How to keep your favorite hunting buddy safe and healthy.

By Heather Madsen

With upland hunting season around the corner, quite a few hunters are stocking up on ammo, making sure their shotguns are cleaned and oiled, and planning the first trip of the season with their hunting buddies. Perhaps the most important hunting buddy to consider on these hunting trips is your hunting dog. Hunting dogs are essential to upland hunting and provide great companionship and enthusiasm. However, you need to be careful to ensure that your dog is well prepared for the adventure and that you’re well prepared to handle any dog-related emergencies. And, as the saying goes, the best prevention is preparation. So here are some good things you can do to prepare for potential injuries and circumstances.

Preventative Care

Hunting breeds are usually very energetic and highly intelligent, so bringing them along as your hunting companion is a great way to stimulate them both physically and intellectually. However, being out in the field can pose certain risks, so it’s your responsibility to make sure your dog has the proper training and care to keep it healthy and safe. In fact, both you and your dog should be trained to work as a team before you head out on the hunt. Your dog should have a good recall and know how to perform the basics like retrieving and pointing. You should know basic canine first aid and how to communicate with and control your dog in stressful or distracting situations. This way both of you are prepared to do your jobs, and respond in case of emergency.

Next, utilize one of your greatest resources for information and talk to your vet. If your vet has a good understanding of the type of outings and activities you frequently do with your dog, they can recommend a proper diet, exercise plan, and health practices to fit you and your dog’s lifestyle. It’s also important to make sure they’re up to date on all of their checkups and vaccinations. Outdoor dogs are most susceptible to certain diseases and injuries due to the fact that they are more frequently exposed to potentially contaminated water sources, other animals, and tainted food, compared to their indoor counterparts. Keep your dog safe by giving him veterinarian-recommended preventative care.

Set your dog up for success by providing them with the proper gear. Some states and lands require you to wear blaze orange, and it’s a good idea to get your dog a collar or vest to match so that they aren’t mistaken for prey by another hunter. Other appropriate gear might include ear protection, snow booties, or an insulated vest for the more frigid months. Perhaps most importantly though, make sure your dog has a secure and sturdy collar with your contact information on it. You should also get your dog chipped. That way, even if your dog gets lost and loses its collar, people will still have a way to contact you. Having a recent photo of your dog and local shelter information can also save you some hassle, should your dog get lost and require a search and rescue from you.

Lastly, the most common sorts of injury hunting dogs can get is dehydration or exhaustion. Always have clean drinking water and bowl available for your dog and keep a close eye on them for signs of overheating or exhaustion. Give them plenty of time to rest in between strenuous activities and work up to longer periods of exercise before the hunting season to prepare.

Reactionary Care

Even if you’ve taken precautions and prepared the best you can, sometimes injuries or accidents happen. So, you need to be prepared to respond to emergencies or unexpected circumstances. One of the easiest ways to do this is to carry a well-stocked canine first aid kit. You can build your own and tailor it to your specific needs, or buy a pre-assembled kit with all of the basic necessities. Be sure you know how to dress basic wounds and perform canine CPR as well before you ever head out on a hunt. The supplies won’t do you any good if you don’t know how to use them. Also, knowing what to do in an emergency situation will help keep you calm, which in turn, will keep your dog calm. The last thing you want is for your dog to get anxious and injure themselves even more in their distress.

You should also check your dog after every outing for new injuries. Their ears, paws, and eyes are more sensitive and likely to injury, so pay careful attention to any new scratches, or different behavior, such as excessive scratching, biting, or licking, as this often indicates an injury. It’s also almost inevitable that your dog will run through grass and water while upland hunting, so checking for ticks and leeches after every hunt is very important to prevent disease.

Emergency Care

If your dog sustains a more serious injury, like a broken bone, deep cut, or animal bite, perform emergency first aid and then take them to a vet as soon as possible. In these sorts of situations, your care is simply a gap measure until you can get them professional help. That being said, knowing canine first aid can help reduce your dog’s discomfort and possibly even save their life.

First, keep the wound clean. If the injury is bleeding, flush the wound with clean water and apply pressure with a bandage to staunch the flow. Wrap the cut as best you can and get your dog to a vet. If your dog broke a bone, stabilize it the best you can with a board or stick to minimize movement and keep the injury as still as possible. Find a way to carry or transport your dog to your car with as little effort on its part as possible, and then take them to a vet.

If your dog is bitten by a snake or injured by any other sort of animal, your best bet is to keep them calm and get them to a vet as quickly as you can. Don’t attempt to suck out the poison, remove porcupine quills, or do anything else that is ill-advisable or that you are not trained to do. Keep your dog’s heart rate as low as possible and get them to an emergency vet. In instances like this, it’s also very helpful to carry a cell phone so you can call the animal hospital or emergency vet and get instructions on how to best get your dog stabilized and transported to the nearest facility.

Dog’s are men’s best friend, and hunting companion, so make sure you keep your best friend safe and healthy so you can have the best hunting trips possible. If you have any questions about hunting dogs or how to take care of them, reach out to us online at or at your local Sportsman’s Warehouse.