The safest way

What I learned yesterday on our long walk was that the safest way you think is not necessarily the safest anyhow. Simply because you have to expect the unexpected all the time.

And because accidents happen.

We had been walking about 20 minutes when a rabbit decided to test his skills in speed and agility, pitting his existence against three Irish Wolfhounds in decent fitness. All warmed up and ready to go.

And off they went.

It was a short chase, though, because the terrain and undergrowth of the forest gave the rabbit a distinct competitive advantage. Two of the three came back all intact, while the third, the most keen on the living prey, came back slightly limping. After a short inspection we deducted that it was nothing, just a small scrape on her toe, which we tended there and then.

We continued the rest of the walkies, total of 2 hours and 15 minutes, and noticed how this dog was not up to her standard movement, as if she was sore all over.

At home it became apparent that she has injured herself in a way or another: most probably the rabbit has taken straight 90 degree turn to the left, cutting in between two piles of logs, and the dog has done the same, spraining something in doing it. 5 kg causes much less strain to the body than 45 kg, simple physics.

So she’s forced to rest. The European Championships are a bit over a week from here.

She’s giving the other competitors a head start.



Oh my, oh my. We’ve been hit by the first real heatwave here in Finland. The daily temperatures go nicely above 25 deg C, meaning that the dogs are completely out of order during the day. Only at evening, or night to be precise, are we able to do any reasonable walkies with them. Like yesterday.

Hot weather can be dangerous to the dog, just as it can be dangerous to us people. What makes it more difficult for the dog -especially a dog with scruffy coat like Irish Wolfhound- to endure excessive heat is the fact that the dog has so limited ways to naturally cool herself down. The dog sweats only from her paws. The heat exchange is only through panting, aka mouth and tongue.

So how to cope with the excessive heat?

First of all, take care the dog has water, preferably cool water, available all the time. Not cold because that is considered to be one of the reasons to gastric torsion bloat. Which can be fatal – and very often is.

Naturally, spraying water on the dog is a good way to cool the dog down, but only as long as the water can dissipate from the coat naturally. I would prefer having a cooling mantle for the dog, or a blanket which you can tie on the dog. The blanket can be drenched with water and it cools the dog down by the same way as the water sprayed on her: dissipation of the water requires quite an amount of energy, thus cooling down. Wet blanket/mantle is the best external way to keep the dog cooled down.

But. There is always a but in these guidelines. Do not rub the the water into the coat and then put the wet mantle on top of that! This creates a steam bed inbetween the dogs sking (which is warm) and the exterior of the dog’s coat (which is insulated by the water which cannot dissipate due to the cooling wet blanket) and this can create even more heat on the dog! This applies also to the dog who has been swimming: do not put a wet towel/blanket/mantle on her!!!

The best way to cool down a dog -both in hot weather and after an exercise- is to dip her into the water as deep as her belly: the next-to-hairless area inside of the dogs legs have some massive veins, and thus the blood is fast cooled down to cool the rest of the body. After all, blood runs through the heart at the rate of a couple of times in a minute, even faster when exercisign, so the cooling is very effective through the “internal route”. This works also as a first aid in a situation where a dog has ‘over exercised’ and needs fast cooling down.

The cool water dip is also a good way to speed the recovery after a heavy exercise or competition.

Of course, the best way to keep the dog well in a hot summer day is to keep her in the cool shadows and not force her to work in excess of relieving herself.

Take care of your dogs and don’t leave them in the car or in direct sunlight!

Be prepared…

Than boy scout motto seems to be the saviour for us from time to time: you see, we have always quite an arsenal of stuff with us both in competitions and on normal -longer- walkies. The competition set has everything from emergency first aid material to pliers and cutters in case the muzzle breaks. Hopefully we never have to use them, but you never know. The walkies first aid kit is just for the emergencies, and it’s a bit lighter version of the competition one: then again, in the competitions there is always a veterinarian available, so the need for anything more than the basic bandages is exaggeration.

As it happens, Lady Luck has her ways on evening things out. Our dogs were victorious during the weekend, so it was time to bring us down to the earth again. My wife took the three competing ones to a light and short walk to the woods to help the recovery from the competition. As if they really needed it, as they were so active and alive already… Never the less, even though the dogs don’t show that they are sore from the activity, they need to move to keep the muscles recovering and ‘pumping’ the excessive waste from the muscles. The lactic acid and it’s burned out residues don’t just dissipate from the muscle, but they have to be transferred to the blood stream from which they are filtered to urine.

So off to the woods they went. And from the woods they returned after some 10-15 minutes, during which time the following happened:

1. Fiona, the first time competitor, was constantly on the move, trying to find a prey to chase: something she had already done earlier, but this time she was completely out of control.
2. The older dogs, Ness and Zaida, also were extremely active, taking the cue of the youngster. So they roamed around the woods with way more speed and energy than was needed.
3. As it happens, Ness got a deep cut in his paw.

So, one cut and off to the vet, blood dripping from the foot.

Sole of one toe was cut cleanly for about 2/3 of the whole sole, to the depth of about half a centimeter. It took a sedation and seven stitches to repair the damage, after which the foot was bandaged so that it looks like the big feller has a boxing glove on his foot…

So, the next two weeks are very, very quiet for Ness, after which we have to start the fitness building almost from nothing. First the kennel cough, then the first foot cut (cut a blood vessel in the foot that time…) and now this. I’m beginning to wonder whether we’ve been too lucky so far and lady luck is really trying to even things out.

It takes time, and patience, but in the end, it pays to be prepared.

Have you checked your first aid kit? How about your dog’s kit?