A sad fact for a force using military working dogs (MWD) in dangerous situations is that they are as likely as any human soldier to become injured or killed during their duties. Yet, when these dogs get hurt or need medical attention, a well-trained cadre of veterinary professionals are there to care for them.
The men and women of the United States Army Veterinary Corps are part of the Army Medical Department or AMEDD.
The dog shown in the image above is no dog at all. That’s Diesel, an anatomically correct model of a typical military working dog, a training aid. He’s used to teaching military medical personnel how to care for our canine friends if they require it in the field. In real-world experiences, veterinarians are rarely present to care for sick or wounded animals. Currently, there are only about 700 veterinarians in the Army. They are spread few and far between.
If a dog is hurt in the field, chances are high that it will be cared for by the same doctors, nurses, and combat medics who take care of human warfighters. Because of that, medical personnel must receive some training in veterinary medicine. That’s what Captain Schrader is doing in the photo above. In this specific case, she is training US Navy medical personnel to identify and clear an airway obstruction.
The captain is a member of the 422nd Medical Detachment, a reserve veterinary services unit out of Rockville, MD. She is quoted by army.mil as saying,
“There are oftentimes very few veterinarians available to get to canine casualties, especially in a timely manner. So, we train these guys on canine first aid and tactical combat care to help save the lives of the patients.”
I’ll be honest here; it’s strange referring to animal models such as Diesel as “robots” or “animatronic.” According to our friends at the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, “animatronic” means: “of, relating to, or being a puppet or similar figure that is animated by means of electromechanical devices.” After doing a bit more reading, I discovered that not only does Diesel bleed and have a heartbeat, but he also breathes and barks. So I suppose he is indeed animatronic. I was thinking more of “Lincoln in the Hall of Presidents” at EPCOT before. The dog looks quite realistic, except for the slightly too purplish-looking palate in the photo above.
Captain Schrader had a bit more to say about non-veterinary services troops taking care of animals in the course of their duties. She said, “We rely on human health care providers. One of these people may be saving a dog’s life, and in turn that saves their handler’s life. We may not be the big flashy ER doctors running the big hospital, but we are behind the scenes helping care for the overall health of the dogs and the Soldiers.”
As you might imagine, handlers are exceptionally tightly bonded with their animals. Often, if one is wounded, the other will be as well. If at all possible, wounded handlers (depending on the severity of their injuries) will see that their dog is cared for before they are.
Dr. Schrader talks about training the various other services to care for military working dogs if veterinarians are not available. Video courtesy of YouTube and The Military Scoop
You might be surprised to find out that there are only veterinarians working on dogs in the Army (and I noted above there are only about 700 of them). Veterinarians, that is, not MWD. According to defense.gov, roughly 1,600 dogs are working in the various military services to help keep us safe. This is why human medical personnel is trained in canine first aid and tactical combat care.
Let me take a second here to note there is no separate medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) modalities for military canines and human warfighters. Simply put, if an MWD is so severely injured that it needs to be evacuated for care, we’ll put it on a MEDEVAC flight. All possible attempts are made to fly the handler with their canine. However, as I’m sure you’re well aware, injured dogs can be unpredictable, which sometimes proves challenging to the flight crew.
Suppose a military canine needs to be flown to a distant medical treatment facility for a higher level of care or perhaps surgery. In that case, the Air Force takes care of that on fixed-wing aircraft in the course of their aeromedical evacuation (AE) duties.