US military working dogs in Iraq now have more medical help when injured

Veterans and military working dogs

Just as the lives of US military men and women serving in a war zone have been saved by a blood transfusion thanks to “walking blood banks,” their K-9 buddies in Iraq now have the benefit of mobile blood banks just for them. This addition to care-in-the-field means more rapid treatment when a life-threatening injury is sustained by a military working dog (MWD).

Like humans, dogs can only receive certain blood types, so having a blood bank at the ready makes treatment more efficient and, in an emergency situation, speed can mean survival.

The K-9 blood bank became possible after the Army Medical Command surgeon general’s office required that blood types for all military working dogs be recorded by the veterinarians who care for them. The outcome: fast access to the highest level of care.

In Iraq, as in other locales, U.S. military dogs face hazardous conditions as they perform their tasks, including working side-by-side with soldiers to search cars for bombs. They can also be trained to identify land mines, and improvised explosive devices. As noted in a recent article published in Military Medicine, ”military working dogs on the battlefield serve as a force multiplier” by performing jobs “beyond the capabilities of humans.” The authors go on to point out that, “for example, dogs’ extraordinary sensory capabilities enable them to excel in explosive and narcotic detection, patrol, and security.”

The training a potential MWD undergoes is demanding; only about half of the initial candidates make it.  A fully trained dog is extremely valuable, as an article in BarkPost notes; “With an average of 98% accuracy in their detection skills, the peace of mind they provide to the troops is immeasurable.”  

But it’s more than peace of mind and exceptional skill on the job that these dogs provide. Their companionship is deeply comforting. The bonds that form between the MWD handlers and the dogs they work with extends far past their time together in a war zone.

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