A Dog Killer – Go-Slow

A strange illness that kills dogs and may affect humans is being investigated by a Far North vet.

“Go Slow” is an unknown muscle disease that turns top hunting dogs into shaking pups, sometimes killing them. It’s not recognised in other countries and is mostly found in Northland, veterinarian Jenni Petersen says.

Petersen has been investigating go slow for the last year with veterinarian Hayley Hunt who’s doing her PhD in pathology. Symptoms include shaking legs, restlessness, vomiting, breathing difficulties, bloody diarrhea and dogs getting exhausted quickly.

They believe the dogs are contracting the illness from eating wild boar that containing a toxin.

Petersen, who runs Nor Vets in Okaihau, says the disease typically takes between 8 to 10 hours to affect a dog after it eats the infected boar meat.

The disease attacks the part of the cell that converts oxygen into energy and kills muscles, she says.

It is thought go slow is caused by eating infected pig meat.

“It just depends how much of it they eat.

“It’s really quite painful for them.

“It’s like the cell dies away and then it’s gone. This toxin keeps working for 18 months.”

Hunt says the pig meat is still infected even after it’s been frozen and boiled.

Peterson says vitamin B seems to help but there is no cure yet.

“All you can do is put them in a cage and rest them. And get them off the [boar] meat.”

Hunt is looking at whether Go Slow could stem from plants.

“The big goal is to find out what’s causing it so we can treat it.

“There are some plants that are found in that upper part of New Zealand that could be toxic that the pigs are eating and the dogs are being exposed to.”

Peterson has put $12,000 of her own money into research. She says the next step is sending off healthy and infected dog livers to be tested at Auckland University to determine which pathway within the cell is being affected.

High incidences of Go Slow appear in Te Karae, Broadwood, Awarua, Pipiwai, Twin Bridges, Herekino, Paponga, Motatau and Dome Valley.


Shepherd Mike Moody says he’s lost around 15 of his dogs to the disease.

“My dogs started keeling over, going skinny overnight and then just wasting away.”

He says he got it himself six years ago when he lost 12kgs in 10 days and found himself exhausted. A doctor medicated him for leptospirosis and his symptoms disappeared. Since then he’s vaccinated all his dogs against leptospirosis and hasn’t had a problem. Moody never feeds his dogs pig and thinks the disease came from infected rats.

“The pigs have only got it because they’re scavengers. It could be in the sheep and cattle meat too.”

I just had to get the dogs and myself out for a hunt….

I was going to head for a block of native away out the back of the forestry for a look. My reason for heading for this block was that one of my work mates from Fonterra had said to me a couple of days earlier that he was going to be heading out with his mates from the local 4wd club to see if they could get over one of the old 4wd tracks. They were going to take shovels with them to try and fix the track up enough to get through. It has been a couple of years since I had been over the far side of this track as the water had washed ruts in the track up to eight feet deep.

As I approached the bottom of the hill and the start of the native the two dogs that I had Lightning and Fog became keen on a pig scent and tracked away. I followed up the 4wd track on the four wheeler as the dogs went from the bottom of the gully to almost the top, one km away. I stopped the bike on a tricky part of the track and listened out for the dogs as they were working the face opposite me. Lightning grabbed a small pig so I was quick to give him a buzz on the electric collar so he let the pig go fast and it got to survive. Over the next couple of minutes both dogs returned to me so I started moving some rocks around so that I could get the bike across this washed out bit on the track.

Once I got over this bit it was only a short ride to the top of the hill where I left the bike and walked the last bit so that no animals would hear the bike on the other side of the hill. One thing that I forgot to grab was the 357 that I had on the bike. As I was watching the two dogs work their way down the face I turned and looked out beside me and there was a good sized boar about eighty meters away sneaking out from where the dogs were earlier. As I whistled the two dogs back to me the boar took off making the most of any advantage that he was going to have. By the time I got the dogs onto his scent he would have had a ninety second head start. At 1.12 km away the dogs had stopped the boar so I decided that I would see how well the 4wd club had cleared this track down below me. I only got two hundred meters down before I chickened out and left the bike where it was in the middle of the track as I did not think anybody else would be using this track today. As it turned out I would have been better off walking from the top of the hill and straight around the side to where the dogs were instead now I had to go down through the gully up the other side and follow the same game trail that the dogs had taken. By the time that I caught up with the dogs and boar they had moved around into the next gully. This gully looked more suited to thar than pigs and the thought did cross my mind to just whistle the dogs into heel and leave the boar as I was not about to try and carry him out from where he was. In the end I thought that I had might as well go down and get some photos of the dogs bailing him before I called them off. As I closed in on them I came in behind Lightning who was barking and facing down hill with Fog down below hiding in the scrub but barking up hill so I knew that the Boar had to be just below Lightning. I did film from behind Lightning but could not see the boar in the footage so I got right up beside Lightning and looked over top of the scrub and could make out the outline of the boar, when next thing I knew he charged Lightning and was standing practically on my feet. All he had to do was throw his head my way and I could have been ripped. Without hesitation I pulled the hammer back on the 357 and pulled the trigger with the gun right up against the pig’s neck in behind the ear. He dropped like a stone not even kicking as the shot would have broken his neck. I had already made up my mind that I was not going to carry this 140 – 150 pound boar out as I was on my own.

The Puma White Hunter

Returning to that Puma White Hunter, I am mystified how anyone could have designed such a knife.

Big and heavy, lovely steel, but a bloody great thick bit on the end, I think for hitting with a rock to cut bone etc, and practically no point on it at all. I got it in a trade it for a fly fishing reel in a moment of stupidity, and regretted it until finally I took it into the county workshop. The big grinder, the little grinder, and a shit-load of sparks later, it more closely resembled a pig-sticker. Actually, it became a favourite weapon, until another bad day happened along.

Toby and I were having a little walk, up the Waipara River bed, thinking maybe we’d find a pig lurking in some swampy river flats. Sure enough, the plan worked well, and it was not long before Toby’s nose was in action, as he stood tall and drank in the wind from upriver. Sinking down without a glance at me, he jumped up into the jungle of gorse and broom under the willow trees, and disappeared. I stood alert on the edge of the riverbank, half expecting a pig or two to leap out into the open trying to escape the dog. Quiet reigned for a few minutes, just the cicadas rasping away, and the water rolling over the rocks. After about 10 minutes, a squeal upstream about 100 yards, and we are in business. I sprinted up the riverbed, spray flying, and ready for action. Nothing broke cover, and as I drew level I could tell it was not big, maybe 60-70 lbs, and only a few yards in from the bank.

Leaning the 30-30 against a rock, I drew the Puma and began crawling on hands and knees through the thorns and vines, knife firmly clutched in my left hand, eyes wide open and ready for action! Its hot, and the sweat is pouring down before long, as the pig keeps slipping free and gaining a few more yards before the dog can anchor it again. Eventually, I’ve got it in sight at about 5 yards and, waiting until its looking away from me, I lunge for a grip on a back leg. Once I’m locked on, its gets easier, and I can wrestle it, catching an opposite side front leg, and flicking it onto its back.

Doing this with a knife in one hand is not so easy, but between me and the dog, we’ve kinda got the situation in hand. Except for the Puma, which proves to be so blunt, I could ride bare-assed to bloody London on it. Push as I may, I can’t push it thought the skin on the pig’s neck. The dog lets go, to get his breathe back, grinning as he does so. I quickly raise the knife, stabbing hard to drive it home. Toby, on instinct, senses the pig is making a break, and pounces on its throat just as the knife arcs down. He’s so damned quick I can’t pull the hit, and he takes the knife in the head, hard. I’m appalled, and Toby whines in agony, the knife buried in his eye socket, jammed into the bone. Bloody hell, what a shocking thing to happen. I wrench the knife free as he staggers, bleeding and whining, and pull him close to comfort him. I’ve taken his eye out, the poor bastard, and the tears stream down my face. I’m gutted, I think maybe this is one of the worst days hunting I’ve ever had in my life. We are even, true, but I certainly had never wanted retribution for the injury he’d inflicted on me the year before. Out comes a field dressing to cover the oozing eye socket, some Elastoplasts to hold it in place. To hell with the pig, I’ve let it go, and we jog off down the riverbed to the truck, dog at heel, head cocked to one side, and emitting the occasional whimper. Back home, and round to the vet, who is shocked at the injury.

After an operation to tidy up the damage, Toby is soon back home to recuperate. Sad to say, he was no good after that, the knife having penetrated his nasal cavity, impairing his scenting abilities. He tried hard, running with his head to one side, clumsy at first but soon mastering the impediment. Few more pigs were added to his tally. Steadily, his judgment diminished, and before long he’d pull over a sheep by mistake, a sin of enormous magnitude, and quite unpardonable. He became untrustworthy, mean-spirited, and disobedient, and thus brought about his own end, an action that was at the time easy, standing as he was over the fresh-killed carcass of a farmer’s ewe and lamb.

Reg Carr – Pig Hunter…


Reg Carr – pig hunter, raconteur and observer of life both human and porcine. This is Reg’s fifth book, if you have read one before you know what to expect, if you haven’t, prepare to enjoy, as Reg takes you the reader along on some of his many hunting trips.

There’s more to Reg’s pig hunting than pigs, it’s the dogs, the people, places and the events that come together, not always the way they should, that create the backdrop for this book. Says Reg:”I’m remembering back to when it all happened and am trying to recapture the buzz it brings and the excitement we had at the time.”

I get almost as much fun out of retelling the chase as I did when it happened, but feel this book will be my “swan-song,” or “pig snort,” if you like.Likely, it will be my last major effort so I sincerely hope that you will enjoy what’s written. I know that when Sam and Kalvin read what happened they’ll realize I have made a mistake or two – not intentional believe me, but all put together the way my memory serves me and for the fun of it.”