Do Your Homework First

It was 3 p.m. in the middle of the prairie in Northwest Kansas when I noticed that “Greta,” my German shorthaired pointer, just had a close encounter with a barbed wire fence. Nothing too serious, but stitches were definitely in order.
I reached into my wallet and pulled out contact information for the nearest veterinarian, about 30 miles away in Norton, Kan.
“If you can make it here by 4:30, we can stitch her up,” said a very nice receptionist. Greta was on the table before 4:30 and tended to in short order.
I’d always read about doing such homework prior to taking a trip – and I was proud that I actually took the advice! Greta was happy too.
The time saved by knowing the closest veterinary options can make the difference in getting your hunting partner back in the field quicker, avoiding infection, or in a real emergency -- perhaps life and death.
It’s also important to take along a copy of veterinary records, vaccinations and medications for each of your dogs. Some states require it, but it also can help ensure a “strange” veterinarian has the latest information about your dog, its medications and other information to make a diagnosis.
Another tip we read about – and strongly encourage – is to have a basic first-aid kit in the field and on your truck. A variety of kits is available – the point is to have one tucked inside your vest when you need it. More extensive first-aid items (for two-legged and four-legged hunting partners) can be kept in your vehicle.
Speaking of your vehicle, Purina has long recommended performing a “tailgate check” on your dog after each run in the field. Do we do it? “Sometimes” is probably accurate, but consider ramping up that effort this fall and making it part of your regular, daily routine.
One story about “Tulah,” my Labrador retriever, helps illustrate the importance of the tailgate check and inspecting your dog after a day in the field. I didn’t do the tailgate check, so the next morning when I gave Tulah a hug after an airing session in the yard, she unexpectedly winced and whined.
Huh? Upon inspection, I noticed a bit of dried blood on her chest and a sizeable puncture wound. She clearly had made contact with a stick or reed the previous afternoon. Tulah’s black fur made it hard to see signs of the injury – and she acted normal and happy. She loves to go! But it was something I missed from the day before.
Fortunately, it was not a serious injury and luckily I had the phone number of the closest veterinarian. I had the wound cleaned out and necessary antibiotics administered. Again, it taught me to take a few minutes to look over my dog for nicks, cuts, thorns, seeds, and other foreign bodies.
It’s also important to pay attention to the eyes, nose, between the toes – even the ear canal and mouth. Putting your hands on the dog is a good way to locate a sore spot, even a burr or tick, for that matter.
Last tip: It seems obvious, but you should take an ample supply of your dog’s performance food along for the trip. If you don’t and for some reason you can’t find your favorite brand, changing diets abruptly can lead to digestive upset – something you and your dog don’t need!
Keith Schopp is Vice President, Public Relations, Nestlé Purina PetCare Company. Full disclosure, the author is not a veterinarian and has no intention of dispensing veterinary advice! This author cares deeply about his dogs and wants them to be safe, happy and healthy at all times. Contact your veterinarian with questions or additional advice about traveling with your dogs.