Military Working Dog Trauma Registry Could Save 4-Legged Heroes’ Lives

Until fairly recently, military working dogs (MWDs) were pretty much discarded after they helped save the lives of human troops. It was only four years ago that President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law, which ensured that four-legged veterans would return to the United States, where their handlers could adopt them.

Now, to help protect these dogs while they’re still on the battlefield, a group of veterinarians and other medical experts with the Department of Defense (DoD) is asking for funding to create a MWD trauma registry. This would be a database containing vital information about MWD injuries and deaths. It could help improve practices and training for veterinarians as well as the dogs’ handlers.

This registry would be “crucial” to saving the lives of MWDs, members of the Military Working Dog Trauma Registry Strategic Planning Group (MWDTRSPG) wrote in the publication Military Medicine. The group, formed by the U.S. Army, includes representatives from the DoD’s Military Working Dog Veterinary Service and the Joint Trauma System.

The most comprehensive study to date of the causes of deaths of MWDs in Afghanistan and Iraq was published in March 2018. Based on the limited information available, researchers found that 92 MWDs died in those two countries from 2001 to 2013. Most of the deaths were from external injuries: 29 dogs died from gunshot wounds, 24 from explosions and nine from heat-related stress.

The researchers concluded that the lack of data regarding MWD injuries and deaths undermined the study’s potential to provide information that could help prevent these injuries and improve medical care. A MWD trauma registry “could lead to improved training and facilitate further development and evaluation of guidelines to improve care of wounded MWDs in future conflicts,” the researchers wrote.

A similar registry, funded by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, keeps track of and analyzes the injuries of two-legged military members. The command also funds studies that have helped save the lives of human troops. New treatments discovered by this research, such as more effective ways to stop hemorrhaging, have been successfully used on people, but as the MWDTRSPG has pointed out, those same treatments may not work for dogs.

“Because canine war wounds are unique, civilian veterinary research, even on police dogs, cannot always inform care for MWDs injured on the battlefield,” the group wrote in Military Medicine.

Col. Andy McGraw, director of the DOD Military Working Dog Veterinary Service at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, is one of the members of the group. He told Stars and Stripes he had received no training in treating wounds from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) when he was in veterinary school. When he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, there was no mortality data available for the MWDs. He said he didn’t know what happened before he arrived or after he left, because the information was classified and was also “kind of disjointed and disconnected.”

“Unless we have the data that tells us what are the more life-limiting problems that affect working dogs in an operational setting, how do we know how to best tailor our training, our equipping and other things to better serve the needs of both the dogs and the handlers?” McGraw told Stars and Stripes. “Is it heat injury? Is it IED blasts? Is it gunshot wounds? Is it blunt-force trauma?”

A centralized MWD trauma registry would help veterinarians identify any gaps in their training, McGraw said. It could lead to better protective gear for the dogs and more effective treatments for their injuries. “It can drive research funding and research projects [aimed] toward helping us give better care to these patients,” McGraw told Stars and Stripes.

The DoD has a budget of over $600 billion. A MWD trauma registry would cost $300,000 to set up and $115,00 to maintain each year. This is a tiny price to pay to help save the lives of four-legged military members.

Take Action

Please sign and share this petition urging the Department of Defense to fund a military working dog trauma registry to help prevent the deaths of these four-legged heroes.

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. Youll find Care2s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

 

Photo credit: Spc. Tyler Meister/The U.S. Army

71 comments

Jennifer H
Jennifer H2 days ago

This should have been a no-brainer. Military dogs should have the same treatment as any human soldier. They are serving their country as well.

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Nena C
Nena C18 days ago

Good idea

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Martha P
Martha P18 days ago

thank you

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Janis K
Janis K28 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Leanne K
Leanne K29 days ago

For Pete's sake aren't these animals considered part of your defence force and yet you don't keep info or stats. Thats pathetic. Your not as trained up or professional as you make out

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Glennis W
Glennis Whitney29 days ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis Whitney29 days ago

y are awesome Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis Whitney29 days ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis Whitney29 days ago

Petition signed Thank you for caring and sharing

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Ann W
Ann Wabout a month ago

How is it that this great Obama initiative has escaped the vengeance of Trump? It is way past the time that all MWDs were cherished and cared for after their time of service.

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