column By: Dr. Hank Clemmons | August, 19
Assembling a first-aid kit for a hunting dog is easy if you know what to buy and where to buy it. Knowing how and when to use the equipment is as important as having it on hand.
The kit you carry should reflect your training and skill level. Before facing any emergencies, you should familiarize yourself with the use of the medications and items in it. Also, it’s always a good idea to develop a good working relationship with your vet. Such a connection is vital to gaining access to some of the more advanced items and the training in using them.
But first … let’s learn how to use some of the items we stocked our first-aid kit with based on my most recent column (Summer 2019).
Phone numbers – As previously mentioned, keep handy the numbers of your vet, veterinarians in the areas where you’ll be hunting, as well as the nearest 24-hour emergency hospital; Pet Poison Help Line, 855-764-7661; ASPCA Poison Control, 888-426-4435.
Slip leash – This helps control an injured or frightened dog, doubles as a makeshift muzzle (see “Bird Dogs – Health Matters” Spring 2019).
Eyewash (saline solution) – Red eyes, tearing eyes, squinting or closed eyes should be flushed with copious amounts of sterile saline or eyewash; small foreign bodies can cause big problems if left in the eye.
Eye ointment – Your vet can prescribe a nonsteroidal ointment. If you’re buying over-the-counter (OTC), look for an artificial tears-type ointment. Never put in the eyes any ointment that is not labeled as ophthalmic. And never use ointments containing steroids without first consulting a veterinarian.
Gauze pads/squares – These can be used to apply pressure to stop bleeding and also to clean and cover wounds. They can help remove foreign bodies from eyes.
Bandaging material –
• Vet Wrap-type vet bandages are self-adhering stretch wraps. You can find these online or anywhere large animal supplies are sold, such as Fleet Farm, Tractor Supply or local feed stores. Avoid putting these on too tightly: Doing so can cut off circulation. You should be able to easily slide a finger under any bandaged area.
• ACE bandages are available at any drugstore. Consider getting some in 3- and 6-inch widths. If their little claw-type fasteners aren’t doing the job for you, safety pins will work as a good replacement.
• A compression bandage is basically heavily padded material wrapped tightly around a wound to stop bleeding. Once bleeding has stopped, the bandage should be loosened. They are marketed commercially as the “Israeli” bandage. You can make one of your own by applying the following components in the following order:
• Gauze pad(s) – This is the first layer and protects the wound.
• Clean towel – Washrag and hand towel sizes usually fit in most kits.
• Plastic (Saran) wrap – Adjust the pressure of the towel over the wound with this. Plastic wrap can also be used to help stop air from entering a penetrating chest wound and collapsing the lungs.
• Vet Wrap or ACE bandage – Since tape and plastic wrap do not play well together, add this layer to give the tape a place to stick.
• Tape – Use either white medical or duct tape to secure the bandage. Duct tape can also serve as a waterproof barrier on bandaged feet.
On penetrating chest or abdominal wounds, the plastic wrap should go on first (directly against the dog) to seal out air and then be covered with the padding and tightly secured.
Cotton swabs (Q-tips) – In addition to removing foreign bodies from eyes and ears, these can help in cleaning deep puncture wounds.
Disposable gloves – I suggest having these handy because dirty hands carry lots of bacteria.
Small needle nose pliers – These are great for removing larger splinters and porcupine quills.
Small side-cutting pliers – These can help to treat broken or torn toenails or to remove wires wrapped around a leg.
Wound irrigating, flushing or oral syringe (turkey baster works great) – Use to flush and clean wounds with saline solution or to administer liquid oral meds, fluids when combating dehydration or hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting.
Wound-cleaning soap – Soap and water is the best wound cleaning combination. Chlorhexadine (Nolvasan, Hibiclens) and tamed iodine (Betadine) are excellent skin cleansers. They are available in two forms, solution and scrub (sudsy). Both are good, but suds scrub better and help remove deeply embedded dirt and debris. Dish soap (Ivory, Dawn) also works well.
Blood-stopping agent (powder, gel, styptic pencil) – For light bleeding, not deep wounds, apply sustained pressure for 3 to 4 minutes.
Digital thermometer – For the most accuracy, take the temperature when the dog is relaxed and has had a chance to settle and cool down. The normal resting dog rectal temperature is 101-102.5 degrees depending on external temperature, excitement level, exercise, anxiety, pain, etc.
Hydrogen peroxide – While it can help to clean wounds, H2O2 has poor disinfecting qualities. It’s most often given orally to induce vomiting in cases of recent poison consumption. Dosage is 1 teaspoon (5 ml) per 10 pounds of weight. For example, treat a 50-pound dog with 25 ml orally.
Vomiting should occur within 15 minutes. If it doesn’t, the dosage can be repeated once or possibly twice. Do not induce vomiting if the dog is unconscious, if poisoning symptoms are already present (by then it’s too late) or if the dog has ingested fuels or caustic substances. Consult a professional if at all possible. However, timing can be critical.
To administer liquid meds orally, hold the mouth, raise the nose, squirt or pour the liquid into the side of the mouth at the opening between the premolars and molars at a rate that allows the dog to swallow. If you hold the dog’s mouth open and squirt liquid into the back of its throat, it can’t swallow because it will automatically draw the tongue backward and react as if it were being waterboarded.
To neutralize toxins, activated charcoal can be stored in a plastic bag and mixed with water when needed. The dosage is 2 tablespoons mixed with 20-30 ml of water (a turkey baster’s worth) administered orally. It is safe to use after administering H2O2 to cause vomiting, after signs of poisoning have become apparent and with most caustic substances. Always seek professional advice first if time allows.
Ear ointment – You can get ointment and cleaning solution from your vet. You can make your own cleaning/flushing solution: Mix 1/3 cup warm water, 1/3 cup white vinegar and 1/3 cup hydrogen peroxide. The water and vinegar can be premixed, but to retain the cleansing properties of the H2O2, it should be added just before flushing.
To use, fill the ear canal, massage the base of the ear and wipe it out. This can be repeated until the ear is clean. Flushing is a good way to remove small foreign bodies and waxy debris lodged in the ear canal.
Antihistamines – These are good for allergic reactions. Benadryl is safe in dogs at 1 mg per pound (50-pound dog gets 50 mg) 2 or 3 times per day. If there is no response in eight hours or if the condition worsens, contact a professional. Also, it is helpful – if your vet will dispense a small amount – to have prednisone on hand for severe allergic reactions.
Ice pack – You can use one of these to decrease pain and swelling and help slow bleeding.
Super Glue-type instant adhesive – This can be used to close small skin lacerations. It will not hold if the wound is wet, bleeding or under tension. Do not use around eyes.
Local anesthetic – Ask your vet to dispense a small amount to be squirted into open wounds to help numb them before stapling. OTC products with cetocaine or benzocaine are also effective. Natural products containing arnica (not capsaicin) can also work. Do not use oil-based products in wounds that are to be stapled or sutured. They will interfere with the skin edges’ binding together.
Cortisone cream/ointment – This is good for local allergic reactions such as between toes and pads. Before applying, be sure to wash the foot thoroughly to remove the causal agent. Remember, your dog will likely lick it off, so make sure it’s a nontoxic compound and don’t use much.
Milk of Magnesia – A dose of this helps with vomiting, diarrhea and aids in toxin neutralization. For dogs up to 40 pounds, use 1 tablespoon; over 40 pounds, 2 tablespoons.
These also help override diarrhea and upset stomach. Use ½ tablet for dogs weighing less than 40 pounds; for dogs over 40 pounds, 1 tablet.
Vaseline – Use this on dry, cracking pads and cuts and scrapes around the eyes and face.
Pain reliever/anti-inflammatory – It is best to get these from your vet. Do not use Tylenol (acetaminophen), Advil (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen) or products containing these ingredients. Buffered aspirin is safe in dogs at a dosage of one 325 mg adult-strength aspirin per 50-75 pounds once or twice daily for short periods of time.
While this list is comprehensive, by no means is it meant to be exhaustive. Be sure to seek advice from your vet and other knowledgeable people about handling field emergencies.
Final note: In the next column, we’ll look at the oral speculum, skin stapler and a couple of field restraint technique.
Got a topic you’d like covered? Let Dr. Hank know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.