Traumatic injuries are the most common maladies that occur to hunting dogs. In all likelihood, your outings this year won't involve more than a few minor nicks and scratches.
However, if you run dogs long enough, you're bound to encounter a few major injuries. These range from cuts and broken limbs to gunshot wounds and penetrating injuries to the eyes. It's these times that preparation and level-headedness can determine whether your favorite hunting partner will hunt with you another day.
A good first aid kit is necessary to properly care for wounds and to prevent further pain and injury. This allows the injury to remain stable until a more definitive treatment can be performed by a veterinarian. Let's look at a simple first aid kit that has the items you need to deal with most injuries your dog will suffer in the field.
First, you need a container to hold the kit, preferably one that's water-tight. This allows the contents to be kept in one secure place. I use a tackle box for my kit, but a Tupperware container would also work. Here are the items to put in it:
-- One-half pound of rolled cotton or cast padding. It can be used as a supportive wrap on leg wounds or to temporarily splint a leg;
-- Two rolls of 3" roller gauze, which serves two roles: holding cotton wrap in place and making a muzzle to tie a dog's mouth shut;
-- Q-Tips, preferably with long sticks. They clean wounds and also clean material out of the ear. Do not lodge material further down the ear, though;
-- 3" x 3" gauze sponges. These blot blood from wounds and can be used with Vaseline as a protective covering of various wounds;
-- Vaseline. The smallest container is enough. Use it to keep bandage material from adhering to
-- 1" and 3" tape, one to two rolls of each. It has numerous uses, but is primarily used as a final covering to hold bandage material in place and to keep dirt and debris out of the wound;
-- Vetwrap, a rollable cling wrapping that has various uses. It's a good choice for the final covering of a bandage. I usually carry one to three rolls;
-- Saline eye wash. I keep one to two bottles handy at all times. It can be used to wash foreign material from the eye and also doubles as an excellent choice to flush wounds;
-- Antibiotic eye ointment. Talk with your veterinarian about this, but one without cortisone is the best choice;
-- Bandage scissors, the heavy duty type. These have multiple
-- Nail trimmers, the heavy duty type. These can be used for routine nail trimmings and to remove broken and torn nails in the field;
-- Digital thermometer. A dog's temperature is important in numerous situations, especially if you think heatstroke is an issue or if the dog is in shock and the temperature is extremely low. For a reference, the normal range is roughly 101-102.5 Fahrenheit;
-- Hemostats, to be used to stop major bleeding, although care should be given to ensure where the blood is coming from and to avoid grasping the wrong tissue. They also can pull quills if a porcupine crosses your dog's path.
This is a basic first aid kit and most items can be bought from a veterinarian, pharmacist or at your favorite discount store. The most important reminder for emergency situations is to keep both the dog and yourself calm. Make rational decisions. Stabilize the injury or wound, stop any bleeding, keep the dog as comfortable as possible and seek veterinary care as quickly as possible.
Your first-aid kit will sit in your truck and never get touched in 99 out of 100 times in the field. But the one time you need it will more than pay for the time it takes to put it together. Dogs are athletes and encounter innumerable hazards every time they're in the field. Take yours in the field enough times and inevitably he will get injured. How prepared you are to handle it might determine how quickly your buddy is back in the field with you.
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