By: Sondra Wolfer
Most veterinarians near bodies of water have treated their share of dogs who’ve swallowed fish hooks whole, or who have fish hooks imbedded in their skin. It only takes an instant. Your dog sniffs out and snacks on bait or a fish attached to a hook and the hook ends up stuck in her mouth, esophagus, or stomach. Or she investigates a colorful fly or shiny lure only to have a hook pierce her lip or paw.
Whether you’re an angler with a furry fishing companion, or someone who walks your dog near a popular fishing spot, it’s smart to know how to avoid a fishing accident and what to do if your dog gets hooked.
Fish Hook Injuries in Dogs
Even exceptionally gentle dogs can become aggressive and bite when they are injured and in pain. Always approach an injured dog cautiously and consider putting a muzzle on her if needed.
What to Do If Your Dog Ate a Fish Hook: An ingested fish hook is a medical emergency. If your dog swallows a fish hook, do your best to keep her calm and take her to the veterinarian or an animal hospital immediately. It is never safe to let your dog pass the fish hook; the chances are too great it will cause internal injuries as it moves, or become lodged along the way.
If there is tippet or monofilament hanging from your dog’s mouth do not pull on it as this can cause or worsen internal injuries. If the strand is very long, cut it to a manageable length that won’t get snagged en route to the vet, but avoid cutting it too short.
The veterinarian will X-ray your dog and probably perform an emergency endoscopy or surgery to remove the hook while she is under anesthesia. Once the hook is removed, antibiotics are needed to prevent infections.
What to Do if Your Dog Is Pierced by a Fish Hook: Whether the fish hook is embedded in your dog’s paw, piercing a lip, or stuck anywhere else on her body, a veterinarian should remove the hook and treat the wound. Cut the tippet or monofilament so it won’t become tangled and cause further injuries, then cover the injured area with a towel or jacket so your dog doesn’t gnaw, lick, or tug at the fishing hook and exacerbate her injuries.
Removing a Fish Hook from Your Dog’s Lip: In instances where you have a muzzle on hand and you cannot get to a veterinarian, you can carefully remove a fish hook from your dog’s lip. Make sure she is restrained and muzzled and check to see if the hook’s barb is visible. If it is NOT visible, push the hook further through the lip until you can see the barb. Cut the barb off with cutters and then continue pushing it out the same way it came in. Get to your veterinarian as soon as possible in case further treatment is needed, and keep an eye on the puncture wound for signs of infection.
What to Do if Your Dog Swallows Fishing Line: Swallowing fishing line (tippet, leader, or mono), even with no hook attached, is a medical emergency for your dog. Take her to the veterinarian or an animal hospital immediately.
How to Prevent Dog Fishing Accidents
If your dog is your constant angling companion it’s important to be vigilant about fishing safety. Even if she’s never lunged for a fly or lure before, or knows to stay well back from the equipment, lapses are always possible. Whether you are fly fishing with your dog beside a river, casting into the surf from the beach, or fishing from a boat, follow these precautions:
- Keep all of your gear closed within your fly box or tackle box except when you need it. Never leave flies, lures, hooks, bait, tippet, or monofilament laying around.
- Make sure your dog is in a safe spot when you cast so you don’t accidentally hook her.
- Reserve favorite dog treats for fishing outings so your dog knows she doesn’t have to search for goodies.
- If you are filleting the fish, be sure to remove and dispose of the hook first.
- Do a thorough sweep of the area before leaving to make sure you haven’t left any garbage, small lengths of line, or errant hooks behind.
- Give a wide berth to anglers if you are walking near them with your dog.
- Always watch your dog near water and don’t let her swim unsupervised.
- Carry a dog first aid kit, as well as a towel or blanket in case of an accident.
Nothing beats enjoying outdoor and sporting adventures with your dog by your side. Pay keen attention to your dog’s safety and she’ll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for all your angling excursions.