Written by: Jennifer Miller, Greystone Castle
Many of us hunt purely for the joy of watching our best friends work and retrieve for us. By now, hunting season is well underway for most of us. Keeping our dogs healthy is a major undertaking. Unfortunately, seeing an injury occur and treating it is all part of the game.
Barbed wire is a common enemy throughout the country. Most fields and pastures, where doves and quail feed, are planted agriculture and are fenced to keep livestock out. Barbed wire is cheap and easy to install and works great. Unfortunately, when our hard-charging retriever hits a barbed wire fence, the damage can be serious. If your dog has a bleeding wound, apply pressure and use something like a t-shirt or towel to wrap it for transportation to the vet. A dog’s natural instinct is to lick their wounds. This is not good for a deep cut, as it will prevent clotting. Don’t worry about dirt in the wound. The vet will take care of that. Just get the dog to a qualified professional for stitches and medication.
Once the wound is stitched, it is vital that the dog not be able to lick and bite at the stitches. A cone of shame is almost always necessary to prevent this. Make sure the dog can still drink easily even when wearing a cone. Keep the activity level to a minimum to avoid pulling stitches apart. This will most likely mean keeping your dog on a leash and in a small area during healing.
Human medication can be deadly to dogs. Ibuprofen and naproxen are toxic to their systems. Make sure you follow all directions on antibiotics. Just like in humans, it is very important to give the full regime of antibiotics even if the wound looks good and not infected.
Another common injury is simple muscle and joint pain. After a lazy summer, an overweight dog can easily overdo it on a long hunt. If your dog is lame after a hunt, but still weight bearing, keep activity to a minimum and give them a couple of days to recover. If they are non-weight bearing, this could be a sign of a serious injury and needs veterinary care.
Prevention is the best idea in this situation. Increasing activity and decreasing fat are two of the best ways to prevent injury, just like in humans. Adding a walk or jog to your dog’s day is just another way to spend more time with him. It is also a way to get ourselves fit and ready to hunt!
Overheating can be deadly for dogs. Dogs do not sweat, so they cannot manage their heat like humans. Whether you are getting them back in shape or ready to hunt, keeping track of how hot your dog is is vital. Allow plenty of time for the dogs to catch their breaths and drink water in between retrieves. Have a place for them to sit in the shade while they cool off. Monitor their behavior for signs of overheating, such as excessive panting, glazed eyes, and weakness or staggering. If you think your dog is overheating, get him to a vet immediately. Organ failure and brain damage can happen in minutes from heatstroke.
Know the terrain you are hunting. If it contains cactus and sticker bushes, check your dog’s feet and nose regularly. Keeping their pads from injury is very important to keeping them sound. Also check these areas for snake bites. You never know where your dog is sticking his nose while on a retrieve. Look for swelling and watch for excessive licking. You often won’t be able to see the bite wound, so don’t assume that if you can’t see a puncture it isn’t there. Many snake bites are treatable with swift veterinary care.
Most importantly, know your dog’s normal behavior. If something is off, catching it quickly and getting appropriate care can save your dog’s life. Know their normal temperature and vital signs, so you can track their health. Make sure they are up to date on all vaccinations, heartworm preventative and flea and tick medications. Treat them like family and they will always return the favor in the field!
<em>Jennifer Miller works at <a href=”https://www.greystonecastle.com/” target=”_blank”>Greystone Castle Sporting Club</a>, in Mingus, Texas.</em>