U.S. Army partners with BluePearl to treat military working dogs’ combat casualties

Scholz Visits KSK Special Forces
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Like human service members, military working dogs (MWD) can suffer combat casualties. Who will help them when they get hurt?

The Army recently announced a partnership with BluePearl™, a veterinary hospital company. This initiative will bring BluePearl™ specialists to train veterinarians in this military branch.

The BluePearl™ Mission to Help Military Working Dogs

The Department of Defense has about 1,600 military working dogs across its branches in land, air and sea missions. These animals may suffer gunshot wounds or other injuries while deployed, so providing emergency care is crucial to their survival.

The U.S. Army Office of the Surgeon General and the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps announced their new partnership with BluePearl™ on K9 Veterans Day. You can see the collaboration through the Army's new Veterinary Trauma Readiness and Operational Medicine Agility (Vet-TROMA) program.

The Vet-TROMA program has started in two locations, training professionals on the East and West Coasts. You can find BluePearl™ hospitals training Army veterinary professionals in Lakewood, Washington, and Cary, North Carolina. We expect more locations, as the program has seen early successes.

Dr. Richard Stone, chief medical officer at BluePearl™, said you can already see the positive impact of this partnership on military working dogs and combat casualties. "U.S. Army veterinary teams are often faced with trauma situations in which split-second, life-or-death decisions must be made," he said. “The advanced training offered through Vet-TROMA helps create more skilled and confident veterinarians — qualities that are necessary to care for canines in combat.”

What is BluePearl™?

BluePearl™ Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital began in Tampa, Florida, in 1996. The first office was a stand-alone practice called Florida Veterinary Specialists. The business changed, and the veterinary care office changed its name to BluePearl in 2008. Then, in 2015, Mars Petcare acquired it to form a company providing veterinary care and dog food.

The veterinary service company has grown significantly since the first office opened in 1996. BluePearl™ now boasts 110 facilities in 30 states and over 8,000 employees. Many locations are on the East Coast, but you can find BluePearl™ hospitals in each corner of the country. You can also find 2,500 Mars Veterinary Health facilities in over 20 countries.

Since the inception of BluePearl™’s Veterinary Trauma Readiness and Operational Medicine Agility (Vet-TROMA) program, 12 U.S. Army Veterinarians have completed their certification. According to Dr. Lenore Bacek, Vice President of Clinical Affairs at BluePearl™, “The U.S. Army Veterinary Corps provides medical and surgical care to more than 1,600 Military Working Dogs (MWD’s) on active duty that deploy and can be injured just like Soldiers, and we know that Vet-TROMA can and will continue to provide training to give them the best care available.”

Despite the challenges facing the Vet-TROMA program such as coordinating schedules with U.S. Army Veterinarians stations across the U.S., the program has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the U.S. Army. “Captain Abbey Calvo, formally a veterinary team leader from the 218th Medical Detachment (Veterinary Service Support), was the first Veterinary Corps Officer to complete a clinical rotation with BluePearl as part of the Vet-TROMA program,” said Dr. Bacek.

“The training I received from BluePearl through the Vet-TROMA program was life-changing for me and the dogs I serve, giving me additional tools, I need to ensure I am ready to assist our canine counterparts when they need me most,” said Captain Calvo.

How Do Dogs Help the Military?

The military began using dogs once the United States entered World War II. Americans loaned their dogs, and the military sent them to the Army, Coast Guard and Navy for special missions. Since 1942, they’ve been integral to the armed forces because of their ability to carry out special missions. Dogs chosen to be military working pups end up in San Antonio, Texas, at Lackland Air Force Base.

How would your pets help the military? Here are a few critical skills MWDs bring to the armed forces. 

Smelling Skills

Dogs are known for their sense of smell. They can use their noses to detect stress in humans and find other dogs. Does your pet comfort you when you’re scared? 

Military working dogs set themselves apart by sniffing out bombs and other explosive devices. How skilled are they? These professional pups can detect C-4, ammonium nitrate and dynamite before a human can, making them invaluable to military units. 

Dogs in the U.S. Army are special because soldiers train them to find buried explosives. How far do their abilities go? The Army uses dogs to detect small devices like hand grenades and extreme artillery like nuclear weapons. A dog's sense of smell comes from its incredible olfactory capabilities. A 2021 study finds dogs can detect cancer, explosives, drugs and infectious diseases.

Terrific Teeth

Dogs in the armed forces also leverage their teeth for their missions. Military personnel use dogs to chase down suspects and subdue them until a person can take over. When practicing, the human must wear thick-padded suits to prevent serious injury.

Why is a MWD's teeth important? This part of the mouth gives veterinarians a glimpse into the rest of the pup’s health. For instance, you can tell what kind of food it eats and how dog toothpaste has affected the teeth. 

Paw Patrol

Dogs in the military have various roles, so only some sniff out bombs and chase suspects. Other canine personnel guard important buildings around military bases.

For instance, guard dogs may be in front of airports or storage facilities. These highly trained canines bark loudly to alert service members that someone is coming and could pose a danger. Dogs can see well at night due to their powerful retinas, making them critical accompaniments for human service members.

Helping Military Working Dogs With Combat Casualties

The armed forces undergo extensive training with working dogs to ensure their efficacy. However, accidents can happen, so being ready to care for these animals is critical.

The Army’s partnership with BluePearl™ aims to help veterinary professionals with emergency care training and combat casualties in military working dogs. Training will help Army veterinary leaders treat gunshot wounds, perform blood transfusions and conduct other essential medical tasks for these wounded warriors.

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