Gun Dog First Aid – Cuts

Cuts, or lacerations are common in hunting dogs. They’re often running in heavy cover and barreling through barb wire fences, so it’s important for you to know how to treat these injuries in the field. The first step is to flush the wound with clean water, to rid it of any debris and to give you a chance to evaluate the damage. We carry squeeze style water bottles in the field (the added pressure of the squeeze can help irrigate wounds) and saline solution in the truck.

Henry on a retrieve

After cleaning the wound, we apply antibiotic ointment or a similar gel (we also like Vetericyn spray gel). The antibiotic ointments/gels not only help to reduce the chance of infection, but act as a barrier to contaminants and help to keep your bandages from sticking to the wound. Then we apply bandages – usually gauze wraps. Remember that if a cut is bleeding profusely, you will need to apply pressure with your hand or by applying a pressure bandage.

Not all wounds can be easily bandaged, like cuts on the face or chest. Flush these wounds, apply ointment or gel and hold a bandage on the wound with pressure to stop the bleeding. Keep pressure on the wound for 5-10 minutes. Slowly remove the bandage to check that bleeding has stopped.

If blood is spurting from a wound, this indicates arterial bleeding. This is a serious situation, apply direct pressure to the wound and get your dog to a vet as soon as possible.

Puncture wounds have a higher risk of infection, so if possible, it’s better to let these bleed a little. However, if your dog is losing a lot of blood from a puncture wound, stopping the bleeding would trump the infection risk.

Field care is important, but if your hunting dog has a severe cut (or several) that needs vet treatment, don’t waste a lot of time on field care. A quick rinse, ointment or gel and a quick bandage are all good steps to take in the field, but not if those measures cause a significant delay in getting your dog to the vet.

If we know we are going on a remote trip, we’ll ask our vet for a broad spectrum antibiotic. This can be very useful if you are days away from a vet when you are hunting. It’s also a good idea to talk to your vet prior to your trip. They can give you more field care advice and address any concerns specific to your dog.

Depending on the severity of the cut or puncture, your dog may need to go to the vet for stitches or additional treatment. If you don’t take your dog to the vet, closely monitor the wound to ensure that it is healing properly. Watch for signs on infection. Remember that the placement of a cut, can cause it to heal slower (a cut in the “armpit” will likely heal slower than a similar cut on the chest). If you have concerns about how your dog is healing, talk to your vet.



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