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Practice tips for the bird dog patient (Proceedings)


There are many times that a medical problem arises in the field far away from any veterinary services. During these times preparation may be what saves a dog's life.

There are many times that a medical problem arises in the field far away from any veterinary services. During these times preparation may be what saves a dog's life. A veterinary field emergency kit should be assembled to address any emergencies that may arise. Dr. Terry Terlep of Fort Myers is an experienced and successful owner, handler, and judge of field trial pointers. Based upon his field experience he has organized an emergency field kit for himself and his clients. The contents of the kit are based upon the most common emergencies that occur to the dog hunting in the field. These emergencies include hypoglycemia, exertional rhabdomyolysis, overheating, foreign body penetration, hemorrhage, and snakebite.

Hypoglycemia is also known as exertional hypoglycemia, hunting dog hypoglycemia or sugar fits. Normal laboratory values for blood glucose are 70 – 150 mg/dl. Hypoglycemic dogs will have blood glucose values less than 50 mg/dl. The causes of hypoglycemia include lack of conditioning, can occur early in training or in overanxious young dogs. The signs include altered mentation (neuroglycopenia), trembling, shaking, nervousness, anxiety, weakness, and ataxia. The dog can collapse, have a seizure, go into a coma, or die from hypoglycemia. Field treatment of hypoglycemia involves infusing the body with glucose of some form. This glucose replenishment can come in many forms, but basically it is oral monosaccharides (glucose) absorbed through the mucous membranes. Dextrose is a common intravenous solution that can be given orally. Dextrose is a name for glucose. The dog can be given 100-200 milliliters (mls) of a 50% dextrose solution. Other glucose sources that can be used in the field are karosyrup, honey, fruit juices, cola drinks (Pepsi, Coke, etc), or Gatorade.

Exertional rhabdomyolysis is also known as tying up, Monday morning sickness, azoturia, or muscle cramps. The causes of exertional rhabdomyolysis include lack of conditioning, excessive frequency of workouts, heat stress, and excessive excitement and hard work. The signs include generalized muscle pain (mostly in the back and rear legs), stiff gait, ataxia, distress, and collapse. The muscles can be very painful to the touch. The resulting myoglobinemia causes a nephropathy or acute renal failure, which can result in death. The emergency field treatment involves stopping any exercise or work, cooling the patient if overheated, muscle massage. The dogs should be transported to a veterinarian as soon as possible to treat the subsequent renal problems.

Overheating is also called hyperthermia, heat prostration, and heat stroke. There is an inability of the body to regulate its temperature. The heat produced by the body is greater than the body's heat dissipation. The causes of hyperthermia include lack of conditioning, lack of acclimatization, high humidity, high temperature, too much exercise too soon, obesity, and previous overheating episodes. The clinical signs of overheating are panting, extreme hyperventilation, hypersalivation, altered mentation (glassy eyed), ataxia, muscle weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness and collapse. All of the body's systems can be damaged. Other problems associated with hyperthermia are disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and severe electrolyte abnormalities. Basically the internal tissues can be cooked. Immediate treatment for this condition is a cool water bath or spray, ice applied to the abdomen, and blow a vehicle air conditioner or fan on the dog's body. Cool the body to around 103 degrees and then stop. If cooling measures are continued after this, the body's temperature will continue to drop. This will result in a hypothermic state.

Foreign body penetration is a very common problem seen in the field dog. If it is in the eye the dog will close its eye and will rub it with their paw. Pull the bottom lid down to view area. Use an eye flush bottle to remove foreign debris from the eye. Apply an ocular medication to the eye. A wet Q-tip may need to be used to remove some debris. If it is in the nose the dog will sneeze repeatedly or paw at the nose. Use needle-nose pliers to gently remove foreign body then flush the nose with saline eye wash solution. If the foreign body is in the foot the dog will become lame or will stop and chew at the foot. Try to remove it by pulling it out or it may have to be pushed up through the top. Flush area and apply antibiotic ointment. If the foreign body has entered the body it can usually be visualized. First evaluate the severity of the injury, some times it is better left in and removed later by a veterinarian. If it is into the chest or abdomen transport to the veterinarian should be initiated. If it is a wire cut, flush, medicate, and staple if needed.

Hemorrhage or bleeding is another commonly occurring problem seen in the active field dog. If direct pressure is possible, it should be applied for at least twenty minutes. A common mistake is to apply pressure for a minute or two and then quit. This isn't long enough in most cases. If the hemorrhage is from a body cavity, pack with a shirt or socks and begin transfer to closest veterinarian. If it is the jugular area, pack and then wrap the neck. Check for the ability to breath because sometimes if the wrap is too tight or there is a lot of swelling it might occlude the trachea. If the abdominal contents are exposed rinse them off and replace them into the abdomen. Wrap the abdomen or staple the hole closed. If it is an open chest wound close the opening with a shirt or staples and then wrap the chest. If it is related to a gunshot give intramuscular or intravenous solu-delta-cortef, and stop the bleeding. If there are abdominal contents showing, there is an open chest wound, or if the dog was shot immediately transfer the dog to the nearest veterinarian.

The three types of vipers usually seen in the field are crotalus, sistrurus, and agkistrodon. The rattlesnake is a crotalus, the pygmy rattlesnakes and massasaugas are examples of sistrurus and cottonmouths and copperheads are agkistrodons. Their venom is designed to kill quickly. The venom is composed of proteolytic enzymes, coagulation factors, phospholipases, and neurotoxins. The clinical signs associated with snakebite include pain, puncture wounds, swelling, blood, and shock. Antivenin is the approved and accepted method for treatment of venomous snakebites. Antivenin is very expensive, so some veterinarians treat snakebites with corticosteroid therapy. Cortisone has been the historical treatment for snakebite, but the use of antivenin has increased over the past decade. Some common treatments that should not be used are electrical shock, suction, or surgery (X's over the puncture holes).

Many dogs would have a better chance if the proper materials were available in the field.

The field emergency kit can include the following

  • Antivenin

  • Solu Delta Cortef – 500mg bottle

  • Vetwrap — two inch

  • 50% Glucose

  • Saline eye wash bottle

  • Clean white tee shirt

  • 4x4 gauze sponges

  • One inch adhesive tape

  • Staple gun for skin closure

  • Triple Antibiotic ointment

  • Super glue

  • Needle nose pliers

  • Saline eye flush

  • Ophthalmic ointment

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