First Aid for Fish Hook Injuries
Dogs are great companions while fishing, but they are often attracted by shiny lures and bait. If a fishhook should become embedded in the dog’s paw, mouth, esophagus or stomach it requires special care (including sedation, minor surgery, endoscopy and pain medications) to remove it. We typically don’t recommend attempting to remove this by yourself, as you can cause severe damage (to both you and your dog).
Also, while most dogs are good swimmers, not all are. In fact, some dogs can drown (see the guidelines for “Near Drowning”). Always supervise your pet while they are swimming outdoors.
What To Watch For
Some fishing bait, like minnows, leaches, or frogs, are delicacies for dogs and attract their attention. Even non-live bait contains attractant smells or shiny colors that lure your dog towards your hook. Due to the multiple barbs on the hooks, fishhooks can be very difficult to remove without sedation, minor surgery, and pain medication. Excessive damage can also be caused if you pull on the fishing line and hook, which can be fatal if mouth tissue, esophagus, or stomach is torn. If you see fishing line hanging out of your pet’s mouth, never pull on it and seek veterinary attention immediately.
Fishing accidents usually occur when baited hooks are left unattended and accidentally swallowed or get stuck in tissue (like the mouth, cheek, or paw). Swallowing fishing line can also be a medical emergency, and result in trauma to the lining of the esophagus and/or stomach and may cause intestinal obstruction (i.e., linear foreign body).
If the hook (including the barb) is embedded in a paw, immediately cover it (to prevent further damage or your pet from chewing, licking, or swallowing it), and take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Meanwhile, if the hook is caught in a lip, follow these guidelines:
- When in doubt, this is best removed by your veterinarian. If you are not near a veterinarian, you may consider removing this on your own, but be aware that you can cause worse damage.
- Restrain and muzzle your dog, avoiding the area where the hook has penetrated the lip.
- If the barb is not visible, use pliers to push the hook through the lip.
- Once the barb is visible, cut it off or crush it down using wire cutters.
- Pull the remaining part of the hook back out of the lip, in the same direction it entered.
- Call your veterinarian for advice on further treatment.
If the hook is in the mouth or not visible, keep him/her calm and take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
If your pet had a fishhook removed from his or her skin, it typically doesn’t need antibiotics or pain medications (once the hook is gone, your pet is pretty well fixed). Tetanus vaccines are also not usually necessary, as dogs are relatively resistant to the infection. However, the site should be checked once or twice a day to make sure there are no signs of infection, pus, redness, or swelling. If there are adverse signs, a visit to your vet is imperative – antibiotics may be necessary.
If your pet swallowed a fishhook, anesthesia and endoscopy or surgery may be necessary to carefully remove the hook; in addition, stomach protectants and antibiotics are needed for a few days to reduce any irritation or ulceration to the esophagus and stomach as well to control secondary infections.
- Always keep unused lures and bait covered and away from inquisitive pets.
- If possible, only prepare a single lure at a time, covering all equipment and bait as quickly as possible.
- When casting your line, it’s always best to have your pet secured in a safe area; accidental casting can result in a hook getting stuck in your pet or a two-legged friend!