I recently attended the Washington State Search and Rescue Conference in Ellensburg, Wash., and sat in on several canine classes – everything from double-blind testing that can stand up to cross-examination in court to the meteorology of scent.
Perhaps my favorite seminar was a canine first-aid class tailored to search and rescue folks, who, like hunters, usually find themselves in the backcountry and unable to easily get to a local vet when something happens, and who are also constrained by the amount of stuff they can carry.
The class was taught by Dr. Michael Fuller, a 30-plus-year veterinarian at the Ellensburg Animal Hospital. He covered a lot of material in the hour-and-a-half session, everything from must-have items in a first aid kit to broken bones. Here are just a few highlights:
First Aid Kits
Fuller recommends starting with a commercial first aid kit, and was impressed by the breadth of those available on market [URL: http://www.gundogsupply.com/firstaid.html], and adding a few items to it. You should carry bulky bandages for wrapping injuries, Benedryl, Neosporin “P” (or another triple antibiotic, the “P” being an included pain reliever), mineral oil, elastikon (or other sticky, stretchy wrap), and super glue.
Emergency Electrolyte Solution
For a dog that has started to become dehydrated, giving it an electrolyte solution can help. For a severely dehydrated dog, it’ll be tough to get it back to full fluid levels without an IV but giving it some liquid is better than nothing.
An emergency electrolyte solution recommended by Fuller is:
1 liter of water
½ teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons sugar
Don’t let your dog gulp down all of the solution. Give him 25 percent and then wait and observe his response, giving more as needed.
Surprising to most of the attendants, Fuller said not to use hydrogen peroxide, or even tap water, to clean a fresh wound. Of course, you do what you have to do when you’re miles into the backcountry, but peroxide, in particular, is too harsh on freshly exposed and tender flesh and will kill the top layers, impeding the healing process.
Instead, Fuller recommended using saline solution to clean the area. In an emergency, you can make your own saline by mixing one level tablespoon of salt with one gallon of distilled water (or boiled/filtered). Irrigate the wound with a syringe and 20-gauge needle.
Also: Fuller says 95 percent of wounds don’t need sutures, but if, however, you’re certain that stitches/staples will be required, be sure not to apply any type of triple antibiotic; just clean and cover it.
Pain Meds and Benedryl
Perhaps the best medication you can pack along on a hunt is Benedryl. It’s great for allergic reactions, stings, and even snakebites. Give 1mg/per pound.
While you can give aspirin for pain management (325 mg/per 65 pounds) Fuller recommends speaking with your vet about obtaining a prescription for Tramadol.
Tramadol is a pain med that is cheap, effective, and has nearly no side effects except that the dog gets sleepy. You can give a few, monitor the dog and give a few more if necessary. When a dog is hurt, you’ll not only want to help with pain but with keeping the dog calm – the side effect of drowsiness will serve as a benefit.