Skip to main content

Military Health System

Important Notice about Pharmacy Operations

Change Healthcare Cyberattack Impact on MHS Pharmacy Operations. Read the statement to learn more. 

DHA Spearheads Effort for Working Dog Research Collaboration

Image of Picture of three different dogs. Bagzi, Shelton, and Batman (left to right), 647th Security Forces military working dogs, take a break from training at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, May 7, 2021. All three MWDs work as patrol explosive detection dogs and are trained to detect the presence of improvised explosive devices by smell (Photo by: Air Force Airman 1st Class Makensie Cooper, 15th Wing).

SERIES: This is the First in a series of articles focused on the Defense Health Agency's role in Military Working Dog care.

Military Working Dogs provide a critical force protection capability and are an important force multiplier for the combatant commander.

The Defense Health Agency's Veterinary Service is at the forefront of the effort to develop and foster working dog knowledge sharing and research collaboration within the Department of Defense, federal and state government agencies, and civilian research and academia communities of interest. Research efforts to evaluate and optimize the health, readiness, and performance of working dogs, including MWDs, is vital to saving the lives of service members and civilians.

To disseminate this research and share ideas, more than 220 people attended the third annual Working Dog Research Forum March 31-April 1, representing working dog research, veterinary care, and employment from the DOD, federal and state governments, civilian academia, laboratories, and agencies.

The forum explored a variety of issues associated with working dogs in the military and civilian sector and their experiences, physical performance, protection, and medical management if wounded on the battlefield.

Presentations included:

  • MWD Fitness Assessment and Physical Capabilities
  • No More Underdogs: Releasing the Full Potential of the MWD though Fitness Assessment and Physical Conditioning
  • Tranexamic Acid in Dogs with Traumatic Bleeding or Spontaneous Hemoabdomens
  • Canine Escape Respirator: Project Update
  • Person-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (PBIED) Detection Evaluation
  • Developing Odor Capture and Delivery Technology and Canine Training Methodologies to Facilitate Canine Detection of Hazardous and Restricted Targets

Army Lt. Col. Sarah Cooper, chief of animal medicine at DHA's Veterinary Service, organized the forum.

"As a veterinarian, I am familiar with the canine combat casualty care and physical conditioning topics," she said. "I found the olfaction research interesting, and it expanded my understanding of the science of olfaction and how complicated developing items like detection training aids can be."

Among the presenters was Army Maj. Brian Farr, a veterinarian who spoke about a qualitative study of explosive detection canines (EDCs) and the knowledge requirements that underpin explosive detection work.

"The gap in knowledge is where and how we're going to assess these dogs" and "the need for solid understanding" of their performance capabilities and limits, Farr said.

He noted that "a lot of the explosive dog world is tacit knowledge" accumulated by trainers, kennel masters, and handlers through experience and that senior leaders "are processing knowledge and passing it on to junior personnel," but these data have not been captured effectively.

His small-scale study asked questions of 17 military, federal and law enforcement agents, agricultural, and private experts about requirements for an effective EDC and how their performance can degrade. The questions were asked during semi-structured interviews, and then hundreds of pages of transcripts were completed and data coded. The "richness of the data" made up somewhat for the small sample size, Farr said.

In the future, Farr and his team hope to do a "quantitative survey of current handlers to determine broad and organization-specific requirements and frequency and range of degrading factors. We need to pull that information out of the heads of handlers and leaders," he said.

Army Lt. Col. Emilee Venn, chief of the Army Public Health Center's Animal Health division, discussed her research on decontamination of working dogs exposed to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) contaminants or in hazardous material (HAZMAT) situations.

Her study of 28 working dogs looked at two methods of decontamination: The standard method with high volumes of water and a study method using low-water volume and 4% chlorhexidine gluconate scrub brushes. The latter method may be more employable in forward positions where water is at a premium.

Venn's study found that the low-water-volume was effective; however, both methods left residue in the dogs' coats despite significant scrubbing, especially in those dogs with longer fur.

Dr. Andrea Henderson, chief of rehabilitation at DOD Working Dog Veterinary Service , described the extreme physical and mental demands placed on working dogs and presented a system of physical and neurological conditioning that could help dogs work at peak efficiency in odor tracking and patrols.

"Neuromuscular training includes exercises that stimulate proprioception, plyometrics, agility, balance, dynamic stability, and core stability," she said.

Assessments and training must be "field-expedient and use readily available equipment, must be repeatable with personnel without significant training, and must assess parameters desirable for MWD performance: speed, cardiovascular endurance/olfactory endurance, power, and balance," she told the forum.

Cooper said the biggest impediment to MWD research efforts is "the lack of dedicated funding or program of record and coordinated research oversight." There is an initiative under way "to look at how to solve this problem for veterinary-related MWD research efforts," she said. "Events like this forum are critical to knowledge-sharing and enable DHA to better serve the health, readiness, and peak performance of MWDs."

You also may be interested in...

Article Around MHS
Feb 23, 2024

Medical Soldiers Compete in the Medical Readiness Command Europe 2024 Best Leader Competition

The 2nd Place of the 2024 Medical Readiness Command, Europe Best Leader Competition, held Feb 6-9 at Baumholder Training Area, Germany, are pictured with U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Roger Giraud, commander of Medical Readiness Command, Europe. The grueling four-day competition was rigorous, relevant, and realistic. Activities included a physical fitness assessment, M4 and M17 weapons zero and qualification, and a 12-mile foot march. (Photo by Kirk Frady)

More than 30 medical soldiers from across Europe competed in the 2024 Medical Readiness Command, Europe Best Leader competition, Feb. 6-9, at Baumholder Training Area in Germany. Teams from each of Medical Readiness Command, Europe’s four direct reporting units competed for a chance to represent the command at the 2024 U.S. Army Medical Command Best ...

Article Around MHS
Feb 20, 2024

Forward Deployable Preventative Medical Unit Enhances Combat Effectiveness with Comprehensive Weapons and Threat Recognition Training

Forward Deployable Preventative Medical Unit Six member trains in weapons proficiency during a specialized course designed to enhance readiness for diverse deployments on Feb. 8, 2024. The training was tailored for the unit’s unique mission to ensure service members are prepared for their upcoming deployments. (U.S. Navy photo by Desmond Martin)

The Forward Deployable Preventative Medical Unit participated in a first-ever weapons and threat recognition training course, specifically designed and tailored for the unit’s unique mission. FDPMU’s are rapidly deployable and mobile units that support force health protection around the globe.

Article Around MHS
Feb 20, 2024

Dover AFB Veterinary Treatment Facility, Warm Zone Team Conduct Decontamination Training with MWDs

U.S. Army Capt. Alicia Bailey, right, Dover Air Force Base Veterinary Treatment Facility officer in charge, and U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Courtney Burns, 436th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, demonstrate decontamination techniques on Military Working Dog Zorro during a training session at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, Jan. 10, 2024.

Members of the Dover Air Force Base Veterinary Treatment Facility, 436th Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog section, and the 436th Medical Group Warm Zone Team held a training session on January 10, 2024, to practice the skills necessary to properly decontaminate MWDs and possibly save their lives in the aftermath of a nuclear, biological ...

Article Around MHS
Feb 16, 2024

Newest Pacific Veterinary Treatment Facility Enhances Care, Strengthens Partnerships in Japan

Noncommissioned officer-in-charge, U.S. Navy Staff Sgt. Ryan Spach, examine military working dog Jutas from the Commander Fleet Activities Sasebo Kennels, Japan. Jutas made history as the very first patient at the newly opened Sasebo veterinary treatment facility following a ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 18, 2024. (Courtesy Photo)

Despite intermittent downpours and cloudy skies, a palpable sense of excitement and anticipation filled the air as the Public Health Command-Pacific, Veterinary Readiness Activity, Japan and Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo leadership came together on January 18, 2024, to celebrate the opening of the newest veterinary treatment facility in the Pacific.

Article
Feb 13, 2024

Defense Public Health Hosts Webinar for Red Hill Community

Defense Public Health Hosts Webinar for Red Hill Community

Public health officials from Defense Health Agency Public Health recently hosted a public webinar for members of the community affected by the Red Hill fuel release in 2021. During the event, held on Jan. 9, 2024, U.S. Air Force Col. John Oh, chief of the occupational and environmental health division at the DHA Public Health, gave an update on ...

Topic
Feb 8, 2024

Research & Innovation

Defense Department’s overall investment for medical research and development (R&D) with Research, Development, Testing, and Development (RDT&E) dollars.

Topic
Feb 8, 2024

Health Readiness & Combat Support

The Defense Health Agency provides support for operating forces engaged in planning for, or conducting, military operations, including support during conflict or in the conduct of other military activities related to countering threats to U.S. national security. Among DHA’s most important combat support responsibilities is its work to increase ...

Video
Feb 7, 2024

Military Medical Research Milestones

Military Medical Research Milestones

American military medicine has been the cornerstone of medical accomplishments since the founding of the United States. The efforts and innovations of the military medical research community has advanced the treatments, logistics, procedures, and medications often taken for granted in today’s civilian medical settings. From emergency response to ...

Article
Jan 19, 2024

Military Health System Stabilization: Rebuilding Health Care Access is ‘Critical to the Wellbeing of our Patients’

U.S. Army Col. (Dr.) Frank Valentin, chief of ophthalmology, checks a patient for double vision and convergence at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Recruiting qualified health care providers across the MHS is the first step in the stabilization of MHS, aligning with the MHS Strategy.  (U.S. Army photo by Jason W. Edwards)

On Dec. 6, 2023, the Deputy Secretary of Defense signed a memo directing the stabilization of the MHS, adding the capacity to reattract beneficiaries, improve access to care in military hospitals and clinics, and increase opportunities to sustain military clinical readiness for our medical forces.

Article Around MHS
Jan 16, 2024

Yokota Sustains 24/7 Air Medical Transport

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeovany Vasquez, 374th Operational Support Squadron, UH-1N Huey instructor flight engineer surveys a landing zone during a patient transport drill. (Photo: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Manuel G. Zamora)

The 459th Airlift Squadron performed a trial run of a new readiness posture for medical transport on Dec. 18, aiming to offer 24/7 airlift support, streamlining the patient transfers from the 374th Medical Group at Yokota Air Base, Japan, to other medical facilities in the region.

Last Updated: July 11, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery