Ask The Vet

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Below are questions and answers posed to Ask the Vet. You can also view answers to the questions by clicking on the question.

Q: Q.) We have been to the vet several times with a very strange occurrence that our two-year old lab is having when pheasant hunting. She gets “birdie” and hunts great, and then suddenly her back end goes out. Legs out to the side and flaccid. She is still trying to fetch, her nose and upper body still on the bird. After a bit of rest and water she rebounds and gets to the car herself. She has had her blood work checked for electrolytes and glucose and the x-rays of her spine and hips are also perfect. We did the ACTH test for Addison’s, which was borderline/non-conclusive. She did a course of steroids and hunted on the fourth day and it still occurred. We are stumped. Any thoughts before seeing an internal medicine specialist?
A: A.) There are a couple of things that come to mind with collapse in hunting dogs, and especially labs. I would say I see with regularity hunting-dog hypoglycemia, which is a low blood sugar. The problem with testing the levels in the clinic is that they have usually returned to normal by the time you get to the clinic. Sometimes we reach this diagnosis based on description of the event and response to treatment in the field. I would talk this possibility over with your vet and the next time out be prepared with KARO syrup or dextrose to see if the dog responds. It sounds like your vet has looked at some of the other possibilities I would think of, such as seizure disorders, injuries, etc; however, the one possibility you didn’t mention that I would have on my list of possibilities would be Exercise Induced Collapse in Labrador Retrievers. This is a complicated disease that is still being worked out. I cannot do it justice here but would recommend visiting this article for a more detailed explanation: EIC Article. I would guess a majority of veterinarians not involved with sporting dogs may overlook this possibility. If your vet suspects this, there are some things that can be done to help further the research if he/she would contact one of the groups listed. Unfortunately, because there is no set diagnosis, you still may want to visit a specialist before coming to any conclusions.
Q: Q.) I have a 20-month old Brittany. Last year I took him hunting chukars and after a day or two of hunting in the talis rocks, even with boots, his feet have developed soft/sore spots. This past summer I treated his feet with a pad toughener and exercised him 3-4 times a week locally. The local terrain is not as rugged as the terrain the chukar like. His feet stood up much better, but still he had a few sore sports between his toes after a few days of hunting. My question is, what would you recommend to treat his paws with to toughen them up?
A: A.) It sounds to me like you are on the right path with your off-season program. Unfortunately I have no experience with the various compounds on the market for pad toughening, as I just haven’t hunted terrain that requires it. That being said, I think the conditioning you are doing will do more for the feet than a chemical. I think this is a case of practicing like you play, and unfortunately, outside of exercising in the actual terrain, you may never come up with a perfect solution. You may also want to investigate other boots; I recently received some pictures of the type of boot I use that had been hunted one day out West and were absolutely shredded. These same boots can last me several seasons. It sounds like you are on the right path in preparing your dog. The only other thing I would advise is that when you hunt a dog hard, you are virtually guaranteed to have some nagging little injuries, bumps or scrapes. As long as you make sure you address these adequately, to help the healing process, most dogs will continue to hunt fine even with minor aches and pains.
Q: Q.) We will be hunting in Eastern Washington in the fall and I’m trying to so some homework on snakebites and dogs. It is my understanding that there is a rattlesnake vaccine available. What is your opinion on this? What would be the course of action if our dogs were to experience a rattlesnake bite?
A: A.) I've had a couple of people contact me or express interest in the new rattlesnake vaccine. The company presented some information at the Western States Veterinary conference and this is where most of the following info comes from. The company is out of California, Red Rock Biologics, and there is some information on their website ( It is designed to protect against envenomation by the Western Diamondback, but they state it cross-protects against many US rattlesnakes. The initial series is a two shot series (3-6 weeks betweens shots) with an annual booster AND a potential booster every 4-6 months during the snake season depending on the size of the dog. At this time they have had no anaphylactic reactions or death from this vaccine, though my guess is it has been used on a relatively small number of dogs as up until recently it was only available in California. They state that dogs develop protective antibody titers comparable to the capacity of 2-3 vials of anti-venom. It is still very important that these dogs seek veterinary care and observation after a snake bite. The basic idea is that vaccinated dogs appear to present with fewer and less severe symptoms than similar sized unvaccinated dogs but they still require hospitalization and care. It also appears from their literature that larger dogs will have more total antibody than smaller dogs and thus have the potential for neutralizing a larger dose of venom. Basically the dog will still need veterinary care, but the treatment MAY not be as aggressive and if anti-venom is not needed much less expensive. This is a very new product that I have no experience with personally, but one I find interesting. I would definitely recommend talking it over with your veterinarian before moving forward with vaccination. Just posting up some of the info I received for those that requested it. I'll post more if I hear more. The biggest thing is to remember even if your dog is vaccinated you will need to get them to a vet ASAP. None of the old wives tales treatments work (suction, cutting the wound, electricity, etc.); basically these dogs need to be hospitalized and monitored. With some venomous snakes the major concern is more from the bacterial infection that results rather than the venom. If you know or suspect your dog has been bitten seek veterinary care as this is one of those cases that you shouldn’t take the sit and wait approach.
Q: Q.) I have a three-year old male Setter and I read your article about overheating. My dog is in pre-season training with our trainer and he told me that the dog is running hot. Some of this may be excitement of getting back out in the field but my fear is that maybe his internal temperature regulation is out of whack as you mentioned in the article. Over the summer I have done some roading with my bicycle but have always been careful to take breaks and water regularly. My concern is that the damage may have already been done. What would be your advice to diagnose a condition and what can we do if he does have it?
A: A.) I wouldn’t be too worried from the information you’ve given so far. If your dog has not had a true heat stroke episode I doubt anything internally has been affected and unfortunately there is no test to perform to find out. My guess is that your dog just may be one of those dogs that is not very heat tolerant and shows signs of heat stress quicker than other dogs. My chessie has never been one to tolerate temperatures over 60. My setter on the other hand is usually all right into the low 70s but not much beyond. On the other end of the spectrum I have a training partner that regularly runs his wirehairs in 80-plus temps…which I don’t recommend. I would talk with the trainer a little more in-depth and find out exactly what he’s seeing and what type of problems, if any, the dog has run in to. I think it is great you are conscious of the fact this dog may be heat sensitive, but at this time I would just recommend doing what you are already doing, which is to work on conditioning and to monitor how he handles the heat very close. If, however, the dog has had a significant heat episode, or is exhibiting other symptoms of a problem (i.e. increased drinking, not eating, etc.) than I would be more concerned and more likely to recommend a preseason physical and blood work-up.
Q: Q.) On the third day of three days of hard hunting for South Dakota pheasants, my lab’s tail is hanging limp. It also is tender, but I don’t think it is broken but does hurt when I try to move it. A lab with a limp tail is a sorry site! What should I do?
A: A.) Likely you are dealing with a situation that goes by several names, including limber tail, cold-water tail, lab tail or happy tail. We see this quite frequently in practice and it can be quite a disturbing event for many owners, as the dog is painful and often it appears as though the tail is broken. Essentially what has happened is that the muscles of the tail have become inflamed, likely from working harder than the body could clean up the by-products of exercise. Thankfully this is a condition that usually takes care of itself in a matter of a few days. I would recommend not “monkeying” with the tail too much and to give the dog a couple of days of rest. If she is extremely painful sometimes anti-inflammatories (through your vet) will need to be used. Typically we will see this in two groups of dogs, dogs that do a lot of swimming (like our retrievers) or dogs with animated tails in the uplands. In my experience most dogs have one episode of this and it is rare to have another, even when performing the same original activity. We went through this during Emma’s first duck season, and thankfully in the last six years have not had to go through it again. Keep an eye on things but likely she’ll be back out chasing roosters in just a matter of days.
Q: Q.) My two year old French Brit began sneezing six weeks ago after a trip to the South Dakota prairie. The nasal discharge was white, then purulent and has waxed and waned since even after two courses of antibiotics. My vet has x-rayed his chest and sinuses and looked into his nose with an otoscope about 4 cm with nothing abnormal to report. The washings grew out tow different types of bacteria but I’m not convinced that this is the primary problem. Does this sound like allergies, retained foreign body or something else? He looks well but is destroying the house with all the discharge. Any advice would be appreciated.
A: A.) Unfortunately I have experienced nasal foreign body issues first hand (and ironically they occurred in South Dakota). Last fall my little setter had a go around with a stick that managed to stay in her nasal cavity for nearly a month. There definitely is the possibility that there is a foreign body in the sinuses, but it is also possible that there is some other irritation causing these issues. If the discharge is only out of one nostril, I would be more suspicious of a foreign body or injury; if it is out of both, then I’d be more suspicious of other causes. It sounds like you have done all of the standard treatments and diagnostics, and it is probably time to get a little more advanced. Definitely if it is discharging only out of one nostril, I would be highly suspicious of a foreign body and the next steps I would recommend would be to actually have the nasal passages scoped and also be prepared to have a CT scan performed. This will allow better visualization, as the scope gets in further than an otoscope will allow and the CT would allow an entirely different view. When I went through this, I was on the last day of the antibiotics when the stick finally came out. My plan was to take Maggie to Iowa State the next week if things continued. One thing to note is that if there was some type of damage done (i.e. stick went in and came out), there is the possibility there will always be some abnormalities, with some degree of discharge if the injury was severe enough. Certainly purulent discharge is not normal even after an injury; however, it is possible that with injuries some dogs will have continual discharge.
Q: Q.) My English Pointer stuck a hawthorn in the pad of her foot. I pulled the thorn from her pad and it appeared that all of the thorn came out. This happened two weeks ago. Her foot swelled the next day and she would not touch it to the ground. I put some bag balm on it each day for a wekk and kept her off the foot. The swelling went down and she started putting her foot back on the ground after a week passed. I took her hunting yesterday and she ran for about four hours. This morning her foot is swollen again? What should I do? I have been told that if there is still some of the thorn in her foot it will continue to cause trouble but will eventually work out of the foot. What suggestions do you have?
A: A.) This is a point that hits close to home, as I just performed surgery on Maggie about three weeks ago to remove a prickly pear spike from between her toes. If your dog is experiencing recurring swelling and pain there is a possibility of a plant piece still stuck in there. Also, putting ointment on the outside is not going to help at all, if anything you will want to get her on oral antibiotics if there is infection. Lastly, there are many cases in which the thorn will NOT “eventually work out of the foot.” In Maggie’s case I noticed the swelling, which after taking a sample from it, I determined was an area of infection. I attempted to manage it with antibiotics and Epsom salt soaks, but after a week without any improvement I went in to find the offending object. While the soaks did not alleviate this thorn, they did draw out numerous other thorns from the rest of her pads which absolutely amazed me. These dogs are tough, but we owe it to them to make sure they are as comfortable and protected from foot injuries. It sounds like your dog has been battling this for several weeks now, I would definitely get her in to your vet so that the problem can be properly addressed.

Maggie's Toe Maggie's Toe With the Swelling

Q: Q.) I have a three-year old chocolate lab that ran over a porcupine while out hunting opening weekend. He had surgery to get the quills out and I was wondering how long I should wait until I can hunt him again. It has been 19 days since surgery, is that enough time for the scar to thoroughly heal? What are the chances of it breaking open while we are out hunting? It has healed so well you can barely see the scar.
A: A.) With hunting dogs I take a little bit different look at a return to activity. Hunting seasons are so short and each day in the field with our dogs is time well spent. I will usually educate owners about trying to protect the injury and about the fact we may be delaying healing in order to get the dog out in the field sooner. What this means is that we may have some setbacks with the healing and have to “baby” the area for longer than if we just let it heal. Typically even with a severe laceration I will try to get those dogs back in the field anywhere from 7-14 days, and depending on the location if we can get creative protecting the area sometimes I will go even sooner. Scar tissue is not as tough as the normal skin, which leaves you two options: either waiting it out until the wound is healed and there is some hair regrowth or protect the area, keep it clean and go out hunting.
Q: Q.) I have a two-year old English Setter. She had a beautiful 12 o’clock tail when on point. This past weekend I noticed she carried her tail low and curved horizontally to the left, almost like she was in heat. This position was held while running as well as when on point. I checked her for heat and saw no sign. I manipulated the tail and found no hint of pain. It has been two days and I have not seen any change back to her original tail position. I do have an appointment booked with the vet but I am wondering if this is a common occurrence and what the usual prognosis is and treatment.
A: A.) Without seeing the dog it is difficult to say what is exactly going on. There are two thoughts that come to mind with your description. The first is a condition referred to as limber tail, cold-water tail or happy tail. It occurs in dogs with very active tails and results in pain and inflammation of the muscles along the base of the tail which causes the dogs to have a “droopy” tail. The one thing that does not fit in your situation is that the dogs usually appear painful. The second thought I had would be boredom or a lack of excitement. You didn’t mention if these were planted birds, new birds, etc. Some dogs will get bored with the same thing over and over and become less enthused about their work and their tail carriage and pointing. I have also noticed with my youngest setter she is less intense on new birds until she figures out it is what we are after. It took her three trips on prairie grouse before she started pointing them with a lot of intensity. Hopefully by the time you read this the problem will already be resolved.
Q: Q.) Porcupines and their quills are a problem for my young GSP as well as for me. It is very difficult to restrain her while trying to remove the quills. My dog and I hunt chukars in very remote areas. Because of that I carry a pretty good medical kit with me in my backpack. However, after my last experience I think I would like to get some oral anesthesia that will sedate my dog to facilitate removal of quills and provide any other emergency medical treatment. Is there anything you can recommend?
A: A.) Unfortunately there is nothing good available for the purpose you desire. Often we deal with extremely viscous dogs in the practice, and I would love to have a product I could have the owner administer orally prior to the appointment. In fact, within the last couple of months I had a boxer that the owner was so afraid of they wouldn’t even think about putting a muzzle on the dog. While dealing with this dog I consulted with board-certified anesthesiologists who recommend some products used in wild animals, and while it slowed the dog down, it would have been impossible to remove quills. There are some drugs that we use orally to sometimes take the edge off; however, they react very inconsistently from dog to dog and usually do not sedate them enough to do anything like quill removal. I would talk this one over with your vet and establish your comfort level with giving medications. I personally would not send out any injectable anesthesia with a client except in very rare situations.
Q: Q.) I was hunting with my two year old lab on Saturday. We were experiencing a severe cold front and the water temps caused a decently thick layer of ice on the ponds. After the hunt her legs and paws have been swollen. Although she is not showing many signs of discomfort I was wondering if the impact of the ice has caused bruising and could be the reason for the swelling.
A: A.) There are a couple of concerns I have with these types of hunting situations. One is the obvious concern of the ice and if the dog was busting through the ice. This definitely could cause swelling and damage. The other concern is with the extremely cold temperatures and the potential issues associated with hypothermia. If the swelling and discomfort have not gone away after a day or so I would definitely recommend an exam to make sure there are no long-standing injuries. And while it may take a while for some of the symptoms to subside, at a minimum your vet could place her on some anti-inflammatories to help with the discomfort. One of my hunting partners related a cold-weather hunting story similar to yours with his dog. While the dog performed admirably throughout the hunt, at the end of the day the dog was spent and clearly hypothermic. His hunt did not involve a lot of ice busting but was in frigid, icy waters. I could tell when he was relating the tale how shook up he was at the after-effects of hunting the dog, he had to carry the dog back to the truck and message him for hours after returning from home. These dogs will do anything for us, and, as a result, will put themselves in situations they shouldn’t. It is at these times we have to make clear decisions about the situations we put them in. For some reason icy water hunts are ones I try to avoid with my dogs. I’m sure your dog will be fine, but just some things to think about the next time.
Q: Q.) I own a four-year old lab. I bought my dog as a puppy from a gun dog trainer. She is a fantastic upland hunting dog and very athletic. I feel that it is important to keep her in good shape. This past summer I tool her to an open field close to our house to do some retrieving in the mornings while the temps were still cool. This particular morning we did our normal routine and walked home, on the way home Bailey was panting fairly hard and rather fast. I realized that she had probably gotten hot. When we got home I made sure she continued to drink water and watched her for quite a while. Besides the initial heavy panting she showed no other signs of any heat problems. After a few minutes of active cooling her panting had subsided. Bailey lives indoors with us so I put her inside in the air conditioning and kept an eye on her the rest of the day. Bailey acted completely normal, no vomit, diarrhea and she was full of energy. I really didn’t think much more about it until about a week later we had a storm go through the area in the evening and the temps dropped into the low seventies. I thought this would be a good opportunity to throw some retrieves in our back yard. Bailey worked for probably ten or fifteen minutes. I stopped to talk to the neighbor for a few minutes and when I turned around Bailey was sitting in a strange position. I called to her and she came, but when we walked inside I noticed she didn’t walk quite normal. She never lost her balance but was just not normal. I realized that this is sometimes a sign of heat stress. Did I overdo it on these occasions or could it be something else?
A: A.) Your story illustrates a couple of different points about working with dogs in heat, and I’m going to address those first and throw out some other possibilities last. If you take a look in the library section of the site I have a couple of articles dealing with first aid kits and heat stroke. I think your example shows why having a digital thermometer is so vitally important in situations like these. Had you been able to take your dog’s temperature, you would have a much better picture about what was going on with your dog. It is also important to establish what is normal and what is abnormal for your particular dog, and while it may seem odd it is better and easier to do this during off-season training sessions rather than during hunting season. Second, you mention working your dog in the water; too often people associate a wet dog with a cool dog and this isn’t always the case. Too frequently the water during the summer months is also warm, which can create a situation similar to working a dog in a hot tub. If the outside temperature is warm, the water is shallow, or both, you still have to be extremely careful when working dogs in water during the summer months. I know of more than one professional lab trainer that has lost “wet” dogs to heat stroke. Lastly, the one temperature you referenced was that the temps had cooled to the seventies. Seventy feels cool during the summer months when we’ve had a streak of 90+ temps; however, it is still a pretty high temperature for working a majority of dogs. During hunting season 70 can feel like a scorcher, and with some dogs anything above 60 degrees can be highly suspect. Now, those would be all the points that make me highly suspicious of heat stroke, and to be quite honest it would be very high on my list. The fact that she had two of these episodes, particularly if they are heat related, would concern me greatly about future episodes as many of these dogs lose their ability to regulate their body temperature accurately. Thus a dog that had a heat event at 70 degrees could have one at a much lower temp in the future. Until you get to the bottom of the situation I would certainly want to monitor her very closely in the field. With that being said there are also other conditions that could cause the symptoms you witnessed. Low-blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, certainly can cause collapse or ataxia and also can lead to heat stroke. Certain metabolic problems like Addison’s disease (an adrenal gland that is not working normally) would also be on the list. At the top of the “other possibilities” list, especially with a Labrador would Exercise Induced Collapse. It is a condition that is being researched and for which there is a genetic test available. Here are a couple of links on the subject: The second link contains a contact at the University of Minnesota, if you are interested in pursuing testing I would pass this information on to your veterinarian and have them contact these individuals, as they have been very helpful in coordinating testing.
Q: Q.) I have a 13-month old male GSP that develops cracks and splits in the webbing between his toes on the bottom of his front paws after running in the snow. They split and bleed and he will take turns holding each paw up when he’s not running. He really seems to opens his paws up and grab with the when he runs so the snow makes contact with the webbing. His pads seem fine and nails are short. One paw also bleeds slightly at the spot where his dew claw was removed and has not fur to cover that small patch of skin. My younger pup is out for the same time and has not problems. I so far have soaked his paws in warm water with a touch of Epsom salts and applied a vitamin E Vaseline type cream, as well as ordered him hunting boots. Is there anything I can do as a preventative once they heal up for hunting in the snow?
A: A.) This is a fairly common problem in this part of the country, and as you have noticed seems to affect certain dogs more than others. I know you have already ordered your boots, but if I may make a suggestion on that front I can’t say enough good things about the products from I have had tremendous success and I think they are greatly underpriced. I usually order them a dozen or two at a time so I have multiple pairs on hand and am able to rotate. My preferred model is the 1000-Denier Cordura with the Velstretch fastner. I previously would apply vetwrap to keep these in place, but with the new closure system I did not lose a single booty this year. With the current condition of the feet it might be worthwhile to have them checked by your veterinarian. It is possible that the snow and subsequent wetness actually caused a skin infection of the webbing and that it wasn’t from the mechanical damage of the snow. We see a fair number of dogs with bacterial and/or yeast infections of the interpad area. Treatment can range from some topical sprays/shampoos to longer term oral medications. As for something preventative, I think the booties will be your best bet on that front.
Q: Q.) I have an 18-month old yellow lab who went for his first hunt last weekend. He had a scar on his leg from when he was a pup. On his first hunt he must have rubbed it on some brush and it opened up. He developed an infection and the vet treated it with some antibiotics. I have since taken him hunting again and his scar opened up once again. The hard part is that the scar is right above where his leg bends so putting any type of protection over it is difficult. Short of having surgery is there anything else I can use? What about stretchy athletic tape? If he has to have surgery at the end of the hunting season to clean it up I am fine with that, I just don’t want to lose any valuable time in his first year of hunting. Any suggestions?
A: A.) This is a conversation I have just about every week during hunting season with dog owners. I take a different approach to the situation than most, because I cherish the short time we have in the field with our dogs and even a two-week period on the bench recovering becomes a huge portion of a dog’s hunting career. Without seeing your particular wound I’ll speak in generalities on how I handle injuries of this nature. First, as far as an ideal healing scenario, rest and the appropriate treatment will almost always result in the best cosmetic results. That being said I try my best not to lose any time in the field, which likely will result in delayed healing and the likelihood of a scar; however, I never promote anything I feel is detrimental to the health of the dog. My recommendations are usually much more liberal in trying to get a dog back out in the field than the recommendations from a non-hunting veterinarian. I recently had a conversation with a gentleman from Wisconsin at a motel game cleaning station. His dog had went through a fence and had a simple laceration on its chest. The vet that sutured the dog up recommended more than a month of rest which I thought was insanely long considering it would essentially take the dog out of most of the waterfowl season and good, early-season pheasants. With the proper care from the owner many of these dogs can return to activity much, much sooner. The key is your willingness to manage the area to maintain it in optimum health in order to continue hunting the dog and ensure the injury doesn’t get worse or become infected. If it is an area that just gets rubbed raw and oozes, then I’d probably just make sure it gets thoroughly cleaned after each hunt and protect prior. The area you describe is very difficult to bandage or wrap and no matter the material it likely will be an exercise in frustration. One thing you might try is to apply a layer of EMT Gel to the area prior to the hunt. You’ll want to do it long enough before going into the field so that it has had time to dry and form a barrier, yet not too long prior so that the dog could lick it off. Keep a close eye on the situation and monitor for infection. I’m not a big fan of long-term use (more than a day or two) of antibiotic ointments, if it doesn’t stay nice looking with cleaning and EMT gel then you may need a course of oral antibiotics. Depending on how the wounds are handled in the field, if I see lacerations on Monday morning it is my goal to have the dogs back out hunting the following weekend, and at most only missing one weekend. If these wounds are properly managed during the season, most of the minor ones will heal up fine during the off-season when the dog has plenty of time to rest. These dogs are put through extreme conditions and do experience some minor and nagging injuries throughout the season. With minimal effort on the part of the owner many dogs can hunt through these conditions without any detriment to the dog. The important points are to know when it is more than a minor annoyance and to have the dedication to manage these injuries for the best benefit and health of the dog.
Q: Q.) My GSP lives to hunt, the problem is that her nose gets raw and bloody and she frequently gets punctures on her chest from going through so much thick cover. I decided to get her a chest protector to help the chest puncture problem. I was very disappointed after using it only to find that it had rubbed her severely under her arm area. Any suggestions on the nose or chest problem?

A.) Over the years I have tried just about every chest protector on the market for upland hunting. I'll keep this discussion purely on upland vests and not cover the neoprene vests designed for water retrieving. It seems like too many of these vests either fit too loosely and end up not offering adequate protection, or fit too tightly and cause extra damage like you experienced. A couple of things that I have found is that the protectors with buckle closures seem to be too loose and end up collecting seeds and debris. I'm also not a fan of the zipper closures, as they don't allow for enough adjustability. They do make neoprene upland vests; however, I worry about dogs overheating and chaffing is definitely an issue with these vests.

The vest that I have had the most success with is made by Pointer Specialties and has three velcro straps that are attached to a skid plate which protects the chest. Occassionally I have had some rubbing issues in the under arms, but it seems like the benefits of this vest outweight the negatives. They are simple to clean, the velcro seems to hold up for years and they offer good flexibility in fit while offering the utmost in protection. You can purchase this vest in a number of sporting good stores, for the exact vest I use here is a link to the vest at Gun Dog's Online Store.

With the nose issues, unfortunately there isn't such a simple solution. Depending on the severity sometimes just keeping the area clean and dry after the hunt is about the only solution. Thankfully the area heals rapidly and with proper post-hunt care the dog will recover quickly. If it is a more extreme situation, or seems to happen with too much regularity, I might suggest a couple of options. As far as protection, you might want to apply some EMT Gel to the area prior to going into the cover. By letting it dry, to avoid plant pieces sticking to it, you would be providing a layer of protection. I'd be sure to use it on the areas around the nose and not the nose itself so that you don't interfere with scenting. An option I've never personally tried would be to use a product like Vaseline pre-hunt. This would be used much in the way boxers and fighters use it to deflect blows. The key with both of these applications would be to not allow the dog to lick the products off, as they could contribute to GI upset. A hard-working hunting dog in heavy cover is in a near constant state of nicks, bumps and bruises. The key is to recognize these issues, address them immediately and do everything you can to protect them moving forward.

Q: Q.) On our third outing of the season with my two-year old brittany disaster struck. He cut himself deeply on the top of his right hind paw, over the top of the outside toe and severed a tendon. Vet care was within two hours. The vet was able to overlap and stitch the tendon (I don’t know how many stitches) and there are four stitches holding the external cut together. I was seeking a second opinion as to how long the recovery time for this injury should be, my vet recommended six weeks. How much exercise (walking) can I give the dog? Is there any way to judge when the injury is recovered enough to resume hunting? I don’t know who is more depressed as October passes us by without hunting, my pup or myself?
A: A.) It will be difficult to give full recommendations without seeing your dog. There are a number of tendons in that general area, with some ranging from very important to the overall function of the limb and others that are more secondary in their function. That being said, I can give you some general suggestions with these type of injuries. With athletic dogs I always try to make recommendations based on as quick of return to function as is safely possible. This type of injury can be particularly troublesome since the tendon was completely severed, and especially so because these tissues are extremely slow in healing and have a number of extreme stressing forces working against healing. Basically the key will be to make sure you have adequate healing taking place, followed by the correct amount and type of physical therapy, in order to return to function without reinjurying the leg. Thankfully the field of veterinary rehab and sports medicine is a rapidly growing field. Unfortunately there are still not enough rehabbers out there and many are located in more metro settings. If you have a certified canine rehabilitator near you I would strongly recommend scheduling an appointment with them to set up an appropriate plan based on the injury and the degree of recovery taking place. If you do not have access to such services then I would speak with your vet about tracking someone down that he could talk to in order to develop a plan to aid in the return to function. Many injuries are straightforward enough to develop a plan for recovery; with a tendon issue we need to make sure healing is taking place, not allow too much scarring and contracture and then get the dog back to a performance level. Very likely this will have a good outcome, the key is to make sure healing is taking place and that we don't return to activity too soon.
Q: Q.) What do you think of veterinary health insurance? I have checked into it some and my general impression is that I’m doing little more than “prepaying” for my veterinary care. Probably not a loss, but not much of a gain. However, with field dogs there seems to be so much that can happen that I still wonder if it’s worthwhile. If you have any input on it I be very interested in hearing?
A: A.) I think your assessment of prepaying for care is pretty accurate. Over the years I have only had a handful of clients who utilize pet insurance at any one time. I think those who have it are happy with the coverage, and we haven't had any issues dealing with the different companies. In the end though, I don't think the policies are cheap, and the discussion always seems to come up after at least one of the owner's pets has had a major issue. I also know they are sticklers for pre-existing conditions. A new popular trend that is emerging is the pet savings account that some vet clinics, banks and veterinary-related companies have started to set up. If you are a disciplined saver this method probably makes the most sense in the long run, as it allows you to put your money to use at your descretion. You are probably correct in that if some major injury or health event, like cancer, would occur the insurance route would likely make a lot of sense, but that being said, if you started a pet savings account at the time of acquiring the new dog you probably would be hard pressed to outspend the account, even in the face of large medical expenses. In the end I think the Pet Insurance route is an okay choice, but the pet savings account is probably a little better. At our practice we have not set up one of these accounts but will be looking to do something in the next year. Very likely this would be the company we will go with, Pawsitive Savings, a company started by another Iowa State alum.

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