A bird dog can put in a long, tough day. By the end of a hunt, he may be squinting or pawing at his eyes — not a good sign. He's probably got debris in his eyes or, worse, an irritation of some sort. What do you do?
Dogs push their noses, which are followed by their eyes, through a lot of brush and chaff. The flushing breeds — retrievers and spaniels — generally have it the worst; they run with low heads and tend to pick up debris from the grass and brush they run through. Pointers and setters can also have eye problems, however, especially some of the larger breeds with droopy eyes.
You can't change how they hunt, but you can do a quick cleaning at the end of each hunt to keep their eyes clean. You'll need a supply of Q-Tips and some sterile saline solution or some other kind of commercial eye wash.
First, put your dog on the tailgate or somewhere he's easy to work on. Pull apart his eyelids with your thumb and forefinger and examine the pocket between the bottom of the eyeball and the lower eyelid. If his eye has collected weed or grass seeds that's probably where you'll find them.
Next, take a dry Q-Tip and gently swipe the pocket from one end to the other, twisting the Q-Tip a half turn or so as you do. It will pick up any chaff or weed seeds on the first or second swipe. Then do the other eye.
Next, flush them out. Having a helper makes this much easier. Again, pull apart his eyelid, then have your friend give the eye a good long squirt of saline solution. Treat the other eye and you're done.
If your dog is still squinting, he may have a minor irritation, perhaps a small abrasion. For this, carry a tube of over-the-counter eye lubricant. Put a couple drops in the problem eye. If his squinting doesn't clear up in a day or so, take him to a vet — continuous squinting or pawing at his eye may be an indication of something more serious, and you'll definitely want your vet to look at it.
On most hunts, however, a quick, post-hunt cleansing of your dog's eyes will sooth them and keep problems to a minimum.