilst the prevalence remains higher in the North than South Island, presumably due to higher numbers of dogs.1 However, episodic, regional increases still occur, and high prevalence notifications were sent to 1,139 suppliers in the 2013/14 year, compared with 1,097 in the 2012/13 year, and 922 in the 2011/12 season. Unfortunately, in the past 10 years there has been a significant rise in the number of pet dog owners who  feed raw meat and raw offal, despite the stipulation of the Biosecurity Act. It is very likely that this feeding practice is contributing to infection of dogs and shedding of eggs onto pasture, especially when some commercially produced raw food diets are marketed to farmers who may not be aware of the risk of infection from such products. A simple, highly specific, and preferably highly sensitive assay is still needed for the diagnosis of T.ovis.

Contacts Details

Nick Cave 
Senior Lecturer in Small Animal Medicine & Nutrition 
+61 6 350 5329