What do I do if my dog has a gunshot wound?

Gunshot wounds are most likely on a hunt, so you should know what kind of gun the dog got hit with. What to do depends on what it was:

A shotgun wound:

If the dog has been hit by a shotgun, it may or may not be serious depending on how far away the dog was. Shotgun pellets tend to spread apart and lose force rapidly as they get further away, so it is possible for the dog to be hit without being seriously injured. You should:

1) Take the dog out of the hunt - stop the hunt if you have to. It can be hard to get even seriously injured dogs to stop hunting sometimes.


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2) Examine the dog. Even if the dog is not bleeding, the wound could still be serious. Watch for injuries to the eyes or mouth - they're soft tissue areas and can be more serious if the pellets hit there. Feel the dog and see if it shows pain anywhere. Also watch out for any swelling, breathing problems, or limping. Any of these mean you need an immediate vet visit. You are better off taking the dog to see a vet after the hunt is over even if you think the wound is minor, because sometimes it can be deceptive.

3) Watch the dog closely. Some problems develop over a day or two - one pellet in the gut or the lungs can be fatal to the dog over a few days, but you won't see symptoms at first.

I should stress again that an immediate vet visit is best - but some hunters may not be able to do this depending on where they are when hunting.

A bullet wound:

A bullet wound from any other gun is very dangerous. Unless it is a graze, which should be obvious (it will look like a scrape and there will be no entry wound), you need to take the dog to the vet. Bullets can fracture and can glance off bones to go in strange directions, so there isn't really a way for the dog to have been hit that isn't dangerous. The dog needs to go immediately to the vet.

I have not found any specific information on bullet wounds in dogs and how to treat them, but there is a site here that tells you what to do with humans, and in an emergency that's about all you can do - put pressure on the wound to stop bleeding, and use a tourniquet if it's a limb. Remember that a wound like that is easily infected, so clean yourself up as best as possible before messing with it, and keep the dog from rolling in the dirt.  

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