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Staying healthy before, during and after the hunt

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Many Oklahomans experience hunting fever this time of year. They are just itching and scratching to get to their deer stands and pick out this year’s winner, or walk the grasslands in search of their feathered target.

While the hunting fever is hypothetical, without proper care, for hunters, and their dogs, the illness could become a reality. There are a few handy tips hunting enthusiasts should keep in mind to prevent disease from ticks, insect bites or consumption of sick wildlife.

“Make sure your hunting dogs are up-to-date on their vaccines, especially rabies,” said Dr. Elisabeth Giedt, director of Continuing Education, Extension and Community Engagement at the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences at Oklahoma State University. “You also need to begin, or continue, heartworm prevention medications in consultation with your veterinarian.”

Consult with a veterinarian about tick control. Unlike fleas, some ticks remain active in cold weather. There are several options for tick control in dogs and your veterinarian may recommend topical or systemic tick control treatments.

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends removing attached ticks with fine-tipped tweezers. If tweezers are not readily available, fingers should be shielded with tissue paper, a foil-covered gum wrapper or plastic sandwich bag before grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible, pulling upward with steady, even pressure.

Dogs should not be allowed to eat entrails, raw meat or other offal, as these can spread bacteria and parasites.

The hunters themselves should conduct frequent body checks for ticks during the hunt. Try to avoid wearing the same clothes on consecutive hunting days.

Minimizing the amount of insect bites, with long pants, long-sleeved shirts and odorless bug spray also is a good idea.

Once the animal has been harvested, hunters should avoid eating, drinking or smoking while cleaning the wild fowl or game.

“You should always wear gloves when handling or cleaning the carcass,” said Dwayne Elmore, OSU Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist. “Remove wide margins of tissue around all wounds and minimize contact with the brain or spinal tissues.”

If abnormalities are seen in the intestines, abdominal cavity or chest cavity during cleaning, consider disposing of the entire carcass. Any abnormalities should be reported to the Oklahoma Wildlife Department of Conservation.

“Discard any meat that has come into contact with intestinal contents and try to protect the carcass from flies,” Elmore said. “Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water afterwards.”

Gloves should always be worn while processing the meat, and tools, equipment and working surfaces need to be thoroughly washed and disinfected.

“Do not eat meat from wild game or fowl that appeared ill or abnormal,” Elmore said. “Promptly refrigerate or freeze any uncooked meat and properly wrap and store wild game separate from other foods.”

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