Whether it’s flushing quail in the field or simply scouting new land, our dogs love to be with us and are certainly happy to be on the move. But with this comes the various hazards that dogs face. Be sure to understand the more common injuries and how to take care of them.
Puncture Wounds and Lacerations
This is more common than you might think. Sticks are usually one of the main causes as dogs sprint through small brush chasing rabbits or seeking quail, for instance. In the case of water dogs, they may lunge into the water for a downed bird, injuring themselves on underwater debris. These underwater obstructions aren’t typically seen and can cause serious injury to the chest, neck or abdomen of a dog. Chances are, your dog will react and struggle free, potentially worsening the wound. Treatment will most definitely not be an easy process, and you must be sure to secure the dog’s head, as the dog may attempt to bite you out of fear.
Be sure to protect yourself and your dog. At the first sign of injury, you need to see whether or not the stick or object is still protruding from the wound. If the object is still embedded, do not attempt to remove it – this can cause even more damage. Next, take clean, sterile cloth and cover the point of entry; if possible, attempt to secure the protruding object using tape or an ace bandage to keep it stable. If the chest is wounded and making a “sucking” noise, bandage tightly enough with elastic bandaging to seal the wound.
Non-stretchy tape could be dangerous to use in a case such as this, since it won’t allow the dog to breathe properly. Quickly transport the dog, preferably without the dog having to walk, and seek medical attention immediately.
This rule is especially true for objects in the eye – don’t try to remove material that is embedded. A common occurrence, however, is plants shedding seeds that get caught under dogs’ eyelids. These can often be washed out using a squeeze bottle of water or eye wash, which should be carried in your field kit. Scratches, cuts, and lacerations should be flushed to remove any debris, direct pressure applied to stop bleeding, and a clean bandage placed on the wound.
In Virginia, we have some of the most pristine mountains and greatest hiking trails. However, large numbers of rattlesnakes inhabit these same mountains, and dogs are at risk of being bitten. A rattlesnake’s venom is a hemotoxin, which means the venom will destroy the integrity of the blood cells and vessels, causing serious trauma. This will lead to major swelling and will affect your dog’s ability to clot.
If you are positive that your dog has been bitten by a poisonous snake, the first thing you should do is immediately remove yourself and your dog from the threat. Do not attempt to kill or capture the snake, as there is a good chance you both might be dealing with snake bites. What will not be known is whether or not your dog received a dry bite, in which no venom was injected, or how much venom your dog received.
You need to quickly get your dog to the nearest veterinarian for medical attention. If at all possible, keep your dog from having to walk back to a vehicle, as this will increase the induction of venom. However, on a remote mountain trail, or if your dog weighs eighty or more pounds, this may not be possible. Avoid common misconceptions, including icing the bite mark or sucking the poison – you’re wasting precious time. Never attempt to use a tourniquet without a vet’s advice.