What about those dewclaws?

The right front paw of Northwoods Blitzen (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2016) shows normal growth and wear on dewclaw and toenails.

The issue of dewclaw removal is worth re-visiting on occasion. It’s not a life-threatening controversy but there is general misunderstanding…beginning with the possibility of a dewclaw tear.

I’ve been training, hunting and trialing pointing dogs for almost four decades. I’ve watched hundreds of dogs work thousands of hours in all kinds of terrain and conditions. Yeah, I’ve seen dewclaws torn but much less than regular nails and not even close to injuries to limbs, tails, eyes, ears and skin.

Besides, dogs use dewclaws. I’ve seen dogs groom themselves and scratch using their dewclaws. And they are used in the field because dewclaws show wear just like regular nails.

Perhaps most importantly, dewclaws are natural parts of canine anatomy. Five tendons attach to each dewclaw. At the end of those tendons are muscles with a distinct function: to prevent torque on the leg. When a dog turns while cantering or galloping, “the dewclaw digs into the ground to support the leg and prevent torque,” Dr. M. Christine Zink, Director and Professor, Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, wrote in the linked paper.

“If a dog doesn’t have a dewclaw, the leg twists,” she continued. After a lifetime of that abuse, carpal arthritis and injuries to elbow, shoulder and toes can result.

Betsy and I don’t remove dewclaws from our puppies. We base that decision on science—on research and clinical observation by Dr. Zink.

Most veterinarians admit that injuries to dewclaws are rare.

Again, Dr. Zink: “It is far better to deal with an injury than to cut the dewclaws off of all dogs ‘just in case.’”


Too much exercise?

With ears flying, Northwoods Vixen (CH Westfall's Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2011) shows plenty of speed. Photo by Chris Mathan.

Photo by Chris Mathan

Is there such a thing as too much exercise for a young dog?

Jerry and I think, yes, there is. So does Turid Rugass, Norwegian dog trainer and behaviorist.

“It’s a common misconception that energetic dogs need a lot of activities and exercise, but in general the rule is that too much physical training and activities doesn’t use up excess energy, but creates more of it, leading to stress.”

In addition, the more exercise a dog gets, the more it needs. When the excessive activity level begins at a young age, the pattern can carry into adulthood and the result can be a stressed-out, high-strung, wound-up dog.

That stress can manifest itself in a couple ways in dogs. Some can’t maintain a healthy weight despite the proper amount of food.  Poor digestion can lead to intermittent bowel problems.

We allow groups of puppies to spend half of each day in the exercise pens. They sleep as much as they play. Both rest and exertion are necessary for good health, mental stability and physical development.

Fenced-in back yards and invisible electric fences are wonderful options for dog owners. It’s easy to simply open the door and let a dog out. But it’s not healthy to allow it to free run all day.

As with most things in life—whether for people or for dogs—balance is essential.

Quick lesson on poisoning and how to induce vomiting

Lucy (on left) is a young setter that recently swallowed a large quantity of TomCat rodent poison but is now recovering. Her kennel-mate in the background is four-year-old Beasley.

Lucy (on left) is a young setter that recently swallowed a large quantity of TomCat rodent poison but is now recovering. Her kennel-mate in the background is four-year-old Beasley.

Jerry and I recently heard from Mike, a friend and client from Minnesota. Mike has bought two setters from us— Beasley in 2011 and last year, Lucy.

“Tuesday afternoon I was driving home, talking to my wife Cynthia who was at home. All of sudden Cynthia was telling Lucy to drop something. When she reached, Lucy swallowed the rest of the mouse poison.

“Within 10 minutes I was home and had the vet on the phone. Per the vet’s instructions I gave her hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. Within 5 minutes Lucy did and there was a lot of poison in her.”

Inducing vomiting in a dog is an extremely valuable medical skill and, fortunately, it’s relatively easy to do.

1.  Have these two supplies on hand:
•    3% hydrogen peroxide
•    syringe (without needle) or turkey baster

2.  Fill the syringe or baster with straight hydrogen peroxide at the dosage of 1 teaspoon per 10 lbs. of dog weight. (One teaspoon equals 5 cc or 5 ml.)

3.  Squirt into the back of the dog’s mouth.

4.  Wait 15 minutes. If the dog hasn’t vomited, the dosage can be repeated once.

Due to quick thinking and action by Mike and Cynthia, Lucy is recovering. Last week, they took her back to their vet for a re-check.

“She is good! We will be giving vitamin K for the next 30 days to help her blood clot. They do want us to keep her quiet for a month. That will be a challenge!!”

CH I’m Blue Gert: a near-fatal accident

Gert is surrounded by soft pillows and cushions after surgery to repair torn ligaments and reposition an out-of-socket hip.

Gert is surrounded by soft pillows and cushions after surgery to repair torn ligaments and reposition an out-of-socket hip.

Late in the afternoon last Wednesday in a remote area of central Minnesota, Dave Moore was grouse hunting with Gert, his eight-year-old, multiple champion English setter. Light was fading and he decided to walk the half hour back to his truck. He popped out of the woods and up onto a gravel road. Gert, meanwhile, was still hunting.

Just then, a pickup careens down the rural, dead-end road. Dave thinks to himself, “Gert, just stay in the woods,” and he stands in the middle of the road, waving his arms. Events unfolded rapidly—the pickup didn’t slow down, Gert sprang out of the woods onto the road and the speeding truck hit her. In a further, unthinkable behavioral breach, the four kids in the truck didn’t stop.

Gert was down and blood seemed to be everywhere. Dave rushed to her and ensured she was alive. He then gently lifted her, back legs dangling like broken sticks, and carried her for the half-hour walk back to the truck.

By now it was pitch dark and Dave drove directly to the veterinarian’s office. The diagnosis was serious—Gert’s right hip was grossly out of its socket, all four ligaments of her right knee were torn and her left leg suffered severe road rash, down to the bone. Incredibly, no bones were broken.

Dave and his wife Rochel own Gert (registered name I’m Blue Gert). They bought her from our 2006 breeding of Blue Silk to the rarely used but talented I’m Houston’s Image. The entire litter was outstanding, producing another grouse champion, Satin From Silk (owned by Greg and Dianne Gress), wonderfully sweet, now deceased Blue Ghost (owned by Mo and Randy O’Brien) and two cool dogs Jerry and I named Boomer and Moxie.

Gert has had quite a year. With full support and encouragement from Dave and Rochel, we leased Gert to breed to our young, handsome Northwoods Grits. During whelping, she had some difficultly and underwent a C-section operation. Within weeks of weaning her three female puppies, Gert was back at work getting in shape for the fall field trial season.

Outfitted with a new-fangled fabric cone, Gert rests in the arms of Rochel Moore.

Outfitted with a new-fangled fabric cone, Gert rests in the arms of Rochel Moore.

Dave’s first message read:  “Gert is so tough.”

On Thursday evening, Dave sent a second message with an uncanny, bittersweet note about Gert and their 14-year-old pointer, Tucker.

“She has surgery in the a.m. for the knee and they will put the hip back in place at the same time. Tucker passed away tonight—he went the Green Mile for Gerty.”

The last message from Dave came this morning:  “She is using her leg just fine. I have her on a leash because she wants to go! I can’t believe it. I didn’t think she could walk for a month.”

It’s true; dogs are tough, as Dave wrote, but resilient and strong, too. And thanks to Dave and Rochel, Gert will get through this. There are still field trials to win. Don’t count her out.

Bird dogs and hidden traps

We still store the traps Jerry used when he was young. The collection includes snare, leg-hold and Conibear traps as well as the necessary chains and stakes. The large trap in front is the 220 Conibear that caught Jerry’s Brittany spaniel in 1985.

We still store the traps Jerry used when he was young. The collection includes snare, leg-hold and Conibear traps as well as the necessary chains and stakes. The large trap in front is the 220 Conibear that caught Jerry’s Brittany spaniel in 1985.

Jerry will never forget the day in 1985 when he saved the life of his first bird dog, a female Brittany spaniel. While pheasant hunting in the river bottoms of southern Minnesota, he heard a brief, odd, exhaling yelp and then nothing. The sight was horrific. His dog’s neck was caught in the jaws of a 220 Conibear trap.

After a moment of panic and a good kick of adrenaline, he worked quickly, cursing a broken safety catch on one side, and pried the trap open. She was free but not breathing and her gums and tongue had turned blue. Jerry performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as the final step.

Fortunately for the dog, Jerry knew about traps and CPR.

From the ages of 11 to 18 years of age, Jerry was a trapper. He used Conibear (although never as large as a 220), snare and leg hold traps, matching trap to quarry—whether fox, raccoon, mink, beaver or muskrat. As required by law, he walked his trap lines every day during the season with a wicker pack basket on his back and gained valuable knowledge about the intricate workings of many kinds and sizes of traps.

Even though Jerry and I haven’t known of any dogs—either ours or dogs owned by friends and clients—killed in traps, we do know of some who were injured. But dogs do die as Doug Smith, outdoor writer for the Twin Cities-based Star Tribune, reported in a piece on January 15, 2013.

We think it behooves all hunters to become familiar with the types of traps they might encounter and how to free a trapped animal.

Snare Trap
Cut the wire (Carry a Leatherman or other tool capable of cutting wire.)

Leg-hold Trap
Step on the spring(s) and the trap will release.

Conibear, also called Body Grip Trap
Print the instructions from the website below and carry with you, along with heavy-duty zip ties as specified at the bottom of the document.

Another life-saving technique that worked for Jerry and his Brittany spaniel is CPR. In addition to resuscitating a dog from a trap, CPR can be useful in other emergency situations.

Many thanks to Chris Bye for the idea of this post.

How to maintain a good weight for your dog

Dog food gets delivered to us by the pallet. When the kennel is humming, we go through about one bag every two days. We feed Pro Plan Sport All Life Stages Performance 30/20 to almost all dogs--whether young, old, dogs in for training, puppies or nursing dams.

Dog food gets delivered to us by the pallet. When the kennel is humming, we go through about one bag every two days. We feed Pro Plan Sport All Life Stages Performance 30/20 to almost all dogs–whether young, old, dogs in for training, puppies or nursing dams.

It’s always disheartening when dogs come in for training and they’re overweight. Among other issues, they lack stamina and concentration and we immediately begin feeding them the proper amount to get them in shape. Just like people, dogs are what they eat and nutrition is key.

Betsy and I recently came across excellent information on the Purina Pro Club website about feeding and keeping dogs at a good weight and we want to share it.

Question answered by Purina Research Scientist Dottie Laflamme.

Question: How important is it to feed dogs on an individual basis versus simply feeding the amount of food suggested on the back of the package?

Answer: The feeding guidelines on a bag or can of food are suggested amounts to feed based on the average energy requirements of dogs. However, many dogs may need more or less than the amount suggested. If your dog is not very active, you might start with less food. If your dog is highly active, you could start with more food.

If you are starting a food for the first time and your dog seems “average,” you should use the guidelines to help you know how much to feed. Of course, if you are feeding other foods as well, such as treats, you should feed less. You should monitor your dog’s weight, then increase or decrease the amount of food offered to attain and maintain a lean body mass in your dog. If you do not have access to a scale, you can monitor changes by using a measuring tape to measure and record the circumference of your dog’s waist (just behind the ribs) and chest (just behind the elbows). These measures reflect body fat and will increase or decrease over time with weight changes.


We feed at about the same time every day. And we always measure!

We feed at about the same time every day. And we always measure!

Keeping Canine Athletes at a Healthy Weight

To perform their best, hardworking dogs must maintain an ideal body condition. Training activities, your dog’s metabolism and nutrition contribute to his body condition. It can be a challenge to keep weight on some canine athletes because regular exercise not only increases the calories an active dog burns, it also increases overall metabolism. Just like people, some dogs naturally have a higher metabolism.

“A dog that is losing weight, particularly muscle mass, is in a catabolic state and may be more susceptible to injury, illness or slower recovery,” says Purina Nutrition Scientist Brian Zanghi, Ph.D.

Intense training coupled with suboptimal nutrition, especially insufficient intake of protein, can cause a catabolic state. Since protein nourishes muscles, underweight canine athletes that do not receive adequate dietary protein may suffer from fatigue and inadequate recovery, which ultimately may impact their performance.

“If a dog is underweight, feeding a nutrient-dense food may help him in achieving a stable body weight and an ideal body condition,” Zanghi says. “If a dog seems fulfilled with his normal daily feeding portion, but still is underweight, feeding a food that is more nutrient-dense may help the dog ingest more calories with a smaller portion size.” This will help the dog get the calories needed before feeling full.

Dog food formulas that contain higher proportions of fat are more nutrient and calorie dense. Performance formulas with 28 to 30 percent protein and 18 to 20 percent fat will deliver more concentrated nutrition compared to maintenance formulas with 22 to 26 percent protein and 12 to 16 percent fat. For example, Purina® Pro Plan® SPORT Performance 30/20 Formula contains 30-percent protein and 20-percent fat to help fuel a dog’s metabolic needs and maintain lean muscle. It has omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil for healthy skin and coat and glucosamine to help support joint health and mobility.

“More important than enriched calorie content, the higher proportion of dietary fat in a performance formula helps ‘prime’ your dog’s muscles to better adapt to exercise and endurance,” says Zanghi.

Sometimes dogs that are underweight are not motivated by food, so it can be harder to get them to eat. Adding water or Purina Veterinary Diets® FortiFlora® as a palate enhancer to the dog’s food can stimulate a greater desire to eat, particularly when traveling or boarded in a kennel.

If a dog is routinely eating twice a day, it may be helpful to switch to once a day, such as after the dog is done exercising or training for the day. His post-workout appetite may improve his ingestion volume. You also should consider whether the dominant behavior of other dogs in the home or kennel may prevent access to food and thus contribute to a dog’s underweight condition. Feeding dogs in separate locations may correct the problem.

Evaluating Your Dog
When it comes to assessing your dog’s body condition, you need to know more than just a number on a scale.

“A dog’s scale body weight tells us nothing about the amount of body fat relative to muscle mass,” Zanghi explains.

By noting some simple features of your dog’s body, you can make a general assessment of his body condition and monitor his body fat. Dogs that are overweight are more susceptible to joint-related health concerns as added weight places extra stress on the joints of an active dog.

Purina veterinary nutritionists developed the nine-point Purina Body Condition System.

Typically, dogs with an ideal body condition of 4 or 5 score should have:
•    An obvious waist behind the ribs when viewed from above
•    A tuck in the belly when viewed from the side
•    Ribs that are easily felt but not seen

To determine your dog’s body condition score, examine his physique by putting your hands on the dog and feeling his ribs. Place both thumbs on the dog’s backbone and spread your hands across the rib cage. You should be able to easily feel the ribs. You also should be able to view the dog’s waist behind the ribs, and an abdominal tuck should be apparent from the side. This is a convenient way to monitor your dog throughout the seasons to know if you should be adjusting your dog’s daily food portion to meet his caloric needs.

Monitoring your dog’s body condition and feeding a high-quality, nutrient-dense food will help ensure your canine athlete is performing at his best.

Tick-borne diseases in dogs

K9 Advantix II and Preventic tick collars are two products used to combat tick-borne diseases.

K9 Advantix II and Preventic tick collars are two products used to combat tick-borne diseases.

Tick-borne diseases are a hot issue across the country. Recently, local, city and state-wide newspapers have published articles about the subject. Even The New York Times deemed the issue worthy and wrote an editorial about Lyme disease in people on Sunday, September 22.

But I particularly noticed a feature story in the current issue of Purina ProClub’s Update . More than any other source, this piece was clear and concise. In addition, an excellent chart (Common Tick-Borne Diseases in Dogs) was included that detailed disease name, tick carrier, pathogen and signs for each of the seven common, tick-borne diseases in dogs.

From that article, listed below are some interesting facts about ticks and tick-borne diseases that all dog-owners need to understand.

Tick facts.
•    Tick populations are at an all-time high this year.
•    Ticks don’t usually transmit disease until 24 to 48 hours after attachment.
•    Ticks often transmit multiple diseases simultaneously.

Diagnosis is tricky and complicated.
•    50% or more of dogs living in Lyme disease endemic regions have positive titers (blood tests) but don’t show symptoms and so aren’t sick.
•    Other tick-borne diseases can cause positive titers also but, again, the dog doesn’t show symptoms and so isn’t sick.
•    The most common indicators of tick-borne disease are nonspecific, such as lethargy, decreased appetite and gastrointestinal signs.
•    There is no perfect test* for tick-borne diseases. A veterinarian should use a combination of historical information, physical examination findings, laboratory tests and how well a dog responds to treatment.

Jerry and I are extremely pro-active about ticks throughout the year but especially during spring and fall when they seem to be most prevalent. We’ve cobbled together our own protocol.

1.    We regularly monitor dogs for ticks, which isn’t difficult because they are easily noticed by petting and stroking.
2.    After time in the woods or fields, we check for ticks. We use a narrow-toothed comb that works well.
3.    We vaccinate puppies with LymeVax by Pfizer (requires two shots the first year) and then administer an annual booster.
4.    During spring and fall, we apply the topical Canine Advantix II every three weeks. This repels and kills black-legged ticks (deer tick), brown dog ticks, American dog ticks and lone star ticks. Active ingredients are imidacloprid, permethrin and pyriproxyfen. It is waterproof but the dog must be dry for 24 hours both before and after application.
5.    During spring and fall, we put on a Preventic Tick Collar by Virbac. This aids in the prevention of Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and babesiosis. Active ingredient is Amitraz. We have one serious precaution—don’t allow a dog to ingest the collar. It only took one time for Jerry and me to learn our lesson. We had two young dogs kenneled together and one chewed the tick collar off the other. All we found was the metal buckle. She became very ill but after induced vomiting and several worrisome days, she survived.

Seresto is a new tick collar from Bayer, introduced in January 2013. This collar slowly releases a chemical that stays on the coat of the dog for the eight-month protection period. Upon the recommendation of our vet, we didn’t try it. He was uncomfortable with the possibility of the chemical’s exposure to people through petting and handling. We’ll revisit this option as more information becomes available.

Even with all the monitoring Jerry and I do and the precautions we take, several of our dogs have become ill with a tick-borne disease. If we notice tell-tale symptoms, we consult with our vet and usually administer the antibiotic doxycycline for 28 days. For puppies, we use amoxicillin. Generally, the symptoms disappear within one or two days and the dog is on the mend.

* Dr. Linda Kidd, Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine in Pomona, California, is leading a one-year research project. Among other issues, her study will determine if comprehensive testing, i.e., using both tests (serology and PCR) instead of the current protocol wherein vets usually test one sample using one test. Another possibility is to test more than one sample.

The two tests are:

Serology detects the presence of antibody, which is one product of the body’s immune response against a pathogen.

PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) screening detects the nucleic acid, the DNA, of the organism itself.

Hazards in the grouse woods

This broken stick was embedded deep in the back of the mouth and into neck tissue of Northwoods Grits when he just a puppy. Our vet expertly removed the stick and Grits recovered perfectly.

The grouse woods are a tough place for a bird dog to work. Big, rotting logs and downed tree limbs are scattered everywhere. Young aspen cuttings and stands of hazel are tight and can be almost impenetrable and swamp edges can be thick with alders. Dogs must be nimble and be able to react quickly for they are constantly jumping over, ducking under and pushing through some sort of obstacle. Other hunting cover types such as field edges, wide open deserts and mowed pine plantations seem tame in comparison.

Grouse dogs have to make their own way in the woods and in addition to being physically demanding, it’s often hazardous.

Our dogs have run into plenty—from mere scrapes and bangs to some very serious situations—but (knock on wood), Betsy and I have yet to lose a dog. Listed below, in alphabetical order, are the hazards we’ve encountered and what we do. Our advice is based on years of experience and guidance from our veterinarians, so much so that we’re now able to handle many of the problems ourselves. When in doubt, though, please go to a vet and go quickly. Often, time is of the essence.


All manner of seeds–some even quite long–can enter a dog’s eye and cause problems.

Eyes:  debris
Seeds and other debris often get in the corners of the eyes and sometimes under the eyelids. One of the worst culprits is a long, black seed that can get under the third eyelid and cause serious abrasion.

What we do:  After each session, we rinse the eyes with sterile eye wash. A dampened Q-tip can be carefully run along the inside bottom of the eye to remove stubborn debris. If a dog develops matter in its eyes or reddened lower lids, we apply Terramycin (non-steroidal, antibiotic ophthalmic ointment) twice a day for 3-5 days.

If a dog paws at its eye or keeps the eye partially closed, something more serious is usually going on. Get the dog to the vet as soon as possible.

Warning:  Never apply steroidal eye ointment on a dog’s eye without consulting a vet.

Eyes:  fur worn off underneath
Certain, hard-driving dogs that would rather go through things than around are prone to wearing off the fur under their eyes. A secondary problem occurs when the area bloodies and scabs over.

What we do:  Vaseline applied carefully (avoid the eyes) works fairly well for protection but usually the problem recurs especially if early in the season. Pace the dog’s time in the woods.

Eyes:  scratches
Occasionally, debris, seeds or sticks can actually scratch the cornea.

What we do:  Some are small enough to heal themselves with assistance from Terramycin (non-steroidal, antibiotic ophthalmic ointment) applied twice a day for 3-5 days. But if the dog paws at its eye or keeps the eye partially closed, get the dog to a vet as soon as possible.

Warning:  Never apply steroidal eye ointment on a dog’s eye without consulting a vet.


The damage to the right eye of Northwoods Rob Roy was caused by an infection that entered through a small scratch. The spot should slowly shrink so it’s barely noticeable.

Eyes:  weird bacterial infection
Last fall, our six-month-old setter puppy Northwoods Rob Roy received what everyone thought was a simple scratch on his eye while hunting in north central Wisconsin. But some sort of bacteria entered the eye via the scratch and, within 24 hours, the situation grew very serious. An infection developed that basically ate away the eyeball until his eye was in danger of bursting. With hourly applications of antibiotic drops and miraculous assistance from Chris Bye and Dan Stadin, we kept Roy quiet until our vet performed a complicated corneal graft surgery. The surgery was successful but Roy is still on eye drops and will always have a small, grayish spot on his cornea.

Lesson learned:  Be extremely vigilant of seemingly minor injuries.


Randy got an mouthful of porcupine quills.

Porcupine quills
Betsy and I have been fortunate to have few problems with porcupines but I’ve seen bad ones. Sometimes a dog (usually males…pointer males are the worst) will actually hunt for porcupines. A lot depends on the dog’s temperament and its first encounter.  If the result is just a few quills, it usually doesn’t develop into an issue.  But if the dog gets a mouthful because it’s trying to kill the porcupine, the problem can be life-long.

What we do:  For just a few quills and a cooperative dog, remove the quills with a Leatherman tool or hemostat. Be careful to get them all and don’t break any. Quills left in the dog can migrate around the body and exit through the neck, jaw and eyes.  If in doubt, get the dog to a vet to check for remaining quills. For a bad encounter, get the dog to a vet.

Scrapes:  belly and inner thighs
Grasses, ferns and thorns can scrape the belly and inner thigh area and sometimes cause a secondary problem of small pustules. This is more common on certain breeds (pointers) and under certain conditions (early season or open fields and meadows).

What we do:  Apply Bacitracin (first aid antibiotic ointment) and rest the dog.

Scrapes:  knuckles and forelegs
Gear on the neck—whether ecollars, tracking collars, beepers, bells or Garmins— can hang too low, be too big or be too much.  It can also be a matter of mechanics, i.e., a dog that runs with a low head and/or raises its front legs.

What we do:  Make adjustments to the neck gear. Try switching from a bell to a beeper, place the bell on top of the neck and/or have the gear ride higher on the neck. Or use less gear.

Scrapes:  legs
Grasses, ferns and thorns can abrade fur and/or scrape legs. Foreleg (where the legs meet the chest) abrasion is caused by running through tall grass. Again, both are more common on certain breeds (pointers) and under certain conditions (early season or open fields and meadows).

What we do:  Apply Bacitacin (first aid antibiotic ointment) and rest the dog.

Scrapes:  wrists
The wrists are the part of the leg above and behind the pad. Abrasions and scrapes to this area are caused by woody stubs, thick brush, etc.

What we do:  Apply Bacitracin (first aid antibiotic ointment) or EMT gel and rest the dog.

Some grass seeds can be ingested through the mouth as the dog pants or enter the body through the skin. The most dangerous seeds have small barbs that allow them to penetrate farther as muscles and skin contract. These seeds can become encapsulated near the skin surface and cause localized swelling, or worse, can migrate into the body cavity.

What we do:  Be vigilant about masses near surface, especially at the end of the rib cage. All of our dogs that developed such a mass required a trip to the vet.

Sticks and other foreign stuff
Betsy and I have had several dogs get a puncture-type wound in the pad, foot and ankle area from sticks and stiff weeds. Dogs can also drive stuff into other body parts, such as mouth, nose, neck, throat and chest. While these are rarely life threatening, I’ve had two very close calls.

One of my first setters, Patch, got a stick in his neck. When I pulled the stick out, blood immediately gushed out. So I stuck my finger over the hole and hurried to a vet.

More recently, Northwoods Grits somehow got a five-inch stick embedded deep in his mouth and into his neck. I couldn’t see anything at first but when I checked later in the evening, he was definitely not feeling well. Wayne, a physician/friend/guiding client, felt what turned out to be the end of stick. We rushed him to the vet. Amazingly, no surgery was required; the vet simply sedated Grits and pulled the stick out.

What we do:  All but the most obvious of these injuries will require a trip to the vet.


One ingenious method to protect a broken tail is an empty plastic syringe case.

Tails:  broken
Broken tails are an uncommon occurrence.  The break usually occurs about ¼ to 1/3 from the tip and results in a slightly bend at the break.  The fracture can be felt by very gently palpating the bent area.

What we do:  While some breaks heal on their own with no long-term problems, we advise a trip to the vet. Our vets have successfully set severe breaks. One ingenuously covered the broken area with an empty syringe case. The difficult part is keeping the tail relatively quiet for 4 – 6 weeks.

Tails:  fur worn off, bloody
Some breeds (pointers) and some dogs (very active tail…carried just so) are prone to wearing the fur off the tip of the tail. Eventually the skin becomes thin and the tail bleeds.

What we do:  This is a tough one. Apply EMT gel for protection before heading into the woods. To help heal the area after hunting, apply more EMT gel. We’ve tried several methods of taping—all with limited success because tails move so much. Dave Hughes, pro grouse dog trainer, developed a method that worked fairly well for later in the season and/or if the tail was in bad shape. From the tip to just above the base, wrap loosely with masking tape. Then wind electrical tape in a candy-cane design over the masking tape. Be very careful when taping so there’s not too much weight or the tape isn’t too tight.

Tick-borne diseases
An entire post could be devoted to this subject as it is complicated and generally in flux as new discoveries are made. Here is the pertinent information…currently.

Lyme disease (caused by bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato), ehrlichisos (caused by bacteria in the genera Erlichia), anaplasmosis (caused by bacteria in the genera Anaplasma ; very confusing taxonomy between Erlichia and Anaplasma with continual changes by the scientific community), babesiosis (caused by protozoa Babesia microti) and other tick borne diseases yet to be identified are a major problem in certain parts of the country.

One fall, several dogs in our kennel become symptomatic but nothing could be identified (even by Marshfield Labs!). Common signs of the diseases are lameness in one or more legs caused by joint pain or muscle pain, high fever (often over 104), intermittent elevated fever, loss of appetite and, depending on the specific disease, nausea and vomiting.

What we do:  We administer the antibiotic doxycycline for 30 days. Within a day or two, the symptoms disappear. If a dog is under nine months of age, consult a vet about the correct antibiotic to use since doxycycline can cause problems with teeth in puppies.

Torn dew claws
Betsy and I think this is an extremely uncommon and overrated problem. In fact, for many reasons, we don’t remove dew claws on tiny puppies anymore. We’ve had less than a handful of these injuries and none was serious.

What we do:  Clip off any remaining part of the nail and disinfect daily Bacitracin (first aid antibiotic ointment). Rest the dog for a day or two.

Carly Simon: You probably think this post is about you

Accidents do happen—to people and to pets. At the very least they can be painful, expensive and disruptive to daily life. At their worst (ask Joe Mauer or Tom Brady) they can eliminate a star athlete from the roster for an entire season.

For a grouse hunter, the equivalent loss is an accident that removes a promising young dog from his string.

Monday, July 30 was a quintessential summer day in Minnesota—blue skies, bright sun and a slight breeze. Jerry was up early and out of the house to exercise a group of dogs from the four-wheeler. Some he would free-run; others would be harnessed to bars and roaded. Not one hour later, Jerry rushed back into the house, his face ashen and anxious.  He exclaimed, “Carly is hurt!”

An accident had broken all four metatarsal bones in Carly’s rear right foot. The breaks were clean but severe. Pins were inserted into the two larger middle bones and the leg was encased in a hard cast. Stern rules were issued about no exercise. Only short walks on short leads to relieve herself would be allowed. She would have to be confined to the house and, for a good part of each day, a crate.

Northwoods Carly Simon was whelped in 2011 out of Blue Shaquille and Houston’s Belle’s Choice. (That was the year of naming puppies after rock stars and Bob, her owner, chose Carly Simon. The name fits her perfectly.) She had been stellar last fall as a puppy and had shown incredible talent earlier this year in Tennessee on bobwhite quail. Her pain and loss were keenly felt.

Throughout this ordeal, Carly has made the best of each challenge. She adapted effortlessly to her new routine and seemed, in fact, to gain confidence and strength.  She stands stoically while we put on her big plastic bonnet. She was easy to house-break and, in fact, never had an accident. She even loves swallowing the endless rounds of antibiotics when hidden in small slices of wieners.

She has tolerated everything she’s had to endure not only with calmness but, judging by her tail, with happiness.

Some two months later, Carly is now on the home stretch. The pins have been removed and the hard cast has been replaced by a soft cast with a metal support. Soon even that will come off and we’ll begin exercise and rehabilitation.

The timing should be good. Carly will be ready to get into the grouse woods for some of that excellent, late-season hunting.

First aid kit for bird dogs

Even though the cupboard in our kennel office has shelves full of pills, bottles, solutions and salves, Jerry keeps his traveling first aid kit to about two dozen supplies. Whether he’s training, hunting or guiding, this red box (a fishing tackle box) is always handy. Over the years, Jerry has performed countless field dressing and stapling jobs which, not only help the dog in need, but speed recovery and reduce long-term complications.

Listed below are the general supplies and the field supplies Jerry considers essential for his traveling first aid kit.

General Supplies

  • Amoxicillin:  general antibiotic
  • Benadryl:  allergic reactions
  • Buffered aspirin:  pain
  • Duct tape (of course!)
  • Metronidazole:  giardia
  • Pepto Bismol:  diarrhea
  • Q-tips
  • Rimadyl:  anti-inflammatory (by vet prescription only)
  • Thermometer
  • Vaseline

Field Supplies

  • Betadine:  liquid disinfectant
  • Dog Booties:   protect pads
  • EMT Gel:  use on cuts, tips of tails
  • Eye wash (sterile):  flushes out seeds and other debris
  • Gauze
  • Nutri-cal:  quick supplement for low blood sugar, weakness
  • Scissors
  • Stapler
  • Tape
  • Triple antibiotic ointment:  prevents infection and provides temporary pain relief due to cuts, scraps and burns
  • Triple antibiotic ophthalmic ointment (non-steroidal):  works for minor eye irritations but not scratches
  • Tuf-Foot:  heals and toughens pads
  • Vet wrap

Many of the supplies are the same that people use and so are easily purchased. We also buy certain supplies from our vet, including the prescription-only Rimadyl. Otherwise, we order from catalogs such as Lambert Vet Supply and Lion Country Supply.

Northwoods Birds Dogs    53370 Duxbury Road, Sandstone, Minnesota 55072
Jerry: 651-492-7312     |      Betsy: 651-769-3159     |           |      Directions
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©2018 Northwoods Bird Dogs  |  Website: The Sportsman’s Cabinet