Just like their human counterparts, K9s on the front lines become vulnerable to attack and injury. Unlike their human counterparts, however, medical attention is not always at the ready. Soldiers have medics and field trauma kits. Army search and rescue teams have medical help standing by. Any “officer down” call immediately summons a legion of backup with an ambulance full of supplies. But who comes to the aid of the K9?
There are virtually no medical professionals trained in K9 injuries or handling who are waiting to swoop in should a dog become hurt. There are no veterinarians assigned to army patrols, army search and rescue or SWAT teams. Instead the K9 partner is often taken from the scene to a clinic before medical help is available. Sometimes, due to circumstances, this could delay medical attention for quite a while.
The Importance of the “Golden Hour”
But just like humans, dogs benefit from “the golden hour” – those first minutes after trauma when field medical attention can mean the difference between saving a life or losing it. It is the time during which help is given before transport to formal medical settings. The golden hour can benefit the injured K9, and any handler with a bit of knowledge and preparation can be the dog’s savior.
Golden hour treatment doesn’t have to call for a lot of complex medical knowledge. If you look at the facts you’ll find that most causes of K9 injury or death while on duty fall into only three categories:
- Vehicular trauma (25.8%)
- Heatstroke (24.8%)
- Penetrating ballistic trauma (23%)1
This means over 58% of injuries likely call for two immediate needs; pressure dressings and tourniquets to stop the bleeding. With a bit of know-how, anyone at the scene can take advantage of the golden hour.
Saving the Working K9 Partner
After first assessing the situational and safety concerns for both human and K9, working with a wounded dog to save its life is fairly straightforward. We’d encourage everyone to read the K9 Tactical Emergency Casualty Care Guidelines, but here we’ll outline some initial steps in the hopes you’ll see that you could save a K9 partner. (This discussion is not intended to be all inclusive of medical attention the dog may need.
Please see the link above for a more detailed explanation.) In the case of wounds:
- Unless contraindicated conditions are present, such as respiratory distress, muzzle the injured animal. Stress and fear can make a K9’s reaction unpredictable, even towards its handler. A quick-release muzzle is best.
- Look for bleeding and puncture wounds. The main concern is bleeding.
- If on the body, try a pressure dressing and assess whether the bleeding has stopped. Packing is recommended if the wound is deep. This can be done with roll gauze or hemostatic dressings.
- DO NOT use hemostatic (blood stop) type powders in wounds.
- If the wound is distally, meaning an extremity such as a paw or tail, packing will not likely work as there is not enough muscular flesh in these areas. Wrap and apply a tourniquet.
- Assess the effectiveness of any tourniquet. You should not feel a pulse below the tourniquet. If you do, tighten the tourniquet.
- Check for other injuries and gently splint as required.
- Transport to veterinary professionals as soon as possible.
Preparing a K9 Tactical Emergency Care Kit
Anyone working with a working K9 should be prepared with a K9 Tactical Emergency Casualty Care Kit, which it easy to put together. The K9 Working Group3 lists several items that can easily fit in a compartmentalized bag. But it needs to be noted that not all human counterparts or supplies will work. A tourniquet, for example, needs to be a SWAT-T type, not a human windlass style.
H&H Medical Corp. has worked with handlers and trainers of K9s from all sorts of operations, whether it be the military, police, rescue, fire departments or security companies. With knowledge and experience in particular K9 needs they will be able to quickly help you develop your own tactical casualty emergency care kit. Items are almost foolproof with battle-tested, heat-of-the-moment instructions and their K9 supplies meet Tactical Emergency Casualty Care Guidelines. Plus, many of their supplies are ⅓ the cost of leading competitors.
The K9 partner: These dutiful dogs are used for sniffing out narcotics or explosives, in searches for missing individuals, in confronting an attacker or chasing down a fleeing criminal, all while remaining fiercely loyal to their human partners. And often at night or while off duty, they slip back into family mode to become companions or playmates. Protect and prepare for your K9 partner. Contact H&H now!