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Deployment morbidity among search-and-rescue dogs used after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks

Kimberly A. Slensky DVM1, Kenneth J. Drobatz DVM, MS, DACVECC, DACVIM2, Amanda B. Downend BA3, and Cynthia M. Otto DVM, PhD, DACVECC4
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  • 1 Department of Clinical Studies—Philadelphia, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010.
  • | 2 Department of Clinical Studies—Philadelphia, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010.
  • | 3 Department of Clinical Studies—Philadelphia, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010.
  • | 4 Department of Clinical Studies—Philadelphia, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010.

Abstract

Objectives—To determine characteristics, variables associated with deployment morbidity, and injuries and illnesses of search-and-rescue dogs associated with the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Design—Historical cohort study.

Animals—96 dogs.

Procedure—Data collected included previous medical or surgical history, physical attributes of dogs, type and number of years of training, site of deployment, shift and hours worked, and number of days deployed. Combined morbidity was defined as 1 or more abnormalities of body systems, including traumatic injuries.

Results—Handlers of 96 of the 212 dogs responded to the surveys. Fifty-nine dogs were deployed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 10 by police forces, and 27 as members of other search-and-rescue teams. Sixty-five dogs (incidence rate, 17 events/1,000 dog search hours) had combined morbidity during deployment. System-specific morbidity rates included gastrointestinal tract signs (5 events/1,000 dog search hours), cuts and abrasions mostly on the feet (5 events/1,000 dog search hours), fatigue (6 events/1,000 dog search hours), change in appetite (6 events/1,000 dogs search hours), dehydration (5 events/1,000 dog search hours), respiratory tract problems (2 events/1,000 dog search hours), heat exhaustion (2 events/1,000 dog search hours), and orthopedic or back problems (2 events/1,000 dog search hours). Dogs deployed to the World Trade Center were 6.6 times more likely to have combined morbidity, compared with dogs at the Pentagon.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Injury and illnesses occurred in most dogs and affected several organ systems, but all were minor. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004;225:868–873)