Because sheep of all ages can be infected with sheep measles cysts, all sheep (and goat) meat should be treated before feeding to dogs. Sheep meat treatment can be done in one of two ways – by freezing or cooking.
Freezing Sheep Meat
During the process of freezing, ice crystals form, rupturing the cell walls of any sheep measles cysts present destroying them and making them no longer infective to dogs. To ensure the best results from freezing sheep or goat carcasses follow these rules:
- Ensure core temperature of meat is down to -10C or colder for at least 10 days. If killing a number of sheep for dog food at one time it may take longer than 10 days to get down to -10C. This depends on the size and efficiency of the freezer.
- You should have a well-defined and understood meat rotation and identification system to ensure that only meat that has been held at the required temperature and for the correct time is fed (-10C for 10 days.). Meat should be placed in boxes or bags and dated. All staff should be aware of how this system functions.
- Sufficient freezer space should exist to allow adequate supplies of treated meat to be available for the number of dogs on farm.
- A dog tucker killing timetable should exist to ensure that adequate supplies of treated food are on hand at all times.
- Freezer temperature should be checked with a thermometer on a regular basis to ensure it is -10C or colder. Where freezer temperature is found to be warmer than -10¼C in addition to immediately fixing the freezer all dogs should be treated with a suitable cestocidal drug to kill any viable T. ovis worms that may have developed.
- Freezers should be defrosted on a regular basis or if a build-up of ice occurs. Ice buildup results in less effective freezer operation and increased power costs. During the process of freezing, ice crystals form, rupturing the cell walls of any sheep measles cysts present destroying them and making them no longer infective to dogs.
Cooking sheep meat
Where cooking is the preferred treatment option follow these rules:
- Cooking should be carried out in a dog proof area to prevent dogs getting access to scraps.
- Any cysts present will be killed by cooking thoroughly by heating to a core temperature of +72C or more.
- Cooking is complete when meat colour changes to brown.
- Tinges of red indicate inadequate treatment and further cooking is necessary.
- Cut meat into pieces prior to cooking to enable heat penetration.
Cutting up sheep meat
The cutting up of all sheep or goat meat should be carried out in a dog proof area, regardless of whether the meat was bought or home killed or if it is used for dog food or human consumption. The dog proofing must prevent dogs gaining access to waste or offcuts.
Offal treatment. (If feeding offal to dogs)
Offal from home kill must be treated before feeding to dogs by;
- boiling for a minimum of 30 minutes or;
- freezing to minus 10 degrees Celsius, or colder, and maintained at that temperature for at least 10 days).
Boiling should be carried out in a dog proof area to prevent dogs getting access.
Alternative Dog Foods
All properties, including those feeding only sheep or goat meat should carry alternative dog foods in case of an emergency, such as freezer failure. These include commercially prepared foods that are generally safe for dogs as they have been cooked during the manufacturing process. Commercially prepared dog sausage, dog biscuits, dry meal and tinned foods.
Beef / Cattle Meat should be cooked thoroughly or frozen at -10°c for 10 days in order to reduce the spread of Neospora.
Dog Feeding Hints
- Dogs should be fed regularly and amounts fed should be adequate for the work the dog is required to carry out. Basic recommendations include:
- All dogs should be fed at least once per day and have access to fresh clean water. Hungry dogs tend to scavenge.
- Dogs doing hard work and in cold weather require extra food.
- Bitches in whelp or lactating, require extra food.
- Make family members and staff aware that they should not feed raw household meat scraps to dogs.
- Prevent dogs from having access to cat food if cats are fed raw sheep meat or offal.
Sheep meat purchased from butcher shops, meat plants or abattoirs cannot be guaranteed free from C.ovis cysts and must always be treated before feeding to dogs.