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Keywords:

  • ballistic wound;
  • combat injuries;
  • penetrating injury;
  • trauma

Abstract

Objective

To describe the patient population, injuries, and treatment received on the battlefield, and ultimate outcome of U.S. military working dogs that incurred gunshot wound (GSW) injury in Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) or Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq).

Design

Retrospective study between January 2003 and December 2009.

Animals

Twenty-nine military working dogs from the U.S. military with confirmed GSW injuries incurred in combat in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Interventions

None.

Measurements and Main Results

Clinical data from battlefield treatment, which includes care from the point of injury through arrival to, but not including, a designated veterinary treatment facility. Twenty-nine dogs were injured between 2003 and 2009. All but one of the injuries were from high caliber, high velocity weapons. Of the 29 injured dogs, 11 survived the injuries and 18 died (38% survival rate). Of the dogs that died, all but 1 died from catastrophic nonsurvivable injuries before treatment or evacuation could be instituted. The thorax was the most common site of injury (50%) followed by extremity wounds (46%). The leading cause of death from GSWs was from thoracic wounds, followed by head wounds. Dogs with extremity wounds as their only injury were most likely to survive, and dogs with multiple injuries were least likely to survive. All surviving dogs received treatment at the point of injury by military medics and dog handlers consistent with Tactical Combat Casualty Care guidelines for combat injuries in human service members. Of the 11 that survived, all dogs returned to full duty with subsequent deployment to combat zones. Location of wounds and injury severity at the time of presentation to veterinary care was not correlated with length of time until return to duty.