Gun dogs are bred to work hard under tough conditions. That’s why a good first-aid kit for your hunting dog is important. Kristina Mott is a central Wisconsin veterinarian who is also a serious hunter and dog breeder. Consequently, she’s aware of just what can happen to dogs while in the field. “Going without any preparation is not a good option,” she said. “It’s good to have a full-service kit in the truck or car, then maybe a smaller option to take into the field.”
How to Build a First Aid Kit for Dogs
You can purchase first-aid kids designed for gun dogs—like this one from Adventure Medical Kits—or build your own. The following items are a good place to start:
- Canine First Aid Manual: Dog First Aid: A Field Guide to Emergency Care for the Outdoor Dog is a perfect companion for your kit. It covers everything from heat exhaustion to gunshots and snake bites. Each section is tabbed for easy reading.
- Bottled water: You should always have access to water when you’re out with your dog. Keep an emergency supply in the truck and a bottle near your first aid kit.
- Non-Stick Bandages, Gauze, and Medical Tape: Get a good bandage that will stick to itself, like VetWrap, and pack sterile gauze and non-stick pads to place next to a wound.
- Cotton Balls: For treating wounds.
- Hydrogen Peroxide: Hydrogen peroxide can be used to induce vomiting. Use as directed.
- Antibiotic Spray/Ointment: An ointment like Vetricyn works well for treating cuts and scrapes.
- Milk of Magnesia: Use only as a vet recommends for treating poisonings.
- Digital Thermometer: Heat exhaustion occurs between 103 and 106 degrees F. Monitor your dog’s temperature on hot days.
- Cold Packs: For treating sprains and bruises. Can also be used to help cool a dog down.
- Safety Scissors: Dogs aren’t the most relaxed patients, and scissors are a safer alternative to using your knife for things like cutting bandages around a wounded dog.
- Tweezers and small pliers: For pulling out thorns, ticks, and porcupine quills.
- Magnifying Glass: For getting a closer look.
- Large Plastic Syringes: For irrigating wounds.
- Flashlight or Head Lamp: Because not every injury happens in broad daylight. Add a flashlight to your first aid kit for dogs.
- Towel: You can use a towel to gently wrap up a dog that’s flailing around and they’re great to have for wet, muddy days in the field.
- Soft Muzzle: A muzzle will keep you from getting bit while treating sensitive injuries and can keep a dog from chewing through a bandage on the way to a vet.
- Paw Booties: Paw injuries are common on the trail, and a specialized paw bandage can help a dog walk home.
- Skin Glue: It’s a lot easier to use something like Vet Bond Tissue Adhesive than a needle and thread to stitch up a dog.
- Dog Aspirin: For treating pain. Make sure you know the correct dose for your dog before giving it to him.
First Aid Kit For Dogs: Unlikely Additions
Along with the list above, you’ll want to add a few extra essentials. That’s where this list comes in to help. Here is some extra must-have gear that Mott recommends adding to your hunting dog’s first-aid kit.
“An antibiotic ophthalmic ointment is safe to use for pretty much any eye problem,” Mott said. “It will treat things like corneal ulcers, mild conjunctivitis, and that sort of thing. It might not always be the right answer, but definitely the safe answer.” Mott warns against using leftover human eye medications since many contain steroids. “The thing you want to avoid for sure is any kind of steroid eye medication on the eye without having a veterinary diagnosis first.”
You’ll need a prescription for the eye ointment, so consult your veterinarian to stock it in your gun dog first-aid kit.
Another good eye-related item to have in your first aid kit for dogs is saline solution, which you can use to wash debris out of your dog’s eyes after hunts. Inexpensive saline solution like contact-lens solution works fine.
“This is good used post-hunt up on the tailgate to flush their eyes out and get any seed heads or grass pieces or anything like that out of their eyes to avoid foreign bodies in their eyes,” Mott said. Saline solution is also handy to have around to clean cuts, scrapes, or punctures. “Those big bottles of saline flush have a nozzle top that you can actually squeeze the bottle and get some pressure,” she said. “So, you can use that to flush out a wound to get any dirt or debris out of it.”
“On hairy dogs, the first thing that we do when a wound or puncture comes in is shave the hair away and clean the wound,” Mott said. “The last thing you need is all the hair and debris acting like a wick and getting stuck in there, causing more infection.”
Since there’s obviously no place to plug in clippers in the field, a battery-powered beard trimmer is the perfect tool to add to your first aid kit for dogs. “Sometimes you just see one big puncture and if you don’t get rid of the hair around it,” Mott added, “you miss the little one next to it and it never gets cleaned.”
Nail Trimmers and Cauterizing Powder
“Toe injuries are one of the more common problems in the field,” Mott said. “Sometimes they’ll split up the side so a big chunk is hanging or break off the whole toenail.” Simply clip off whatever excess toenail might be hanging on and use a clotting powder like Quick Stop or others to stop the bleeding. “In a pinch, if you don’t have Quick Stop powder, corn starch will also work on a toenail if you pack it into the nail bed to help clot it.”
Cheap Reading Glasses
If you can’t see a wound, you can’t treat it correctly. “I always tell people, if you need to put cheaters on to read a menu in a restaurant, throwing an extra set in the first-aid kit is important,” Mott said. “Knowing what you’re looking at and being able to get a good assessment so you can make the best choice for your dog is critical. She admits this might seem like a strange object to include in such a list. “It sounds like a foolish thing, but everybody who has put them in their kit has thanked me.”
Add Honey or Karo Syrup to Your Dog First Aid Kit
Sometimes hunting dogs will have seizures from hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. It’s a good idea to keep some honey or Karo syrup in your first aid kit for dogs in case that occurs. “If a dog is having a seizure and it is from hypoglycemia, the sugar could help by being absorbed across the gums or the mucus membranes,” Mott said. “The nice thing about that is if the seizure was caused from something else, you’re not going to hurt them by giving them that. It may not help if that’s not the reason for the seizure, but it won’t hurt them.”