Photo by Bill Buckley
Frigid winter weather is tough on hunters, but it's tough on their hunting companions too. Here's how to keep your gun dog safe when the mercury plummets.
Shawn Wayment, a vet and bird hunter from Sedalia, Colo., says that any dog body temp below 100 degrees constitutes hypothermia. The symptoms of mild hypothermia (90 to 99 degrees) include panting and raised hair. At the moderate level (82 to 90 degrees), breathing grows shallow and the dog becomes disoriented. If severe (82 degrees or below), the dog will be unresponsive and in danger of death.
Short-coated dogs and smaller dogs are at increased risk, as are very young dogs, older dogs, and dogs with preexisting illnesses. The most dangerous combination of all, according to Wayment, is cold and wet. This is when an insulated vest is invaluable (see "Vested Interests," below). Wayment also suggests giving your dog frequent breaks during hunts and feeding small, high-energy snacks.
If you observe any signs of hypothermia, stop hunting and get your dog into a warm environment—a vehicle with the heater blasting. "The keys are to prevent any further heat loss and to rewarm the dog as rapidly as possible," Wayment says. Take the dog's rectal temperature. If he's mildly hypothermic, you can treat him yourself. If the case is moderate or severe, prompt veterinary intervention is crucial.
Keep your dog warm with these vests:
Avery Outdoors Boater's Dog Parka
The M1 Abrams of dog vests, this 5mm neoprene vest will keep your dog going in bitterly cold water ($45; mackspw.com).
Dokken Supervest Xtreme
For general-purpose waterfowling in a wide range of conditions, this vest is hard to beat ($30; gundogsupply.com).
Rivers West Pointer Vest
In 20-degree conditions, this waterproof-fleece vest is a short-coated pointing dog's best friend ($44; riverswest.com).