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Fifteen-year surveillance of pathological findings associated with death or euthanasia in search-and-rescue dogs deployed to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack sites

Cynthia M. Otto1Penn Vet Working Dog Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.
2Department of Clinical Sciences and Advanced Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

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Elizabeth Hare1Penn Vet Working Dog Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.
3Dog Genetics LLC, Astoria, NY 11102.

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John P. Buchweitz4Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.

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Kathleen M. Kelsey1Penn Vet Working Dog Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

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Scott D. Fitzgerald5Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To compare the cause of death (COD; whether by natural death or euthanasia for poor quality of life caused by a primary pathological condition) between search-and-rescue (SAR) dogs deployed to the World Trade Center, Pentagon, or Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and SAR dogs that were not deployed to these sites.

ANIMALS

95 deployed SAR dogs (exposed dogs) and 55 nondeployed SAR dogs (unexposed dogs).

PROCEDURES

Following natural death or euthanasia, 63 dogs (44 exposed and 19 unexposed) underwent a necropsy examination. For the remaining 87 dogs, the COD was categorized on the basis of information obtained from medical records or personal communications.

RESULTS

The median age of death was 12.8 years for exposed dogs and 12.7 years for unexposed dogs. The COD was not impacted by deployment status. In the 150 exposed and unexposed dogs, degenerative conditions were the most common COD followed by neoplasia. Respiratory disease was infrequent (overall, 7 [4.7%] dogs); 4 of 5 cases of pulmonary neoplasia occurred in unexposed dogs. However, in dogs that underwent necropsy, pulmonary particulates were reported significantly more often in exposed dogs (42/44 [95%]), compared with unexposed dogs (12/19 [63.2%]).

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE

No difference was found in the COD on the basis of disease category and organ system involved between exposed and unexposed SAR dogs. The long life spans and frequency of death attributed to degenerative causes (ie, age-related causes) suggested that the risk of long-term adverse health effects in this population of SAR dogs was low.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To compare the cause of death (COD; whether by natural death or euthanasia for poor quality of life caused by a primary pathological condition) between search-and-rescue (SAR) dogs deployed to the World Trade Center, Pentagon, or Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and SAR dogs that were not deployed to these sites.

ANIMALS

95 deployed SAR dogs (exposed dogs) and 55 nondeployed SAR dogs (unexposed dogs).

PROCEDURES

Following natural death or euthanasia, 63 dogs (44 exposed and 19 unexposed) underwent a necropsy examination. For the remaining 87 dogs, the COD was categorized on the basis of information obtained from medical records or personal communications.

RESULTS

The median age of death was 12.8 years for exposed dogs and 12.7 years for unexposed dogs. The COD was not impacted by deployment status. In the 150 exposed and unexposed dogs, degenerative conditions were the most common COD followed by neoplasia. Respiratory disease was infrequent (overall, 7 [4.7%] dogs); 4 of 5 cases of pulmonary neoplasia occurred in unexposed dogs. However, in dogs that underwent necropsy, pulmonary particulates were reported significantly more often in exposed dogs (42/44 [95%]), compared with unexposed dogs (12/19 [63.2%]).

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE

No difference was found in the COD on the basis of disease category and organ system involved between exposed and unexposed SAR dogs. The long life spans and frequency of death attributed to degenerative causes (ie, age-related causes) suggested that the risk of long-term adverse health effects in this population of SAR dogs was low.

Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to Dr. Otto (cmotto@vet.upenn.edu).