Disclaimer: This is not legal medical advice. We are sharing our experiences in the field and not making any recommendation that you do the same. When in doubt, take your dog to a vet.
There is danger inherent in working and in hunting. This is not a reason not to do it, but it does mean being prepared. We always keep a good first aid/medicine kit on hand for dog and human alike. This means in our car if we are hunting on a farm and in our pack if we are hunting away from a road. Besides normal medical supplies, we keep a few specialty items in our kit that we rely on heavily. We handle our dogs regularly from the time they are a puppy. We get them used to our hands in their mouth. around their ears, eyes, genitals, belly and between their toes. We want our dogs to feel comfortable being handled, even a bit roughly, in the case we have to administer first aid when they are in pain. Here are a few things common things we have dealt with in the field. A comprehensive guide to dog care in the field can be found on our friend, The Terrierman’s page.
When hunting on farms we always ask if poison has been used and how recently. Anti-freeze is also a concern, as it tastes sweet and dogs will readily lap it. Ideally we hunt where no poison has been used. We are not concerned if a dog catches and kills a rat that has been poisoned, but we teach our dogs “drop it” and make sure they do. If a dog eats a posioned rat or stumbles upon rat poison (or anti-freeze) and consumes it, it is vital to induce vomiting ASAP. One way to do this is by administering hydrogen peroxide orally with a syringe (1 tsp per 10 pounds) and to keep the dog moving. If they don’t vomit within 15 minutes give a second dose. But do not wait to take your dog to a vet if there is one in driving distance. Rat poison is no joke. If you are not in range of a vet as a follow up you can try giving them activated charcoal (Toxiban) and/or Vitamin K.
If you do not see the dog eat a rat or poison but suspect poisoning here are some signs that a dog may have been poisoned: Lethargy, doesn’t want to exercise, coughing, difficult breathing, pale gums, vomiting, diarhhea, nose bleed, bruising, bloody urine, swollen joints, lack of appetite, bleeding from gums.
Clean well and apply a drop of bee propolis tincture or a decoction (strong tea) or poultice of yarrow, an herb that is readily available in the field. Both of these treatments are anti-bacterial, help stop bleeding and tone tissue to induce faster healing. We use Propolis when we want the wound to seal, Yarrow when we want the wound to breath. Generally we do not stitch these wounds and they will heal in a few days.
Foxtails and other pokey vegetable matter can get lodged in a nostril, ears or genitals. It is handy to carry a cheap medical light (this is the kind with the little funnel) to take a look if you suspect the animal has something lodged in nose or ear. Flushing with a little olive oil is sometimes enough to lubricate and loosen the foreign object. If the issue persists it is vital to take the animal to a vet as sustained obstruction can create infection.
Rats and other vermin and varmints carry both fleas (a vector for worms) and worms, so we regularly worm our dogs with a broad spectrum wormer.
First Aid Kits
There are many commercially available Dog First Aid Kits to be found online, as well as resources for assembling your own and information about poisoning. Don’t be afraid to do your own research and doctor your own dog. It is legal to do so. Many medications can be found at livestock supply and dogs respond well to most herbal preparations. Be sure to research usage and dosage. As well as what is included in a normal dog kit, we keep some of our own homemade preparations in our kit including:
Propolis Tincture. Propolis is a sticky substance used by bees to clean, disinfect and seal the hive. It is mostly made of sap they collect and bring back to the hive. Propolis is highly anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. Because we have a beekeeper in the family we regularly scrape a little from our hives and place in vodka to make a simple homemade tincture which we use on bites, cuts and small punctures. Tincture of propolis is also available commercially.
Milk Thisltle Tincture (low alcohol or glycerin tincture preferred),
This is a liver protectant and can be used if the dogs are exposed to toxins such a close range skunking, or ingesting poisonous mushrooms. It can be used right away and then afterwards to flush and tonify the liver. Daily dose for liver damage or protection 1 drop per pound of dog, used in an acute situation such as possible poisoning or exposure to strong toxins, 2-3 drops per pound every 4 hours from time of exposure until the dog shows improvement. Don’t give to pregnant dogs.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is highly anti-septic. Fresh leaves can be chewed or mashed and put on wounds to help stop bleeding . Fresh leaves can also be brewed into a strong tea (decocction) and used as a wash on wounds. Tincture of yarrow can be diluted and used on wounds. A stiptic powder of yarrow is useful to help stop bleeding.
Thank you to Anna D for her input on herbal first aide.