Ten Dog First Aid Kit Must-haves
Be prepared for whatever dangers your retriever might face this hunting season
By Tyler Shoberg, Associate Editor
BLOOD GUSHED FROM Remy’s mouth in rivulets. He looked like the lead monster in a B horror flick.
I was all but certain his tongue had been sliced clean off.
The wirehair had just run full bore – mouth agape and tongue lolling – into a barbwire fence while pursuing a downed pheasant. Despite being a tad shook up, Remy made the retrieve.
Not knowing the extent of his injury – or that he’d even been injured – I merely shrugged off the curious amount of blood as byproduct of Remy’s retrieve. But as the flow increased, I knew something was wrong.
He sported two puncture wounds and had an inch-long laceration across the base of his tongue. We were 45 minutes from the nearest emergency vet, and to top it off, it was Sunday, so a doctor likely was unavailable.
Thankfully, the bleeding subsided in relatively short order, and Remy managed to finish the hunt no worse for the wear.
I learned two lessons from that fateful trip: dogs are tough critters, and I was an idiot for not having a dog first aid kit.
First aid kits might not help tongue injuries – which are difficult to treat and notorious for appearing worse than they actually are – but they can save the life of your retriever in the event of an accident. And although there are numerous kits for purchase, putting one together yourself is a snap, and generally cheaper.
Here are some important items to have at the ready in case your hunting dog has its own run-in with barbwire, or worse.
Muzzle: When injured, even the best-trained dogs can bite out of fear or anxiety. Use the muzzle to give yourself time to assess and treat a wound.
Rectal thermometer: A normal dog’s temperature range is 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Working a dog on even warm days can lead to heat stroke, a deadly condition if left untreated.
Multi-tool: A versatile multi-tool can do it all, from pulling porcupine quills to cutting bandages. A handy item to have on your person at all times.
Tweezers: While pliers are nice for big things, removing smaller items, such as ticks, is a tad easier with tweezers.
Hydrogen peroxide: Helps clean wounds and, when swallowed, induces vomiting. A word of caution: Contact a veterinarian before trying the latter. If the swallowed substance is caustic, it can cause further damage.
Styptic powder (or cornmeal or flour): Toenail injuries normally aren’t life threatening, but a limping dog definitely puts a hitch in an all-day hunt. Plus, a torn toenail bleeds like a sieve. Styptic powder helps stop bleeding, and in a pinch, so will cornmeal or flour.
Antibiotic ointment: Before bandaging a cut, and to avoid infection, clean the wound area and apply antibiotic ointment.
Gauze pads and rolls: Use the pads to dress a cut, then securely wrap with the rolls.
Vet Wrap: The duct-tape of the first-aid world, Vet Wrap is a versatile, all-around product that sticks to itself, but not your dog. Use to snug a bandage in place, or secure a splint. Be careful not to wrap too tightly: It should be snug, but not hinder circulation.
Diphenhydramine (a.k.a. Benadryl): Helps treat allergic reactions from insect stings or even snake bites. Check with your veterinarian about proper dosage.
These items are a good starting point for any first aid kit. Tweak the list based on the possible dangers your dog might encounter in your hunting areas.
Hopefully you’ll never have to use it, but when it comes to the health and wellbeing of your retriever, it is more prudent to have a first aid kit and not need it, than need one and not have it.