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    Bird Dogs - Health Matters

    Field Restraint and Skin Stapling

    Dr. Hank Clemmons is a graduate of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. He splits his time between his Spartan Animal Hospital in McFarland, Wisconsin, and Kentucky, where he works primarily on show horse sports medicine. He spends his Octobers at his cabin in northern Wisconsin hunting ruffed grouse with his Drahthaars.
    Dr. Hank Clemmons is a graduate of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. He splits his time between his Spartan Animal Hospital in McFarland, Wisconsin, and Kentucky, where he works primarily on show horse sports medicine. He spends his Octobers at his cabin in northern Wisconsin hunting ruffed grouse with his Drahthaars.
    About an hour into the afternoon hunt, Ron calls out, “Hey, I’m seeing a blood trail over here. Are you close enough to Beau to see if he’s bleeding?”

    “No, but he just quartered in front of me, and I’m seeing blood, too.”

    A whistle blast brings Beau running back. He’s pawing at his face like something’s stuck in his mouth, but that’s nothing compared to the large gaping chest wound between his front legs. We put our guns down and take a better look at the wound. It’s about 8 inches long, and the skin appears to have been cleanly cut with something sharp. We can see the muscle underneath, which appears uninjured, and no puncture wound is obvious. We are unable to get a detailed look in his mouth, but something is bothering him and causing him to continuously paw at it.

    We calmly evaluate the situation: Beau’s breathing is normal, the color of his tongue and gums is bright pink and the wound bleeding is dripping, not pulsing, suggesting that no major arteries are cut. Leashing Beau, we calmly walk the 20 minutes back to the truck.

     Beau gets a drink of water — hydration is always important — while Ron retrieves his first-aid case. He has everything he needs to clean, numb and close the wound. Fortunately, there are two of us, one to restrain Beau, which leaves the other with both hands free to take care of the wound. Our attempts to tie on a muzzle elicit pain. Closing Beau’s mouth tightly hurts, so we slide a mouth speculum between his teeth. This holds his mouth slightly open when we tighten the muzzle. I crawl into the back of the SUV, position Beau between us, collapse him into a recumbent lateral restraint position (see “Bird Dogs — Health Matters,” Winter 2019), and Ron goes to work.

    Mouth Speculum


    A mouth speculum or gag is anything that holds the mouth open for examination or access. It can be made out of anything that fits comfortably between the upper and lower teeth and is secured in place by tying the mouth snugly with a rope or strap muzzle.

    It can be made from an old syringe casing, a wooden dowel or even a stick cut in the woods and tied into the mouth.

    Stretching the jaws open too wide is painful and will cause the dog to struggle.

    A wooden dowel, cut to length with small holes drilled into its ends fitting the sharp ends of the canine teeth, makes an excellent mouth gag that fits into any first-aid kit or hunting vest for those annoying porcupine encounters.




    Stapling
    •    Ensure that the wound is thoroughly cleaned and that there is no hair in the way.
    •    Using your thumb and index finger, pinch the edges of the wound together.
    •    Center the skin stapler between the cut edges of the wound.


    •    Squeeze the handle until the staple bends, hooks the skin edges and pulls them together.
    •    The skin edges should appose each other (edge to edge), not overlap. A little puckering is expected.
    •    You can start at the top, bottom or middle of the wound as long as the skin edges line up evenly.
    •    Staples can be removed and replaced as needed to get it right.
    •    You might need to leave a small opening at the bottom of the wound to allow for drainage.
    •    Practice by making a deep cut into an orange and stapling it back together. Also, practice removing the staples until you become familiar with the procedure.

    With the wound cleaned and stapled together, we take a look in Beau’s mouth. There is a small piece of rusty barbed wire stuck between his teeth. Ron takes his small needle nose pliers and easily removes it. Apparently Beau ran into barbed wire, cut his chest and broke a small piece off in his mouth while untangling himself. We wondered if Beau needed a tetanus shot, but Ron’s first-aid book stated tetanus is uncommon in dogs, and they don’t get vaccinated for it.
    Two days later, sporting a new chest protecting hunting vest, Beau is back in the woods with his nose to the ground. 


    Wolfe Publishing Group