We are coming up on our favorite time of year—hunting season. Here in Wyoming an elk season started a couple of weeks ago in a few areas, but in most parts of the country hunting season kicks off with dove season. Toward the south that means it’s going to be hot. Every year some unaware hunters—both human and canine—keel over from heat prostration. Many of them die. It isn’t necessary.
Most folks can take care of themselves. If they feel a little light headed, they’ll seek shade and water. But not all do. Keep an eye out for grandpa. He may be grateful for being included on the hunt, but he may also want to keep quiet about any stress he may be feeling. The same is true for small children. Make sure there is available shade and cool water for everyone.
Dogs will need more water and possibly shade than any human because they are running and working in the heat. Remember that dogs cannot sweat, and their only means of cooling is panting. How far would you get in a fur coat—especially a dark-colored coat—running wind sprints on a 98-degree day?
When I was hunting the desert country for dove I carried at least three gallons of water for each dog, each hunt. That’s separate from the water I brought for me. I want the dog to drink as much as it wants to or can. Too, if my buddy does get a little overheated despite my efforts, I want a gallon to pour over him in an emergency. This isn’t too much of a burden since with most dove hunts there isn’t much walking, and a couple of gallons can be in the truck. On the other hand, if you do have to walk a quarter mile to your stand, bring the water. Burden? Yes, but would you rather have to bury your dog because you didn’t want to bring enough water?
If after watering your dog he still seems a bit listless or distracted he may be suffering from a lack of electrolytes. Sudden vomiting or diarrhea are further symptoms, as is a dry, sticky mouth. There are a number of commercial electrolyte remedies, but I keep a quart of water with a tablespoon each of sugar and salt dissolved in it. If I am rehydrating the dog(s) from a bowl, I’ll usually pour a bit of the electrolyte solution into the regular water to keep the electrolytes up. It’s easier to prevent dehydration and a lack of electrolytes than it is to cure the problem once it has manifested itself.
In acute cases the dog may be unable to drink or keep that which he may have drank down. That’s when you must shut everything down and get him some professional medical attention immediately. That may include an injection of Ringer’s Solution, a solution of ionic salts and sodium bicarbonate. He may also require an IV in really critical situations.
So if you don’t want to see your best huntin’ buddy go to dog Heaven or you get nailed with a costly emergency vet bill, take care of him beforehand.