For many people in Michigan, there are traditions each fall which are just as strong as the start of football season. Such as, the start of pheasant season and duck season. Starting soon, lots of people will be loading their hunting dogs into their vehicles and heading out to the woods.

But here’s something many people never think about: Dogs sometimes need a veterinarian right after their hunting trip. All that running and retrieving can lead to cuts, scrapes and more serious medical problems.

Dr. Chelsea Wolf knows all about this subject because she’s a veterinarian herself and she has treated hunting dogs at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Grand Rapids. She also talks regularly with her father, who took her on hunting trips as she was growing up, and who likes to get advice on the best ways to keep his dogs safe.

Here are a few tips from Dr. Wolf on keeping hunting dogs safe:
• Before you leave, research the 24-hour emergency veterinarian that is closest to your hunting area. In certain emergencies – such as a dog suffering heat exhaustion or getting impaled by a stick – the closest vet is the place you should go first. Enter this number into your phone. And since phone batteries sometimes go dead, put the number on a slip of paper and slip it into your wallet.
• Bring a first aid kit for your dog.
• Remember, on an early fall trip, your dog can overheat. Make sure to bring water. Have your dog rest if he is exerting himself too much. If the day is unseasonably warm, use extra caution. And review these tips for protecting your dog from heat.
• In late fall, it’s the cold that requires caution. Remember, dogs can get frostbite too. Don’t overdo it.
• In early fall, consider an orange vest for your dog – to make sure other hunters can see him. Make sure it’s lightweight, so that your dog won’t overheat.
• In late fall, consider a thicker neoprene vest which will provide some warmth as well as protection from sharp sticks and other things your dog may run into.
• Hunting dogs run so far and so hard that they burn off calories at a rapid rate. So this is a good time to bring a nutritional supplement or at very least, extra food to replenish the calories. Ask your primary care veterinarian for a suggestion.

Overall, be aware of your surroundings and the dangers. If you see porcupines in the brush, be cautious – any altercation will not go well for your dog. In an area with lots of foxtails, be aware that their barbed seeds can be very dangerous to dogs, if they work their way into the skin. Look out for icy water, dangerous terrain and anything else that might pose a hazard.

“And be aware of overexerting your dogs. Working dogs just want to keep going and don’t know that sometimes they should stop,” Wolf said.

Another important part of a hunting trip is to give your dogs a good looking-over after each trip. Look for cuts and scrapes, and especially any embedded foxtails or sharp items which might have gotten painfully lodged in the paws.

BluePearl Veterinary Partners is located in Grand Rapids on the Medical Mile just East of Fuller. Click here to visit their website.

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