Bird Dog & Retriever News

April / May 2003 issue Page 27

 "Possible Signs That Your Gun Dog Might Need Nutritional Supplements."
"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 Dakota.
"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 dogs?
"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 advises.
"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," Lukens believes.
"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," Lukens says.
"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

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