By Joe Spoo DVM
You've taken the first couple outings kind of easy, letting
you and the pup get into the swing of things. The first aid kit
is at the ready in the truck and you've even managed to scratch
down a bird once in a while. This will be the last in my series
of three articles dealing with problems and situations found
each day in the field. These articles can apply to each training
Nearly every Monday or Tuesday of hunting season we see dogs
that had been out the previous weekend. Most have fairly straightforward
cuts, scrapes and bruises that with adequate field and home care
would be just fine. However, many of the problems aren't identified
until the return home, usually the morning after the hunt when
the non-hunters of the house have had a chance to look their
little baby over and find these terrible wounds you have caused.
Injuries that may have been "simple" on Saturday afternoon
now have had time to become dirty and infected by Monday morning.
And now, instead of missing one or two days recuperating, some
of these dogs end up sidelined for two weeks, and some even longer.
Two weeks can be tolerated if it's the first two weeks of July,
but if those two weeks correspond to the end of the season when
the ducks decide to finally push through, they could be the longest
two weeks of the year.
It's so easy to just kennel your dog at the end of the day and
hit the road for home. Spending just a few minutes at the end
of each hunt can prevent a very small problem from turning into
a season ending injury. Before you put that pup in the kennel,
take the time to do a thorough post-hunt exam.
To begin, look at the dog as a whole. Is he limping, or are there
any obvious signs of cuts, scrapes or bleeding? How's his attitude?
Granted he's probably a little slower at the end of the day than
at the beginning, but people who know their dog can pick up on
little changes in personality.
If the big picture checks out, break it down into smaller segments
and literally check the dog over from head to toe. I start at
the head. Look in the nose. Pay attention for any abnormal discharge
and/or foreign material. Next check out the mouth, especially
the lips and tongue, for any cuts if hunting tall dense cover
like standing corn. The mouth contains a lot of blood vessels,
and a 'simple' cut of the tongue can result in fairly extensive
Give the eyes a particularly thorough look. Examine for any debris
under the eyelids, or behind the third eyelid. You will often
find plant parts or seeds in the eyes after a day in the uplands.
You can simply rinse most of these out with saline without causing
further problems. Give the ears a quick look as well, especially
for plant material as it too can lead to a nasty ear infection.
Now look and feel over the neck, chest and abdomen. Pay particular
attention for any areas of swelling or pain. These areas are
particularly prone to lacerations that may go undetected at initial
inspection. We see a lot of cuts right near the junction of the
leg with the chest, often from running into a hidden fence. This
part of the exam is particularly important for breeds with longer
coats like goldens and setters.
Next up are the feet and legs. More often than not this will
be where a majority of the problems will be found. Here I usually
start at the bottom and work up. Inspect the leg for any cuts
or areas of pain. Give the feet a thorough inspection. Look each
nail over individually, a broken or cracked nail should be dealt
with accordingly, as they can be an avenue of infection into
the rest of the limb, not to mention they're just plain painful.
Look the pads over, as well as between the toe, again mainly
looking for cuts, scrapes or areas of abnormal wear. If you're
hunting an area with sand burrs, thorns and even sticks, make
sure any that have become wedged in the feet are removed before
the ride home.