September 14, 2016
I wouldn't wish explosive canine diarrhea on my worst enemy. Thankfully, this episode was taking place outside.
We were heading back after a hunt when one of the dogs locked up at the edge of the cattails. I was carrying gear and a strap of ducks, so had no desire to bust up whatever he'd cornered.
Too late, I realized the dog did not have a harmless pheasant pinned, as a black-and-white furry tail zipped across the stubble field like a giant middle-finger salute.
Instead of pursuing his quarry, the sorry canine began coughing and hacking. He'd taken a full blast from Pepé Le Pew right down the gullet, the effects of which were frighteningly swift. It started with some gut-wrenching heaves, followed by a thorough colon cleanse.
I wrestled with the idea of carrying him to the truck, but after 10 minutes of fits, he shook it off and continued as if nothing had happened.
That was not my first dog-skunk encounter, but it certainly was the most eventful.
Hunt long enough, and Fido is bound to meet a prairie polecat. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the spray itself can cause temporary blindness if it gets in your dog's eyes, so carry some saline solution or fresh water and immediately flush their eyes. There are rare chances for more severe reactions. When in doubt, head to the vet.
However, most folks just need to deal with the smell. For that, forget the tomato juice. The best recipe was invented in the 1990s by chemist Paul Krebaum. An article from the Chicago Tribune explained how he mixed 1-quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup of baking soda and a teaspoon of liquid soap to help with a co-worker's cat that had been sprayed.
I can attest that this stuff works. Lather it thoroughly into problem areas, but avoid the mouth and eyes. Let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse with fresh water. Repeat as necessary.
In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that skunks accounted for nearly a quarter of all rabies cases in the U.S. So be sure your retriever is up to date on shots before heading on a hunt.
Unfortunately, skunks are just the tip of the critter iceberg. Porcupines aren't as at home in wetlands, but I've seen my fair share in tree rows on the way to a pond.
If your dog gets quilled, have someone help keep it contained and then use a trusty pliers or multi-tool to start yanking. It's not pretty, and there's no shortcut. Then go to the vet. A buddy's pup was quilled one season, and they still had quills working out two weeks after the fact.
Folks in the southern U.S. have other creatures to be wary of, too. Gators and cottonmouths certainly make skunk spray appear tame by comparison, but they're also reptiles, which means they're most active in warm weather.
So if you're in reptile-rich waters during the heat of early teal season, keep your furry buddy at home until cooler weather comes through.
Regardless of where you hunt ducks and geese, dogs are bound to run into critters of the non-feathered variety. Being prepared and knowing how to react when they do could save some headaches — and vet bills.