The first Saturday in February it was over 60 degrees and sunny. We loaded two dogs and two kids in the truck and headed for our hunting land. The plan was to walk through the woods and look for deer sheds that may have dropped while wearing out two kids and two dogs who had been stuck inside due to rain. I remember stopping to point out to my youngest the croaking sound of frogs that was almost deafening.
So far, it was a typical day in the woods for us. However, we failed to remember that when it’s warm enough for amphibians, it’s warm enough for reptiles. That evening, as we were feeding the two dogs, we noticed what looked like a scratch or abrasion under our golden retriever’s right eye. Knowing that he reaches top speed while the rest of us are romping through the woods, we thought it was a minor injury that would look better in the morning.
Two days later our dog looked like he tried to slide into home plate face first. The wound under his eye was the size of a golf ball and his hair had become quite matted in it. Five days after the initial injury, we took him to the professionals. By this point, his eye had become swollen and he looked like he had jowls on his right side due to drainage of the wound. The veterinarian diagnosed the injury as a snake bite and put him under anesthesia to clean and drain the wound. Sage was a great patient and came home with broad spectrum antibiotics and what the kids refer to as the “cone of shame”.
Hunting dogs are trained and encouraged to use their noses to sniff out a variety of game. This can lead to injury from time to time. Last year, our Labrador found something sharp to cut his leg on even in our backyard. To this day we still don’t know what it was, but the gash was clean and superficial. Being two medical professionals, we did what any crazy dog people would do and busted out the peanut butter for Hank to lick while we sutured the wound at home. I do not advise this unless your dog will do anything for peanut butter (we are pretty sure it short circuits Hank’s brain) and you have experience with stitching wounds. Hank’s wound healed beautifully and he continues to love peanut butter.
Injuries can occur at anytime and it’s best to be prepared. It’s common for us here at Two Dog Outdoors to carry a first aid kit for humans, but after Sage’s most recent encounter with the snake, I have been looking into first aid kits for canines. These kits can be ordered online from retailers such as REI or Orvis, or made at home.
The ASPCA recommends common items such as gauze, bandages, scissors, towels, and tape to name a few. They also have a list of recommended items that are not common sense such as peroxide, saline eye drops, liquid dishwashing soap, and styptic powder to include in the kit. Most of these items can be found at the local pharmacy.
Whether it’s camping in the woods or looking for sheds at a local property, injuries to dogs can happen at anytime. It’s best to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best when out with our four-legged friends. If an emergency does occur, stay calm and apply basic first aid, then contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Take it from Sage, the nicknames from the cone of shame are not worth the brief pleasure of surprising a snake.