How LIVS Trains Medics to Treat Dogs that Serve in Combat Situations

When entering a building with an active shooter or clearing a residence in an urban combat situation is too dangerous for military or law enforcement personnel, K9 handler teams come in to neutralize the danger. All too often in those situations the K9 partner is injured, sometimes critically, and while on scene medics have advanced trauma training in human triage they lack expertise in veterinary triage. There’s where Dr. Dominic Marino of Long Island Veterinary Specialists (LIVS) and K9 Medic come in.

Marino and K9 Medic, an organization that teaches how to give emergency medical care to service dogs, routinely partner to provide to organize two-day training sessions at LIVS’ medical facility in Plainview two or three times a year. During the training sessions, members of federal, state, and local law enforcement groups learn how to treat dogs in various simulated combat situations.

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“These medics are highly-trained professionals delivering care to human patients under combat situations,” Marino said. “My role is to help them adapt what they know to canine patients, so military and law enforcement dogs can receive the same excellent care.”

Prior to attending organized medical training sessions, K9 handlers in the military and law enforcement agencies would rely on what they knew about treating humans wounded in the field. Sometimes these human techniques were successful; unfortunately other times they were not.

Through a combination of lectures and simulated/live scenarios, Marino teaches the first responders how to treat canine wounds, check for lameness and other injuries, and demonstrates procedures for stabilizing a dog in shock.

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Situational drills include having first responders assess a simulated collapsed building, where K9s could be injured. As a K9 Medic instructor calls out the scene play by play, the agents check the dog’s vital signs, remembering to muzzle the dog for safety before providing medical treatment and evacuation from the building.

These drills are imperative to the dogs, their handlers and the medics. Working together on a daily basis, trained K9s become as important to the agent as a human partner would be, and can have a value of tens of thousands of dollars to the agency. Knowing what to do if the dog becomes injured or ill in the field, especially in conditions where veterinary care is unavailable, can save the dog’s life.