"Possible Signs That Your Gun Dog Might Need Nutritional
"Apparent 'deafness and disobedience' while out hunting
may actually be signals that your otherwise alert and well-trained
duck retriever or pheasant finder might be running on empty,"
according to Dr. Dennis Sutton, a D.V.M. from Brookings, South
"Dogs can be just like kids sometimes when it comes to nutrition
and eating. If they're playing hard and having fun, they sometimes
don't realize they might be hungry and running low on body-fuel.
That's when they occasionally get a little goofy, maybe don't
pay close attention to what they're doing, possibly lose coordination
and mental sharpness, and often get so clumsy and disoriented
they can hurt themselves."
Remember this the next time six hours into a rock-'em, sock-'em
duck hunt and your Labrador acts as if she has suddenly forgotten
everything you've ever taught he about whistle commands and hand
signals. Or at the end of a long day of pheasant hunting when
your otherwise bird-wise German shorthair accidentally "bumps
up" that last rooster 75 yards from where you're standing.
Is it time for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Or maybe a
boiled egg and some sharp cheddar? A shot of Gatorade or one
of the "sports drinks" made just for hard-working hunting
"The 'crash and burn syndrome' can be a sign that a dog
is losing energy and lacking in stamina and may simply need something
extra to eat," in the opinion of veterinarian Jim McKnight.
"Over the years I've seen a lot of cattle dogs that get
worked really hard here in South Dakota."
"Sometimes I'll get panicky calls from some cowboy who thinks
his Blue Heeler is 'dying,'" McKnight says. "When the
guy brings in the dog, it's real clear the poor pooch just got
pooped and hungry. Feed 'em a little something extra. Some
extra meat, a half can of canned dog food, a small quantity of
Karo syrup. Then carefully watch to see what happens," McKnight
"Too much panting when hot and too much shivering when
cold can mean a lot of different things. But one cause for either
of these conditions might be a need for extra nutrition 'during
a hunt and not just before and after,' according to Dr. Sam Lukens
another South Dakota veterinarian. Lukens sees a wide cross-section
of dogs starting in September when prairie grouse hunters bring
in pointers and retrievers that their owners think are suffering
from heat stroke.
"Many times these supposedly over-heated dogs have a weather
related problem made worse by a lack of complete nutrition while
they are exercising," Lukens says. "Cool down and rest
that dog. Then feed him something just to get his blood sugar
back to normal. Try some Gatorade or a similar 'sports drink'
as a way to re-establish normal levels of electrolytes. The sugar
in the drink should help to maintain more balanced blood sugar
levels. The potassium and sodium in the special drink can help
regulate the heart during intense exercise in hot weather,"
"In the winter, I get hunting dogs in here suffering from
hypothermia. Very seldom do their owners figure out the problem
is that their dog is just too cold to function normally. If they're
lucky, the dog just quits running or swimming If they're unlucky,
the dog may collapse in a snow drift or drown in a icy pond,"
"A good way to avoid hypothermia is to feed the dog while
he's hunting. Give him something loaded with calories that are
quickly and easily digestible," Lukens advises. "One
of my clients makes up a big thermos full of hot chicken soup
for his Chesapeake. Half way through a duck hunt he pours the
hot soup over some dry dog food. It's a fast and effective way
to warm up the dog and help her to make it through the rest of
the day," Lukens adds.
Jerry Thoms hails from Brookings, SD