During the season it’s just as common to rinse seeds from underneath third eyes as it is to manage cuts, scrapes, and scratches. But some problems can be solved before they start. Here are some frequently overlooked tips that will help keep your dogs healthy this season.
Avoid Letting Dogs Drink from Mud Puddles
Cooling off in a mud puddle is OK, but drinking from it can cause illness. Bacteria and protozoa found in the standing mud puddles cause Giardia and diarrhea, which reduces the dogs’ performance. And there is no telling what kinds of toxins are in those puddles. Runoff may contain weed killer or fertilizer used in nearby fields.
If you’re hunting in dry terrain, wear a vest with a CamelBak bladder, or carry along several bottles of water and a collapsible bowl. If your back makes the water warm and your dog won’t drink warm water, freeze it before you leave. The frozen bladder will keep hunters cool, too. Otherwise, look for a stream or river. Running water isn’t 100% clean, but it’s much cleaner than mud puddles.
“Cooling off in a mud puddle is OK, but drinking from it can cause illness. ”
Cool Down Dogs Before Loading Them Up
Sure, you want to get on to the next spot, but allow your dog to cool down before loading him up. Some kennels don’t have much ventilation, and a hot dog on a hot day can suffer from heat stroke. Let them drink water, wait until they’ve stopped panting, and then load ’em up. Kennel fans hung on a cage door work great as well.
An English Setter getting necessary hydration after a run.
Dogs with a lot of drive want to run. They want to be in every field and cover, even when they’re tired. But if you're working a rotation to keep dogs fresh, then some dogs inevitably will be left behind. Kenneled dogs get frustrated or bored, and some reduce stress by chewing on their dog boxes. If your crate is plastic, a shard with jagged edges can create an occlusion in the esophagus or the GI tract. If those edges are sharp enough, they can puncture the throat or intestines and cause internal bleeding. A benign but foul-tasting spray applied to areas of access keeps dogs from chewing, which keeps them safe.
Bored dogs chew, and if their collar is too long, they’ll chow on the tab. Small pieces may pass through the GI system, but if a dog engulfs a lengthy section, then blockages can occur. Trim the ends of the collar and you’ll be fine.
Avoid Feeding Large Meals
Everyone works up an appetite running coverts and fields, but when it’s time to put on the feed bag, don’t overfeed your pup. I regularly see hungry dogs gulp food, and if they’re not chewing properly then it’s more difficult for absorption to occur in the GI tract. The sudden volume of food causes them to bloat (not the kind that can happen if a fed dog runs hard, causing the stomach to flip). Blood rushes to internal organs to aid in digestion, which pulls it away from muscles that need oxygen and white blood cells to engulf bacteria that comes from vigorous exercise. To keep post-hunt dogs from gulping, feed them several smaller portions with a space of time in between.
A few moments of focused attention can save vet visits. Follow these tips and keep your dogs where they want to be, which is in the field.
RESOURCES ON SPORTING DOG HEALTH & NUTRITION
Critical Nutrients Sporting Dogs Need for Healthy Hair & Skin
Bird dogs and retrievers work in harsh environments. Whether they’re running through New England Hawthorns, retrieving in January along Maryland’s Eastern Shore, or casting through prickly pear in Arizona, their hair and skin keep them safe.
Carbohydrates: They’re as Important as Protein and Fat
Part of the reason that carbohydrates are neglected is because sporting dogs can function without them. But just because they can doesn’t mean that they should. Carbohydrates should be a part of every sporting dogs’ diet if we want to optimize performance.