By: Sondra Wolfer
You take every precaution to prevent injuries when you go wingshooting, waterfowl hunting, or out on a training session with your gun dog. Though he’s steady to shot without fail and is outfitted with a safety vest and locator bell, there’s always a risk of accidents in the field. Your dog can have a run-in with a porcupine and walk away with a snout full of quills, or encounter a poisonous snake. Branches can lash him in the eye, or briars can lacerate his legs or paws. Because of these common dangers, it’s important you carry a well-stocked first aid kit for your hunting dog each time you head out.
Contents of a Sporting Dog First Aid Kit:
- Self-adherent bandages
- Sterile rolled gauze
- Sterile gauze bandages
- Medical adhesive tape
- Stretch tape
- Scissors with a blunt tip
- Hemostat clamp
- Tick key
- Sterile eye wash
- Ear wash
- Antiseptic wipes
- Cold packs
- Sterile gloves
- Snake bite kit (if hunting in a region where poisonous snake bites are a risk.)
You can assemble the kit yourself or use a pre-assembled canine first aid kit and supplement if needed.
Other Hunting Dog Health Essentials
- In addition to the kit, carry a muzzle with you if you spend a lot of time outside hunting with your dog or field training. No matter how calm and gentle your hunting dog is under normal circumstances, he may bite out of pain or fear when you are tending to an injury.
- Pack clean towels, washcloths and blankets for use cleaning wounds, drying your dog, and keeping him warm.
- Have the number of your veterinarian and animal hospital in your cell phone. If you have traveled for your hunting trip, put the number of a nearby veterinarian and animal hospital in your contacts as well. Your cell phone should be charged and carried with you at all times—off or set to mute, of course.
Whether you buy a pre-stocked kit or create your own, the most important thing is bringing it along whenever you hunt or train. Restock the kit if you’ve put it to use and check it every six months to make sure none of the contents have expired.
Take a Dog First Aid Training Class
Gauze, bandages, and antiseptic wipes aren’t going to do much good if you don’t know how to use them properly. Read over the instructions for using the snake bite kit, and the eye and ear wash before you leave home. Take a canine CPR and first aid class so you know how to clean and dress a wound. Know the signs of heat stroke. Tell your veterinarian that you hunt with your dog and discuss what first steps you should take if your dog is seriously injured in the field. It’s important to know how to stop heavy bleeding or tend a broken bone until you are able to get your dog the emergency care he needs.
Always Check Your Dog After a Hunt
Your dog may appear hale and hearty at first glance after a hunt, but he still needs a thorough inspection before you head home. Check for ticks as you would after any excursion in the woods, but also check his entire body for cuts. Don’t forget to examine between his toe pads, on his legs, along his undercarriage, and inside his mouth. Check his eyes for signs of scratches. Watch for limping, avoidance of activity, whimpering, or unusual aggression following a hunt, which could all be signs of a broken bone or sprain.
Small cuts and scratches should be cleaned and dressed to avoid infection. Any injuries more serious than minor scratches require a follow-up with your veterinarian as soon as you are able.
Prevention is Paramount
It’s critical to be prepared for accidents and health problems, but you can minimize the risk by taking the following precautions:
- Make sure your dog is up to date on all of his vaccinations before spending time in the field either hunting or training.
- Talk to your veterinarian about the best tick control treatments for your hunting dog.
- Carry enough water to keep you and your dog well hydrated.
- Take breaks in the shade with your dog to prevent heat stroke.
- If you are walking far from you car, carry first aid essentials for you and your dog in your hunting vest.
- Familiarize yourself with the terrain and wildlife you may encounter before hunting.
Finally, you’ve no doubt got a hunting supplies checklist. Be sure to add your dog first aid kit to this list of critical gear and rest assured you’ll be able to take good care of your hunting partner if the unexpected occurs.