First Aid by Bob Ford

July 16, 2021 5 min read

Accidents happen. My dad was bald at a young age, and he would often cut his head when working in a tight crawl way or a place with a low ceiling. Profanities oozed from him like sweat from a marathoner, and the next thing you know, he would pull a hanky from his back pocket to get the wound to clot. This was back when all men carried a hanky in the back pocket for blood, or sweat, or even blowing their nose!  Sometimes all three in the same day, as odd as that is to think about. Anything to keep working.

First aid in the field with our dogs can be a very important matter. For instance, I was at a field trial recently when a person came to me with a dog that had cut an ear on a briar in a rabbit chase. I gave him what I had to help get the bleeding to stop. It is always good to carry some things in the vehicle with you, just in case you need them. I keep my stuff in a pack small enough that it could go into my hunting vest if I was going to be far enough from my truck that I wanted access to the supplies quickly. What do I carry?

Forceps are a must have for me. My dogs do not seek out porcupines, but it happens that they still meet once in a while. Hey, I have pliers and vice grips and other tools in the tool box, but I keep the forceps in my medical bag for my canine companions that might be following a rabbit and encounter a quill pig.  You can use them on ticks too, if you do not have a tool readily designed for that purpose.

Some cuts are small but persistent bleeders. I was hunting an abandoned farm and the edge of my dog’s ear was sliced by partially buried barbed wire. The cut was right on the very edge, where all those small blood vessels run, with one long vessel that runs the perimeter of the ear. Naturally, hounds have more surface area on the ears than other breeds, and this can cause cuts that do not clot easily. I have several items that I carry. One is EMT Gel. It looks like glue when it comes out of the tube, and puts a thick layer on the would. It works great on the muzzle, tail, or body. It is also very effective in the center of the ear.  On the ear edge? Well…

I like EMT spray.  It is a liquid mist that you pump out with your finger, just like a bottle of lens cleaner designed for eyeglasses, but it is a medical grade glue, just like the EMT gel. I might put a dozen thin coats on that ear, the key thing is to hold the dog, because the sensation of blood running down the ear itches—or at least feels odd, like when we feel water or perspiration running down our arm.  Holding the dog is essential because feeling the blood running will cause dogs to shake their head, and that reverses all the work that the EMT spray has done!  Oh, get the self adhesive bandages too—the ones that stick to themselves, you know what I mean? When I get the ear to clot, I roll it up on itself. I roll it to the inside—not very tight. Then I use the self adhesive bandage and wrap it around the dog’s entire head so that the ears are unable to shake.  Depending on the cut, it isn’t always necessary to roll the ear before applying the outer bandage.  I often use an equine leg wrap as the bandage, which also sticks to itself without leaving adhesive on the dog’s coat.  For a more sever cut—on the ear or foot pad typically, I carry hemostatic granules—packets of powder that will encourage clotting where the EMT gel is not enough.

In the summer, it isn’t uncommon for a dog to get stung. This can cause swelling and redness around the muzzle and eyes. Sometimes a dog will sustain a sprain in the field and pull up with a bruise on a leg.  Who carries ice? Well, you can get ice packs that will get cold instantly when they are squeezed. Holding them against an insect sting or bruise can reduce swelling. Oh, while we are in the summer, DO NOT  be tempted to use these packs for a dog that has overheated while exercising.  Feeding ice cubes to dogs can have the counterintuitive effect of raising the body temperature of a dog, and applying ice cold water to a dog that is overstressed from heat can induce shock in the dog.  Cool water and shade are the treatment for stress during the summer, not ice cold water or ice.

A good eye wash is also handy when pollen and debris are thick and allergies can agitate a dog’s vision.  Washing out the debris can soothe the itch.  Some dogs are more allergic to the pollen and vegetation, just like with people.  Carrying some sterile cotton balls helps for squeezing out the wash, rather than than dumping it on the eyes and wasting a lot of it.

Rabbits go in holes and beagles dig after them. I carry Kwik stop, which is designed to stop the bleeding on the nails of a dog, if you trim the nails too deep. My active hunting dogs will keep their nails groomed from all the running, but there is the occasional cut from digging at a groundhog hole and ripping against a rock. Kwik stop powder does wonders for this injury. I have also used it on the tip of a tail where wagging has removed hair. I carry one of those soft pad substitutes for the standard Elizabethan cone too. Those big cones have trouble fitting through my truck’s dog box, but the soft cones, or padded collars, are good for keeping a dog from chewing on the tail while you are headed home—or to the veterinarian. Remember, this is all first aid, not long term healthcare!

Fortunately, you can get most of these items, and more, in emergency first aid kits that are designed specifically for dogs. Then, it is just a matter of restocking that kit as you use supplies and supplementing the items not included. We can keep things a lot more sterile than all purpose hanky kept in the back pocket!  Happy hunting!


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