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What do I need to do to prepare my dog for hunting?

As you prepare for this years hunting season here are a few things that you need to consider before you take your dog out.

  1. The dog’s weight and condition: hopefully by now you have been working with your dog in a graduated conditioning program so that it is at a good weight and can handle the long days in the field. You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs (like knuckles under a T-shirt) without being able to visually count them and your dog should have a discernable waistline. Overweight and unconditioned dogs are prone to develop serious injuries such as torn ligaments, tendons etc. If your dog is not in condition then limit its time in the field accordingly
  2. Vaccination status: While in the field your dog can get exposed to raccoons and skunks, common carriers of Rabies. They can also be exposed to both Distemper virus and Parvo virus from coyotes, fox and wolves. In addition to these core vaccines your hunting dog should also be vaccinated against Lyme disease (spread by deer ticks) and leptospirosis a bacteria found in urine contaminated water such as streams and ponds.
  3. Heartworm preventative: As long as there are biting mosquitoes outside your dog is at risk of getting heartworm disease and should be on preventative. This is especially so in rural areas where there is a higher concentration of coyotes and wolves as well as more domestic dogs not on a heartworm preventative.
  4. Tick preventative: While vaccination can help prevent Lyme disease, ticks can also spread another disease called anaplasmosis. Like Lyme disease, anaplasmosis causes fever, achy joints and sometimes other systemic disease. Most of the ticks that transmit the disease are in the nymph stage (the size of a pin head) and are unlikely to be seen on your dog’s hairy coat. Use a good tick preventative.
  5. Hunting vest available: I recommend an orange cordura or Kevlar vest for your dog not only to protect it from lacerations but to make your dog visible to all hunters. I have seen many dogs that were x-rayed for another reason only to find radiographic evidence that they had been shot, unintentionally, at a previous time. Often the owners were not even aware of it.
  6. Id tags: Sometimes in the excitement of hunting, dogs will become lost. Make sure your dog has a current ID tag with phone numbers. You may also want to consider putting in a microchip ID just in case your dog loses its collar. Nearly all shelters, humane societies and veterinary clinics have microchip readers. Have your veterinarian test the chip regularly as some chips have been known to migrate or fail. I have seen at least two chips fail at my practice.