Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Rebecca’s War Dog of the Week: Life blood for ‘brothers in harm’s way’

By Rebecca Frankel Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent The job of a bomb-sniffing dog is among the most dangerous and runs the greatest risk for injury and fatality. But recent developments in veterinary medicine have increased the success rate of complicated surgeries, enabling military veterinarians to opt for life-saving measures over euthanasia. Chief among these ...

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

The job of a bomb-sniffing dog is among the most dangerous and runs the greatest risk for injury and fatality. But recent developments in veterinary medicine have increased the success rate of complicated surgeries, enabling military veterinarians to opt for life-saving measures over euthanasia. Chief among these developments: blood transfusions. 

As a result, there’s a call for canine blood donations (more common than many might realize) and military basis in Iraq and Afghanistan are shoring up on their supplies. The U.S. military is also devoted to “developing a standing blood bank for [military war dogs], as well as developing and refining the technique.” Capt. Vicky Payne, a field veterinary officer, recently set up a blood donation drive for military working dogs at the Kandahar Air Base.

The idea behind these drives, like the one Capt. Payne organized, is to have healthy military dogs donate on a regular basis so that supplies are readily available on base. Having the blood nearby greatly increases the rate of survival in the event of an emergency surgery.

The way a dog gives blood isn’t unlike the process for humans: “a small area of fur is shaved on the neck and blood is taken from the large jugular vein, processed and stored as one of the six type of canine blood. A healthy dog will start to replace the lost blood almost immediately, with normal volume restored in 24 hours and red cell count in two to three weeks.”

Capt. Payne says they’ve had no trouble finding donors and the program has received a lot of support. “The [military] handlers understand that their brothers are in harm’s way …. Any country that’s lost a dog in the fight, they know the value of having something like this.”

You can watch a video of a brave donor giving blood as well as an interview with Capt. Payne here.

The top photo is of  Carly, a military working dog while sedated and donating blood during a canine blood drive at Joint Base Balad, Iraq on July 3.

Hat Tip: FP‘s DK

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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