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Contact information for Veterinary Clinic of Big Sky, Big Sky, MT: (406) 995-2266 Sid Gustafson DVM Clinic mailing address: 48025 Gallatin Rd #5 Gallatin Gateway, MT 59730 natureswayvet@​

Hand-crafted floating, no sedatives or motorized equipment, gentle handling and training.

What Horses Want

Veterinary Clinic of Big Sky, Big Sky, MT (406) 995-2266

Promoting healthy and willing partnerships with animals.
Quality medical and surgical services.
Preventive Health, Medicine, Surgery, and Dentistry.
Pet and horse nutrition.
Orthopedics, Cardiology, Digestion, Ophthalmology.
Physical therapy. Acupuncture. Immunizations.
Urgent care. Ranch and house calls.
Drug-free heartworm & flea prevention for Big Sky dogs.
Natural Approaches to Pet and Horse Health.

Serving Big Sky and Gallatin County since 1983!

Hours 9am-5pm Monday through Thursday.
Dr Sid Gustafson is your local Big Sky Veterinarian, serving Gallatin County animals and animal lovers since 1983.
Sophisticated Animal-Friendly Atmosphere.
Medicine and Surgery.
Diagnosis and Therapy.
Wellness, Nutriton, and Behavior.

First Aid for the Active Dog

In this concise dog first aid manual, veterinarian Sid Gustafson shares his healing art with all those who treasure their dog’s health, healing, safety, and welfare. Dr Gustafson’s guidelines for the resolution of illness and injuries have saved countless lives. Learn the techniques and knowledge to evaluate the seriousness of your dog's illness or injury, and to properly manage and care for the illness or injury until you can see your veterinarian.
Outdoor recreation with dogs involves certain dangers and risks. To enjoy a safe outdoor experience with your dogs, please read this book before heading into the backcountry.
If you suspect your dog has been injured or is sick, but do not know where or what is wrong—or how serious the problem is—stop, compose yourself, leash and hold your faithful friend and begin a systematic and thorough examination.
The mouth of your dog should feel wet and warm, rather than sticky or cold. Lift her upper lip to check the gums for color. Pink is good; pink is normal; pink indicates adequate breathing and oxygenation. After you feel and observe the gums, systematically feel your dog everywhere. A good canine field medical responder is a thorough responder. Compare the injured limb or part with the normal limb.
Attempt to locate the specific area of pain, injury, or discomfort. While feeling and bending the limbs, note if your dog winces, whines, or pulls away or is reluctant to allow a certain area of his body to be examined. Watch for any misshapen or unsymmetrical appearances. Take note of the presence of hair loss or blood, and try to determine its source. Once again, compare the injured body part (eye, ear, ribs, limb, footpad, etc.) to the opposite, normal body part, or to the corresponding anatomy of another dog. Spending five or ten minutes examining the normal body part will not only help you understand the extent and severity of the injured part, but will help reassure your dog of your healing intentions. Significant dog-han¬dling finesse and patience are required to effectively implement field medicine.

Vital Signs

Vital signs are the measurements of essential phys¬iologic functions—temperature, pulse, and respiration (TPR)—as well as gum color and capillary refill. Pink gums reflect nor¬mal circulation, respiration, and heart function. Pale, white, purple, or muddy gums indicate significant injury or illness. The vital signs measured and compared sequentially over time reflect the seriousness of injury or illness and help determine how you should address the problem at hand before seeking professional care. Heartbeats per minute, breaths per minute, tempera¬ture, and gum appearance vary with your pet's breed, age, conditioning, size, diet, and state of activity. In order for you to correctly assess your dog's condition in an emergency, it is important that you are familiar with these normal vital signs before an injury or illness occurs. Write the normal values in the back cover of this book. It is essential to record and track the progression of the vital signs during an emergency. If this is done, you will always know whether the problem is getting better or worse, which is critical. The effective application of field medicine is dependent on accurate assessment.

Average Rates at Rest
Respiration—15 to 30 breaths per minute. If the dog is not panting, observe the chest rise and fall (one full breath). Count the breaths per minute. Panting due to heat and exercise skews the respirato¬ry rate. Since dogs sweat only at the margins of their footpads, they pant to dissipate heat and cool them¬selves. Respiratory function is difficult to determine in a panting dog.

Swift Dam, a novel, literary fiction
The long ride of Alphonse Vallerone DVM

Examining Your Dog, When to Worry!
If you suspect your dog has been injured or is sick, but do not know where or what is wrong, do a thorough exam. Use all of your appropriate senses; feeling, vision, hearing, and even smelling. Feel the gums. The mouth should feel wet and warm. Pink is good.
Then feel your dog everywhere and try to locate any areas of pain or discomfort; observe his gait while walking and trotting and note which limb is injured; take the time to feel, move, and smell all of the body parts.
Check each suspected injured area closely to locate the specific area of pain note any wincing, whining, or pulling away. Other indications include a misshapen appearance or reluctance to allow the exam of a certain area of the body. Always compare the suspected injured body part (eye, ear, and limb) to the opposite normal body part.

Injured Dog Checklist:

1. Head: Airway, nose, mouth wet and warm, teeth, throat, tonsils, tongue, and windpipe. Ears and eyes.
2. Legs and Limping. Check for irregularities of pads, toenails, joints, bones. Compare with the opposite leg. With any lameness always check for split or cracked toenails, injured or cut pads, and foreign bodies between the toes and in the webs of the feet.
3. Chest: Feel the chest movement and listen with your ear placed on the chest, smell the breath. Count the breaths per minute to obtain a reference value.
4. Abdomen: Feel for pain, tenderness, or tenseness, look for bloating or lop sided appearance. Observe bowel movements and urination, their color and frequency. Observe the appetite and drinking, note the frequency and volume of vomiting, diarrhea, and gas (burping and farting). A bloated abdomen is the most serious sign and is often life threatening especially if there is a rapid onset accompanied by labored breathing.
5. Measure and record the Vital Signs-to determine the seriousness of your dog’s injuries.

Vital Signs
Vital Signs are the normal physiologic criteria of essential body functions known as TPR (temperature, pulse, and respiration) and gum color. Pink gums indicate normal function. Pale, white, purple, or muddy gums indicate serious injury or illness. Know the normal pink color of your dog's gums.
The measurement of the vital signs and color of the gums determine the seriousness of injury or illness and how soon you should seek professional care. Heartbeat or pulse rate, breathing rate, temperature, and gum appearance vary with breed, age, conditioning, size, diet, and activity. Familiarize yourself with your dog’s individual normal resting rates and write them in the back cover of this book so you can refer to them easily in a medical crisis.

Average Normal rates at rest:

Respiration- 10 to 25 breaths each minute. Observe chest rise and fall; count the breaths per minute. Panting due to heat and exercise elevates the respiratory rate. Dogs do not sweat except on the margins of their footpads. To dissipate heat and cool off they pant. Normal respiration is difficult to determine in a panting dog. The time it takes your dog to recover from panting, heat, and exercise is important. Healthy dogs should stop panting 15 minutes after exercise in normal conditions. Excessive prolonged panting in the absence of exercise or heat can indicate pain, illness, or injury.

Resting Pulse or heart rate- the average normal dog’s heart beats 80 times per minute. The normal range is 50 to 150 beats per minute. Small breeds and pups have faster resting rates. There is significant variability between individual dogs. Know your dog’s normal resting rate. The heartbeat is felt low in the chest between your dog’s elbows. The hind leg pulse is felt for along the femoral artery inside of the thigh high in the groin.

The heart and pulse should be simultaneous. When you feel the heartbeat you should feel the corresponding pulse in the groin. A delayed or thready pulse indicates shock and the requirement for urgent veterinary attention.

A thermometer allows the only accurate measure of body temperature. A dry or wet nose means very little. If a thermometer is not available, feel inside the mouth. If it is cold shock and/​ or low body temperature are likely present. The ears are the best indicators of fever, if the ears are hot when pressed between the fingers a fever may be present.
An accurate temperature is taken rectally with a clean, lubricated (K-Y jelly, Vaseline, or soap) rectal thermometer. Taking the rectal temperature also allows the owner to determine any digestive disorders. Constipation may be evident if the thermometer cannot be inserted. Pain and redness of the rectum can indicate diarrhea that was not otherwise noted.

Gums-Pink is Normal
Pink or pale pink is the normal color of unpigmented gums. The gums should feel wet and warm. If the gums feel dry and cold, seek medical help. Circulation is determined by the capillary refill time. Gum or capillary refill time should be less than one second and is determined by applying light finger pressure on the gums above the upper teeth. This pressure will blanch or whiten the gums by pushing the blood out of the capillaries. After removing the finger the whitened gum should refill and return to the normal pink color within one second. This indicates that the circulation is normal and shock or life threatening injury is not immediately present. If the gum capillaries take 2 seconds or longer to refill (return to color) shock is present and veterinary care is needed immediately. A three-second-refill time is a grave sign. Longer refill times with purple or discolored gums indicate impending death. Provide assisted breathing and heart massage and seek immediate veterinary care.

Hands on diagnosis and therapy

Equine Behavior Presentations for Horse Groups and Organizations
Hands-on horse talks and educational presentations.
Horse Behaviour Illuminated

Nina Gustafson takes flight

PREVENTION is key to behavioral health. Adequate SOCIALIZATION of young animals both with their species and with humans is essential for normal psychological health and mental development. Appropriate training that appreciates the nature of the dog, cat, and horse is a veterinary behavior essential, as well.

How Wolf Became Dog, Equine Behavior, the Nature of Horses
Developing willing partnerships with horses and dogs.

Equine Behavior Presentations: The Language of Horses
Dr Sid provides horse associations, universities, equine expos and horse fairs the opportunity to learn about equine behavior through his fascinating presentations and demonstrations.

“This is a fascinating novel.”
Jim Harrison, author of Legends of the Fall and Dalva

When I started reading this fine novel, I was at
first taken aback, then disturbed. After fifty
pages, I realized -- or more accurately, admitted --
why: I was humbled. Sid Gustafson's understanding
of Montana -- real cowboys and Indians, and the
love-hate dependency that ties them, the land, and
its animals together -- is bone deep, blood true,
and beautifully described.
Neil McMahon, author of Twice Dying, Blood Double and the forthcoming Lone Creek, HarperCollins / April 2007 -- set in and around Helena, Montana.

Few novelists have a sense of place,
for Americans are a rootless people.
Sid’s is acute, and he tells a great story
of his land and the people on it,
and in it…

Peter Bowen, author of Coyote Wind and the Gabriel Du Pré Montana Mysteries

“Sid Gustafson writes like the language is a race horse and he is the rider, ready to go as far and fast as they both can go. He is in love with words, especially as they attach to the weather, terrain and inhabitants of Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front, one of the most unforgiving and beautiful regions on the planet. He knows what he’s talking about. Listen to him.”

Deidre McNamer, author of Rima in the Weeds and My Russian

The Great American Wilderness Novel

First Aid for the Active Dog
Practical Canine First Aid

Novels and animal care books.

Canine Veterinary Care
Learn how to administer Dog First Aid. Follow this guide to manage your dog's injuries or illness when veterinary services are not available.
Sid's latest novel
The Flood of 1964. Swift Dam celebrates the native land and the Natives who survive as they have survived throughout time, perilously. It is the story of a veterinarian who attempts to sustain and nurture life on the land, his empathy with the living, and his sympathy for the dead and dying.
Dr Gustafson's Equine Behavior Educational Services
Horse Behaviour, The Language of Horses, Resolving Unwelcome Behaviors in Horses, Ethical Care of the Horse, The Merging of Horses and Humans
Equine Behaviour
The merging of dogs and horses and humans.
High Plains Book of the Year 2007
Now Available in Fine Bookstores Everywhere
Literary Fiction
Outback Montana Wilderness Novel