Keep a first aid kit handy for your hunting dog

Performing first aid on a cut foot pad while in the field.

One of the things we love most about any type of hunting dog is the drive and determination they possess. So much so that they sometimes tend to “play through the pain.”

Injuries happen and they occur in areas where help might be far away. The good news is most are minor, but as the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

While we can’t protect our four-legged partners from every hazard, we can learn to recognize and treat injuries while in the fields, marshes or woods. Injuries can run the gamut of minor cuts, abrasions or muscle and joint tweaks in bird, rabbit, and squirrel dogs to bites for coon dogs to life threatening lacerations for catch or bay dogs taking on feral pigs. To be prepared for any contingency, a well-stocked first aid kit is not only a good idea, but possibly a life saver in dire situations. Your dog deserves that preparation.

Customize your kit

What to stock will depend upon your dog and type of hunting. Dr. Justin Williams, DVM at Clinton Animal Hospital in Clinton, La., owns hunting dogs and shared his advice for what to keep in a kit. Start with gauze pads/rolls, sur-gical tape, vet wrap, and triple antibiotic ointment for cuts and scrapes. Stock tweezers and cotton swabs for object removal like splinters or thorns,  along with saline solution as an eye and wound flushing solution. Hog hunters may want to keep suture kits and staple guns for traumatic cuts and bleeding their dogs may sustain. You can customize your own or buy a kit from a pet retailer or online store.

A well-stocked first aid kit is good insurance and can prove invaluable in the field should your dog need it.

Unless serious, you may not notice anything wrong with your dog, which goes back to the whole “playing through the pain” thing. Give them a good look over after hunting, paying close attention to the pads, nails, chest, stomach, tail and eyes. For example, my Lab cut a foot pad the first weekend of duck season and I didn’t notice it until we got back to the truck. Having the kit enabled me to get it dressed without issue. She was back in the game the next weekend after the pad healed.

Soft tissue injuries such as strains or pulls might not be noticed until after the dog has laid up for a while, so watch for it after the dog has had a chance to rest.

Poisoning possibilities

Two critical items included in my kit are 3% hydrogen peroxide and antihistamine tablets. These are in case of serious situations such as snakebite or poisoning. It’s not uncommon to come across venomous snakes early in the season or during a warm spell later. Antihistamine tablets (1 mg/lb of body weight) combat swelling from venom. Most bites are to the face or nose. Severe swelling will hamper breathing.

A lot of hunting takes place around farms where it’s common to be near grain silos, barns, etc. To control rodents, farmers often have poison stations set out. Poisons may also be set out in areas to control predators like coyotes that hunters might not be aware of. Poisoning occurs either directly or indirectly. Direct is the dog ingesting the poison itself; indirect is the dog ingesting something such as a mouse or rat that has ingested the poison.

Indirect poisoning is more common. Let’s face it, dogs are prone to eat almost anything they think is food and things can go bad in a hurry. A dose of 3% hydrogen peroxide induces vomiting. If you suspect your dog ingested poison or shows symptoms such as diarrhea, bloody stool, seizures/tremors, lethargy or mouth/nose bleeding among others, then you will want the dog to vomit to rid the body of the toxin. Do this by administering 1 teaspoon per 5 pounds of body weight with a maximum of 2 tablespoons of 3% (and it must be 3%) hydrogen peroxide directly into the stomach. A livestock or meat injection syringe marked with the correct amount for the dog’s weight saves time and guesswork.

A vet on call

Should something serious occur such as poisoning, snake bite, or severe trauma/bleeding, get to a vet quickly using the kit to buy time. Kits take up little space and are invaluable when kept close by in a boat, UTV or hunting bag, even for the bumps and bruises you can treat. That being said, I keep a phone number and address for a clinic programmed into my phone for the area I hunt. Dr. Williams advised every hunter to do the same.

We relish being out there with our dogs. They enjoy it even more, so have fun and keep ‘em safe!

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