Top 10 Gun Dog Tips – By D.G.Parsons MRCVS
There are no 10 gun dog top tips that will cover every possible scenario. But, having spoken to colleagues who like you rely on their dogs to be in tip top condition, I hope these tips will confirm that you are doing the best you can or might stimulate you to do something slightly differently.
I am sure that some of you may also have some good tips. If you want to share them then please do.
- Body condition: It is very important that your dogs are in good condition before the season starts. They need to be at their ideal working weight, well muscled and not fat. This will vary with the breed, their age and the amount of work they are expected to do. Careful observation will let you know that you are getting this right – ribs can be felt under a slight covering of fat, distinct waist when viewed from above and a distinct abdominal tuck when viewed from the side.
Feet – dogs with hairy paws may benefit from having the hair between the toes clipped to reduce the likelihood of thorns or grass seeds becoming caught between the toes and slowly being pushed into the skin to cause abscesses and lameness later.
- Fitness: You would not expect to run a marathon without preparation. The same applies to your dogs. How much preparation will depend on the amount of work your dog does out of season. Unfit and over or underweight and you will predispose your dog to strains, sprains, exhaustion and accidents. You have only yourself to blame.
- Water: Take a clean supply of water with you and ensure it is made available throughout the day. Restrict the use of the water bowl to your dogs unless there is an emergency. One keeper told me that he suspected one of his dogs may have become infected with Giardia when using a communal bowl. This a bowel infection spread by the oral faecal route. It is the same tongue that sniffs, licks bums and drinks water.
- Feed: In my questioning of 3 gamekeepers or game farmers, I recorded 3 quite different approaches. You know your dogs, you know the work they have to do and you know the system within which it has to be done. They need to have enough energy to sustain them through the day. They do not need to have full stomachs to go to work on.
It would be interesting to know how many of you give them breakfast several hours before they start, how much, what type of feed and what breed? How many if you only feed in the evening? How many of you give energy snacks during the day? You will probably only be feeding your dog in the evening. Depending on how fit your dog is and how hard they are working, snacks during the day will be beneficial. These can be biscuits, Pemmikan bars or sausage rolls. However, you may be tempted to eat the latter.
Whilst it does not happen often, some dogs can work too hard. Their blood sugar levels drop and they suffer from hypoglycaemia. I have only seen this once when beating. The dog becomes disorientated, confused, glazed eyes, appears blind or does not recognise you, pants furiously, staggers and may have seizures. Honey or sugar syrup on the gums will aid recovery as the sugar is absorbed through the gum or, whilst not ideal, it may have to be a Mars bar. Watch that you do not in advertently get bitten. If your dog is prone to this, then you should be able to prevent it by the provision of an energy snack during the day.
- Vaccinations: Ideally, all boosters need to be given before the season starts. I favour vaccines that cover the 4 serotypes of Leptospires but that is simply because your dogs will be in areas frequented by dogs and rodents that may be infected or carriers. This year could be worse for Kennel cough. It is highly contagious and will rapidly spread through the kennels. Each dog could take two weeks or more to get over the infection and maybe debilitated and unable to work for the rest of the season.
- Worming: Regularly treat for lungworms, roundworms and tapeworms. You will need to make sure that any wormers you use will treat each group of worms. Remember foxes are significant carriers of this infection.
- Ticks and fleas: Regularly treat for fleas and ticks. Spot on products will not last as long if your dog spends a lot of time in the water or wet. Make sure that you are always on the look out for these parasites.
- First Aid Kit: Accidents do happen. A first aid kit will ensure you can do your best before getting to the vet. Useful items to have in your first aid kit – telephone number of the nearest veterinary practice, pencil and pad. A muzzle, disposable latex gloves, cotton wool, container of water (boiled water allowed to cool) for washing cuts, bandages, styptic pencil or powder for cuts, wound powder or antiseptic cream, Epsom salts in case of inadvertently eating poisoned carcases and sugar to combat hypoglycaemia.
- Muddy and wet: Wash them off and towel them dry. Use a dog fleece to prevent them from chilling especially if they are in the back of an unheated pickup. Give them a small biscuit snack.
- Check them over: Ideally, check them over continuously during the day but always give them a thorough look over checking for cuts, abrasions, tears, blood, thorns or anything else that can be rubbed or worked into the skin at the end of the day. Pay particular attention to the ears, inside and out, and between the toes.
Many thanks to friends and colleagues who gave me the benefit of their experience.
David Parsons MRCVS with Chester and Marlow