As you and your bird dog prepare for the hunting season ahead, remember that as an owner and handler, it’s up to you to be aware of the dangers that may arise in the field. The most important thing is to know your dog well and be able to readily recognize signs of something wrong. Follow these tips so that you and your dog will be ready to hit the ground running this fall.
Clean Bill of Health
First things first. A preseason wellness examination will help to establish your dog’s health and physical condition. Dogs that are not in condition are at risk for heat stress and injuries, particularly if they start working too hard, too soon.
Dogs that are preconditioned for hunting are less likely to sustain musculoskeletal injuries. Conditioning is the process of getting dogs’ joints and muscles in good shape so that when they are asked to do something that takes great physical effort, they are less likely to get hurt. A good starting point is to keep excess weight off a dog. Excess weight bears more stress on a dog’s joints, and because athletic dogs perform physically challenging tasks, even a bit of excess weight can increase the risk of injury.
Take it nice and easy at the beginning of the season. Do not expect an unconditioned dog to be capable of hunting all day. Be aware of your dog’s limitations and don’t let the excitement of opening day overrule your common sense.
Pack a First-Aid Kit
Carry a first-aid kit to treat minor injuries. A basic first-aid kit should contain these essentials: a thermometer, hydrogen peroxide, antiseptic, antibiotic ointment, elastic bandages, gauze pads, tape, a cold pack, tweezers, scissors, a stapler, eye wash, eye ointment, and Benadryl. At the end of every season, take inventory of your first-aid kit and restock the items that have run out or expired.
Most injuries can be addressed in the field with follow-up care once you return home, though this is not always the case. Have contact information readily available for a veterinarian where you are hunting or testing and be prepared to take your dog in for more serious injuries.
Traveling, hard work and exposure to other dogs in new environments can cause stress and take a toll on a dog’s immune function. Keep a supply of Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets FortiFlora
canine probiotic supplement handy while traveling. Prescribed by veterinarians, FortiFlora
contains a special strain of probiotic that has been proven to restore normal intestinal health and balance. You can start your dog on FortiFlora
a couple of days before a hunting trip to help boost his or her immunity. Then, should problems arise, you can sprinkle some on top of his or her food at the end of each day while on the road.
Bring Your Own H2O
Hydration is vitally important in the field for helping dogs cool down. Bring several gallons of fresh water with you on trips to help prevent intestinal upset. Giving small amounts of water from a squirt bottle every 10 to 15 minutes while working will help lower a dog’s body temperature during periods of extreme heat. After exercise, wait for your dog’s panting to slow before allowing him or her to drink a large volume.