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Dogs Encounter Hunting Hazards
By Jamie Vickers
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Hunting dogs may be an integral part of the sport, but they may encounter hazards which are often overlooked.
Dr. Thomas Lenarduzzi, associate professor at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, said hunters should prepare for the problems and have a plan. Problems that could occur for hunting dogs range from heatstroke to snake bites and sore footpads.
"Heatstroke is a common problem. Dogs need shade, ventilation and lots of water," Lenarduzzi said. "Heatstroke is a problem especially if the dogs are crated and if they go long distances with continuous movement."
If the dog begins to pant excessively, vomit, become non-responsive or has diarrhea, these could be the signs of heatstroke. Dogs also may have difficulty standing, a tendency to lie down or become uncoordinated.
Should heatstroke occur, the dog should be put in front of a fan and cooled down with running water. If the dog is not under flowing water, the humidity may worsen the heatstroke.
"Take the dog to a veterinarian immediately if it becomes nonresponsive or its condition worsens to heavy or bloody vomiting and/or diarrhea," said Dr. Cory Langston, associate professor of veterinary medicine at MSU.
Another problem that hunting dogs face is tender footpads.
"Some caged dogs may have footpads that are not accustomed to the abrasion and wear," Langston said. "A skin toughener or astringent applied regularly in advance of the hunt could thicken and toughen the footpads to resist abrasion better."
Dogs also face the risk of snake bites. The most common and dangerous bites occur on the dog's face. The two families of poisonous snakes found in Mississippi are coral snakes and pit vipers. Pit vipers include rattlesnakes, water moccasins and copperheads.
Coral snakes, found on the Mississippi Coast, cause paralysis. The rattlesnake is the most dangerous of the pit vipers, followed by the water moccasin. Copperheads are the least dangerous of the pit vipers.
Pit viper bites pose three potential problems. A dog can go into shock if injected with large amounts of venom near a major blood vessel. If a dog is bitten on the face or neck, large amounts of swelling can lead to closed airways. Pit viper bites also can kill tissue in the bite area. Dead tissue is ideal for bacteria growth and, if not treated properly, can lead to gangrene, other infections or even death.
Lenarduzzi said some seminars teach dogs to avoid snakes. The venom glands are taken out of several rattlesnakes, and the dogs, wearing shock collars, are lead to the snakes in a pasture. When the sound of the rattle and smell of the snake attract the dog, they go closer to the snake and are shocked by the collar.
"After the dogs go to two or three snakes, they learn to avoid the noise, smell and sound of a rattlesnake," said Lenarduzzi. "Get recommendations from a local veterinarian if there are many rattlers in the area, and make arrangements with the vet for help in case of emergency."
Contact: Dr. Cory Langston, (601) 325-1265