VETS are asking dog owners in the region to keep their animals on leads when walking near sheep as the annual lambing season gets underway.
Ewes are particularly vulnerable at this time of year as they prepare to give birth and vets have seen a rise in the number of dog attacks which can lead to lambs being lost and sheep being killed and injured.
British Veterinary Association (BVA) president and vet Robin Hargreaves said: “Even dogs who are usually calm and good-natured can become very excitable and difficult to control when faced with livestock.
“Tragically this can lead to chasing, attacks and fatalities for sheep and other animals.
“Over the coming months ewes in the field are likely to be heavily pregnant or to have recently given birth.
“Chasing and worrying can have severe consequences at this time, leading to serious injuries, early labour and fatalities.”
He added that later in the season the arrival of lambs brings fresh temptation as their energy and activity can be irresistible to dogs.
Fiona Lovatt, President of the Sheep Veterinary Society, has worked with sheep farmers in County Durham and across the country.
She said: “The results of these attacks are very distressing for the sheep, the farmer and for the vet.
“I’ve treated sheep which have been practically shredded by dogs and you often have no choice but to put them down.”
Ms Lovatt added: “It’s important to know where your dog is at all times as they can cause a lot of damage in a short time.”