There are some dangers lurking in the woods and fields for our hunting companions, and some basic precautions can go a long way to ease the symptoms from any problems your pet experiences. Prior to heading out, have your vet help you put together a basic first-aid kid including bandage material, pain medication, eye and ear wash, and antiseptic solution to clean out wounds.
First, avoid toxins. Things such as blue-green algae, mushrooms, and lead can pose dangers to dogs from ingestion. Symptoms vary depending on the toxin ingested, but can include vomiting, diarrhea, collapse, and seizures. Contact your veterinarian if you suspect your dog ingested any of these substances.
If your dog is not in peak condition for the rigors of hunting, you’ll need to implement some safety measures to ensure a successful, injury-free hunt. It’s important to allow your dog to warm up prior to exerting itself. Allow 15-20 minutes of walking/trotting before the hunt to loosen up muscles and get the blood flowing—this is especially important for older dogs.
The most common injuries in hunting dogs are shoulder strains and cruciate ligament ruptures. It’s a good idea to stretch their shoulders prior to hunting. Put their shoulders through a range of motion stretch (see photos) 5-10 times on each side. As for the cruciate injury, having strong muscles around the knee joint provides stability, therefore decreasing the risk of injury—and this can only be accomplished through proper conditioning.
A gentle massage at the end of the day goes a long way to soothe tired muscles. Massage improves blood flow, releases endorphins, and also serves as a reward for a job well done. This is a good time to repeat the range of motion exercise for the shoulders as well.
Hopefully you and your dog make it through the season without injury. If not, consult your veterinarian regarding ways to help them get back to top form.
Jane Mittelsteadt is a veterinarian at 360 Pet Medical in Bozeman.