Before you go hunting I would suggest a few first aid items to take along so that you will be prepared for the most common medical emergencies your dog is likely to encounter out there. Here is my list:
- Digital thermometer and a travel size Vaseline or KY lube.
- Unopened (sealed) 12 ounce saline solution for eyes.
- Small bottle of betadine solution.
- Roll of duct tape
- Tube of Neosporin ointment
- Sterile 4×4 gauze.
- Water (at least 2 quarts)
Now let me explain the importance of each item.
One of the most common problems occurring during hunting is hyperthermia. This is obviously more of a problem on warm days and when your dog is not in the water. Normal body temperature of dogs is 99 to 102.5 degrees F. During exercise this can often rise to 103 to 104 degrees. When it exceeds 104 degrees dogs are hyperthermic. You will likely see them panting deeply with their tongues hanging out. Panting is the only way dogs can cool themselves and it is not very efficient. One would hope that the dog would realize they are overheated and slow down but they have been bred to hunt, love to hunt and will often not stop until they collapse. When temperatures reach 106 most dogs are in distress and if they reach 108 to 109 they will likely develop significant organ damage and possible death. So what should you do? Use your digital thermometer and lube to take a rectal temperature whenever the dog seems to be panting heavily or every ½ hour when temperatures are high.
If the temperature is above 104 degrees stop the dog and get it into water if available or pour water (that you have carried) over its entire body then get it into the shade. To avoid hypothermia, recheck the dog’s temperature every 15 minutes and stop water treatment when it falls to 103 degrees.
If the temperature is over 106 then pour water over it and get your dog to a veterinarian ASAP.
If outside temperatures are over 80 degrees or humidity is over 70% consider leaving the dog behind.
Another common problem that dogs encounter in the field is getting foreign bodies such as dirt, pollen or seeds in their eyes. If your dog’s eye is watering and /or it is holding the eye closed then open the lids and look for signs of injury such as bleeding or a puncture wound. Assuming the eye looks normal except for redness then open your saline solution, hold it upside down and squeeze as strong a stream as you can make directly into the affected eye to wash the foreign body out. If after flushing, the dog continues to hold the eye closed then you could have either a scratched cornea or a grass awn stuck to the inside of the eyelid. Both conditions require immediate attention by a veterinarian to prevent further eye damage.
The most common medical condition we see in hunting dogs is lacerations. These usually involve barbed wire or hidden farm machinery. Many can be prevented by having your dog wear a hunting vest. If your dog is cut, immediately apply pressure with your sterile gauze until the bleeding stops. If it has not stopped within 5 minutes seek veterinary care otherwise your next step is to clean the wound. Remove the cap from your bottle of saline solution, and then add betadine solution to the saline until it is the color of weak tea. Replace the cap and again hold the bottle upside down to squeeze a stream into the wound to both clean and disinfect the tissue. Dry the wound, apply Neosporin and close the skin using butterfly strips made from the duct tape. Contrary to popular thought, dog’s mouths are not clean so to protect the wound from licking place the dog in a lightweight long sleeve sweatshirt and duct tape around the sleeves and waist to keep it in place. Unless the laceration is very small please don’t continue to hunt the dog. Instead, take it to your veterinarian for further care.