Keeping Canine Police Officers Healthy

Everyone loves a man or woman in uniform….but what about a dog? You’ve undoubtedly noticed the increasing number of police departments employing dogs as additional officers. Yes, they are officers just like their human counterparts. If you happened to catch the recent Pet 411 segment from Station 14 here in Kingston, it featured two of our patients – Zeus and Titan of the Kingston Police Department.

These dogs and other canine officers carry out a multiple set of skills, including apprehension (catching the bad guy), drug sniffing, and tracking, to name a few. Since these dogs are so specialized and valued members of the police force, they can’t afford to be on an injury list for very long because sitting on the sidelines is not in their nature. That’s where we come in to do our best to keep them healthy so they can keep our community safe.

Officers such as Zeus and Titan can be put into almost any situation, and with that comes a risk of infectious diseases. These dogs aren’t super soldiers and can get many of the same health problems your own pets may get, including Lyme disease, leptospirosis, and parvovirus. Fortunately, these diseases can be prevented by keeping vaccinations up to date.

Canine officers are also immense athletes with the potential to do a lot of running and climbing. As you can imagine, this puts quite a bit of strain on their joints. These dogs typically come from spectacular breeding lines and are thoroughly checked for any developmental joint issues, but from time to time, injuries can occur. Small foot injuries, muscle strains, or fractures must be addressed promptly before they become worse. Another risk of all this activity is the potential for stomach torsion (or twisting), which can be life-threatening. Often called “bloat,” we as veterinarians can prevent this by surgically tacking the stomach to the body wall. Hey, your dog isn’t a police dog, but if they are a high-risk breed (Great Dane, German Shepherd, Newfoundland, to name a few), they might experience stomach torsion as well, so it is a good idea to talk to a veterinarian about the procedure.

Did you happen to notice Zeus’ shiny smile in the video? We see it at 31 seconds in a shiny silver crown on his canine tooth. Zeus really is a sweet dog, but when he gets switched on to apprehend a suspect, he really needs to have healthy teeth to do his job. Just like your dog, they can develop tartar on their teeth, so preventative dental care is critical, and the same tools exist for your pets as they do for police dogs. In case of an accident (as with Zeus), we sometimes have to call in a specialist to do special repairs like a crown for a tooth.

We are proud and grateful for the opportunity to do our part in helping keep the Kingston community safe by making sure the canine officers are in top health. We are able to do a great job by having astute handlers on the police force notify us when one of their canine officers is not well. You are your pet’s early health problem detectives. If you suspect that your pet has a health issue, please don’t hesitate to have them checked out.

Written by Dr. Ryan Llera