Ticks, thorns, torn dewclaws and knocked-up nails, seeds in the eyes and toes, cut pads ? the list goes on. Keeping your dog sound and in good working shape can sometimes be a challenge. You stand a better chance, however, if you?ve got some idea about how to deal with the basic problems that your dog might be unfortunate enough to pick up or suffer from on a shoot day or when working.

There is no getting around the fact that a trip to the vet is a costly experience and many dog owners are not in a position to insure their dog to compensate for this. In particular, for those who have a large kennel of dogs, or hunts, for example, it just isn?t always feasible to nip to the vet?s every time a dog or hound looks under the weather. The fact remains that, out of necessity, many dog owners and huntsmen have gained the knowledge and experience to do much of the vet work themselves ? and they do it well ? though much scepticism and controversy remains on both their part and the vets?.

Ex-professional huntsman Cliff Standing, who trained Hardy Admiral, the runner-up in the last Waterloo Cup in 2005, knows a thing or two about keeping hounds and dogs sound. ?Every huntsman would have his own remedies for ailments or infections: friar?s balsam, iodine and so on, but one of the greatest headaches for a hunstman is dead thistles. They are a particular hazard when walking out and parading at shows in the summer.

The farmer would have cut the thistles to make the field look tidy for the show, but the dead, dry thistles are incredibly sharp and easily get into the pad and skin of a hound. It usually takes about a week for the thistle to work into a cavity and set up an infection ? I would pare back the dead skin and release the poison. Thorns can be a problem out hunting, but are much easier to deal with as they are evident immediately.

?One of the problems we have with greyhounds is broken or dislocated toes. They must be bound up immediately, using the other toes as a splint, with cotton wool in between. You wouldn?t dream of walking the dog off the field, even if you were going to take it to the vet.

?A blow to a nail will usually set up an infection, and the pressure it causes will need to be reduced,? Cliff continued. On the subject of feet and nails, ripped dewclaws are a common problem associated with working gundogs, usually a result of being caught and torn on wire or in thick cover. Equally, ripped or torn stomachs and stifles on barbed wire are a nuisance and often require stitching. Hypothermia and tiredness is another concern, particularly when duck shooting, for example.

A pad sliced open is something that we all dread as there isn?t any skin there; it?s all hard and tough, and heals with difficulty. Indeed, this is exactly what happened to Shooting Times reader Tony Baker?s spaniel Brandy. A badly cut pad resulted in a long, drawn-out and costly process of repeated visits to the vet before Brandy was back on track. It goes without saying, though, that if you are ever in doubt, seek veterinary advice.

Vets Opinion

Harvey Carruthers is a practising vet in London. He says: ?Cut pads often mean that dogs need to rest for about three weeks. The skin around the foot heals quickly, but the horny pad can take much longer. I usually place deep single stitches, and apply a dressing for 12 to 48hrs. Then I protect the foot with a Mikki Boot?, which can be ordered from numerous online pet shops. Where the wound is clean and small, I do not always stitch pads; usually natural healing, with protection from a boot, takes a similar time. Flush cut pads copiously with clean water, remove foreign material from the wound and apply a temporary dressing. Always keep an emergency bandage in your pocket.?