Some people believe that their outdoor dog has everything she needs: water, a nice, shady area, a self-feeder, shelter under which to escape rain, and a nice fence to keep her where she belongs. Recently something happened at the vet clinic to illustrate that those people are sometimes wrong.

Long-haired dogs (Shelties, Pulis, Yorkshire Terriers, Collies, etc.) and dogs with bushy-ish hair around their rears and on the backs of their legs (German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, etc.) are prone to matting. (A "mat" is a tangle of hair that grows into a huge, uncomb-able knot which needs to be cut or shaven out.) Most people know this. Matting usually occurs where a dog's body parts rub against one another. (Armpits, beneath the tail, between the hind legs, etc.) Unfortunately, urine and feces are both eliminated in one of these "high matting likelihood" areas. So...

A long-haired dog living outside pees. Repeatedly. The urine has nowhere to go if it gets caught in a mat, and it therefore stays next to the dog's skin. Same deal with fecal matter. Urine left against skin causes what are known as "urine burns," and burnt skin left untreated can become infected. Flies like to eat feces. You can probably see where I'm going with this...

A Sheltie (aka Shetland Sheepdog, which looks like a miniature collie) came into the animal hospital where I'm a part time technician because it had a "funny smell." The dog was well-fed and friendly, but its long coat was a horrible mess. Its entire rear-end was one huge mat that began at the dog's hips and went the rest of the way down her body. She smelled like necrosis (rotting flesh,) and there was a good reason for that.

Upon shaving the dog's gigantic mat away, we found that the pooch was suffering from severe and infected urine burns in and around her vulva, and that flies had landed on her to eat the poop that was (also) stuck in that giant mat, and they had proceeded to lay eggs on her, which proceeded to grow into maggots. Now, the dog had a urinary tract infection along with the urine burns, and there were literally hundreds of maggots eating the infected areas of her skin. No wonder she smelled funny! She was also experiencing a great deal of discomfort, which is reasonable, considering that fly larvae were crawling around and inside her vulva. We had to put the little girl under general anesthesia to clean her up properly without hurting her, and the procedure cost her family in the neighborhood of $400.00.

Dogs that live outside (if you must keep your dog outside, that is...) need to be checked up on and groomed regularly. Really regularly. Because believe me, this whole maggot deal is not easy to stomach.

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