First Aid in the Field

It’s rare for a working gundog to get through its life without a few cuts and minor injuries. Occasionally something more serious happens. But are we prepared? In a series of articles we will look at practical first-aid for dogs in the field. Here vet REBECCA BAILEY looks at the essential piece of kit we should all carry – a good first-aid kit.

First Aid is exactly as the name suggests, it is the first treatment you give to manage the problem and so assess whether further medical help needs to be sought. In the next few articles I will endeavour to explain how to manage a few of the main injuries encountered in the field and when it may be appropriate to consult your vet for further treatment. It is true that generally a good dose of common sense is often sufficient, however this is liable to desert any of us when confronted by blood and gore!

To begin, it is important that you have the appropriate kit. Most of the items you may already have at home, however it is more a case of having them all at hand when you need them. On every shoot day or excursion there should be at least one good first aid kit available.

The kit

Blanket/towel Water Water bowl Tea towel Sticking tapes: duct tape/electrical tape/masking tape/Elastoplast Gloves: latex/garage forecourt type Hand cleanser Antiseptic solution Vaseline Cotton Wool Dressing materials: non-adhesive first layer, padding, self adhesive top layer Plastic bag and elastic band Scissors Tweezers Wire cutters/pliers Torch Biscuits/treats Muzzle


I tend to use an old cheese biscuit or ice cream tub to put everything in and when putting the kit together I try to think of the order in which I would approach the problem when choosing my items.
Stopping the bleeding if I am faced with huge volumes of blood that suggests a severed vessel all I would recommend is the application of pressure. A rolled up tea-towel is great, you can make a good thick pad of material and tape it firmly over the affected area. If there is enough blood to warrant this DON’T be tempted to have another look – consult a vet!

Cleaning up

For less severe wounds and tears you can afford to take a slightly slower approach.

Finding the wound may be the first problem even if there is blood as it is likely to be hidden under mud or fur. A bottle of water is very useful not only for the dog but to wash hands and flush wounds.

For cleaner hands you can use rubber gloves (available from chemists, vets or the garage forecourt) or now gel hand sanitiser which can be found in high street chemists. A mild antiseptic solution is also good, dilute Savlon you may have at home, or some others such as Hibiscrub will be available from the vets.


If the wound is in a place where a bandage can be applied then cover it. Again a lot of us will already have some bandages, they are easily obtainable from chemists or vets and do not need to be expensive. Try get a selection: a non-adherent gauze or lint is a good first layer then aim to have a layer to pad and a layer to hold it all in place. Open weave bandages are suitable to hold padding in place but may slip if not firm. If you can get hold of some self-adhesive crepe-type dressings these should keep everything together for a while, failing that masking tape, duct tape and insulating tape are fine. For minor skin abrasions a layer of Vaseline will help protect and slow bleeding.

Other items

For the next set of items imagine different scenarios:

  • getting dark early – have a torch
  • visible thorn/prickle – tweezers
  • dog caught in barbed wire –pliers/wire cutters

It doesn’t take too much imagination, or experience, to realise that there are all sorts of little emergencies that you can be prepared for with a bit of forethought.


Nearly all of us know of a case where a dog has collapsed or gone wobbly. The finer details are still being investigated but, as many people do already, I would carry some biscuits or treats just to help keep energy levels up. DON’T give anything if surgery is likely to be needed as this may delay the anaesthetic. Be careful with chocolates as those with high cocoa solids content can be very toxic.


Even the most placid of dogs may bite when frightened or in severe pain. Never be afraid to use a muzzle either a manufactured one or a piece of bandage tied around the nose. Your fingers will be required to deal with the dog!

In conclusion, the more people I speak to, the more useful items I discover for a first aid kit. For example someone I saw lately said she used the sleeve of a sweatshirt to put over her dog’s head to help control bleeding from a torn ear –excellent tip! Hopefully the items I have mentioned will be enough to deal with most emergencies and their uses can be varied depending on the moment.

Header Image by Perthshire Picture Agency

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