column By: Glen Blackwood | August, 19
The impetus for this column came from another Upland Almanac columnist along with a phone call from a friend whose English setter Ruger had a porcupine encounter last spring. Dr. Hank Clemmons’s column (Summer 2019) regarding dog first-aid kits caused contemplation; soon followed the tale from my friend of Ruger and his snout full of quills. These two separate yet intertwined discussions led me down a path of dog first-aid books and their importance to hunters in the field.
There is an abundance of canine first-aid books available. Some are medically technical in format, while others are written in a style that is more user-friendly for the “companion/pet owner.” As bird dog handlers, therefore, what do we actually need?
First and foremost are not only the contact information of your local veterinarian but also the contact information of veterinarians where you might travel. I rarely encourage folks to write in books, but in this case, it is a must. Second, the book needs to be compact so that one can carry it afield without it being a nuisance. Accidents rarely happen at the truck. Third, it must be broad based, covering the myriad of traumas your partner could (hopefully never) experience. Venomous snakes and cacti are not serious threats in my Michigan covers, yet I have experienced both elsewhere. Fourth, it must be user-friendly. Again, experience has taught me that when an incident occurs, both the handler and the dog become stressed. Quickly being able to find and understand a suggested treatment afield is a must. Field Guide to Dog First Aid: Emergency Care for the Outdoor Dog by Randy Acker, DVM, meets those criteria.
Acker, a graduate of Colorado State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, currently practices in Idaho.
Published by Wilderness Adventures Press, this paperback, updated in 2018, is now in its third edition and retails for $15. While small in size, 7 by 4.25 inches, this book is large in scope. The first page is reserved as a place to write a veterinarian’s contact information. The book discusses common ailments such as diarrhea, lameness and lacerations, as well as more tragic issues such as poisons, stomach torsion and – heaven forbid – traps and gunshot wounds.
The usefulness of this book continues with each medical issue reviewed. He describes each issue in a concise, comprehendible fashion. Then he addresses symptoms, causes and field treatment in the same style. Adding to the book’s utility are line drawings by Christopher Smith and Roger Cruwys. These illustrations correspond well with the author’s text. Utilizing the book’s index of issues, I was able to find a potential ailment, read the text and understand a field treatment in under a minute. Granted, I did this while at my desk, not under the stress of an actual emergency in the field. My point is this book is written and illustrated in a simple and understandable manner. Along with the content of diagnoses and treatments, the author also discusses prevention, preparation and other useful first-aid techniques such as how to muzzle a dog and the application of bandages. Additionally, he includes a list of suggested first-aid supplies and a dosage chart for over-the-counter medications and their prescribed uses. I must mention there is a call to action to purchase the dog first-aid kit he sells through his veterinarian clinic in this book, along with other sources for such kits.
I am glad to report Ruger is fine. Unfortunately, when the incident occurred, the owner’s copy of this title was inside his truck alongside his first-aid kit. This episode was minor, but not all are. In preparation for the fall, I suggest reading Acker’s book and carrying it in the field. You will be in the company of two MVPs: your dog and a most valuable paperback.