The success of a day's shooting is dependent on many factors; some of which are in our control and some of which are unfortunately not. Whether you're in the beating line or eagerly awaiting your first shot on the peg, our gundogs are an essential part of the day. There is no doubt these animals live for a day in the field, working tirelessly over all types of ground. With this there is always a risk of injury, and all we can do as dog owners is everything in our power to try to avoid and treat injuries promptly. Here are some common complaints, what to look out for, and what you might be able to do to prevent or at least detect them.

alabama rot

A hot topic at the moment, very little is known about this potentially fatal disease affecting dog's skin and kidneys. Since 2012 cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV) has become more prevalent in the UK and affected dogs have usually been walked in muddy woodland, generally in winter and spring. Sadly, the only way to confirm the disease is at Post Mortem.

Symptoms

Visual signs:

  • Sores, wounds or ulcers on the skin, usually around the paws, legs, abdomen and mouth

Signs of kidney failure:

  • Reduced appetite 
  • Changes in thirst and urination 
  • Vomiting 
  • Tiredness/lethargy

Prevention

Because there is a proposed link to walking in muddy areas:

  • Keep away from very muddy areas
  • Wash your dog thoroughly after walking or working
  • Know the signs to look out for and check your dog over regularly

skin infections

Running through thick brambles and boggy moorland can lead to nasty skin infections, usually on the dog’s undercarriage. Scratches allow bacteria to enter the skin, often producing fairly impressive bright-green pustules. If superficial, these shouldn’t need antibiotic tablets but may benefit from washing and applying a topical cream.

Prevention

Try to bath or hose your dog after they’ve been working, ideally using an antibacterial shampoo containing chlorhexidine.

LEPTOSPIROSIS

Caused by bacteria and most likely to be spread via water contaminated with rat urine, leptospirosis (or Weil’s disease) can cause acute kidney failure and liver damage and is often life-threatening if not caught early. Once confirmed, treatment with appropriate antibiotics and supportive treatment can be instigated.

Symptoms

  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Drinking more and urinating more

Prevention

Puppies should receive two vaccinations against Weil’s disease as part of their primary vaccinations then annual boosters thereafter. There are two main types of vaccinations currently available in the UK so speak to your vet about the most appropriate.

HYPOGLYCAEMIA/DEHYDRATION

We regularly see dogs succumb to low blood sugar levels and dehydration on shoot days, potentially resulting in collapse and even death. Even my own cocker spaniel has been close to collapsing after overdoing it in Scotland, but luckily a good helping of stew and dumplings fixed her! It’s old-fashioned to think that you don’t need to feed your dog on a shoot day. They cover a huge amount of distance and need the calories to keep them going.

Prevention

Don’t skip breakfast, just allow enough time before exercising. Feed regular small meals or snacks and allow them to drink throughout the day

GRASS SEEDS

Pesky grass seeds can become lodged in spaniel’s ears, the webbing between their toes and in the worst-case scenario can be inhaled, causing pneumonia and abscesses in the chest. Frantically shaking their heads and scratching at ears, persistent coughs and general malaise are all reasons to investigate further.