Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida
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Caring For Your Hunting Dog

From tracking to retrieving to simple companionship in the woods, a hunter’s dog is an irreplaceable part of the experience. Hunting dogs have unique jobs that require specialized care. Keeping your best friend happy and healthy will ensure they are ready for the big trophies for years to come.

Keep your dogs up-to-date on heartworm and tick prevention.

Heartworms are transmitted by mosquito bites. Ticks can carry Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI). If you’ve spent more than an hour in a WMA, you know Florida has plenty of both species. Keeping your hunting dogs up-to-date on heartworm and tick prevention will help prevent unnecessary illness and, in some cases, death.

Research an emergency vet ahead of your hunt.

Often, hunting spots are isolated and far from our normal stomping grounds. Having an emergency vet on speed dial in the area you’re hunting in can save precious time in the event of an accident, such as snake bites, heatstroke, gunshots, and injuries due to wild animals like feral swine.There is no substitute for sterile, professional veterinary care. However, in the event a vet is unavailable while out in the field, consider reviewing basic pet first aid provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) prior to your hunt.

Evaluate their nutritional needs.

Unlike their indoor counterparts, working dogs expend a lot of energy when running for miles. You’ll need to replace those calories. The best way to evaluate their nutritional needs is to ask your vet about their daily caloric intake and adjust their food accordingly.

Perform post-hunt physicals.

After returning from a hunt, evaluate your pup. Check for things like burrs wedged between paw pads, cuts, and abrasions. If you and your dogs have spent time in swampy waters, give them a quick rinse with fresh water to help avoid bacterial and fungal infections. This can be a great time to remove ticks as well.

Prepare your companion before season.

Most working dogs live to please. But it’s important to not push your dogs beyond their limits. Exercising your dogs prior to the start of the season not only physically prepares them for work, but strengthens their bond with you.Veterinarians recommend beginning training at least six weeks prior to the start of season. Taking your dog for long walks, runs, and swimming are great ways to get them in shape.

Hunting dogs may require a bit of extra care, but their place beside their hunter is invaluable. Taking these steps can ensure your dogs are protected and remain active for years to come.

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