We were contacted by one of our local sheep farmers regarding a number of sheep that had lost their ears. He believed he had lost up to 50 sheep and had counted 35 bodies.
We drove to his shed to find three earless sheep, all sheep were flyblown around the ear region. Photosensitisation and mummification of ears was a possibility but it was considered that no plants capable of causing photosensitisation were present.
The skin on the muzzle was normal and not red and scaly as you would expect with the photosensitisation syndrome. The affected sheep had small cuts to the face which the farmer had put down to scratching. We then suggested to the farmer that it looks like a dog attack. The farmer scoffed at us and stated he had been dealing with wild dogs for 60 years and they open the sheep and eat the kidneys and this was not a dog attack. We suggested it is probably a pig dog that is trained to hold the pigs by the ear. The farmer would not have a bar of our diagnosis.
We then went and inspected a dead carcass. The ewe was in good condition and its face had been torn away from its body and large area of the rump wool had been torn off. We could identify tooth marks but they were small. There was bruising where the carnassials had entered the skin. We assumed it was an adult pig dog and a pup.
The farmer was more amenable to the diagnosis and we left the property. An hour later the farmer rang us back to tell us he was checking the back of the affected paddock and found a pig dog and a Jack Russell terrier chasing his sheep. The dogs were coming from a house that was being rented on his neighbour’s property.
This case highlights the problems farmers face by irresponsible dog ownership.