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Military Working Dog Registry Established to Improve Care

Image of Military personnel in veterinary class. U.S. Army Maj. Tiffany Kimbrell, assigned to the 949th Medical Detachment, gives a brief during a veterinary class at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq on Aug.11, 2020. A Military Working Dog Trauma Registry was launched by the Department of Defense to track MWD casualty care epidemiology, treatment, diagnostics, and outcomes to improve care. Photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Calabro

The Department of Defense established a registry for military working dogs, referenced in the military as MWDs, because it recognized a need for a database to keep track of morbidity and mortality during deployment.

In January 2022, the Military Working Dog Trauma Registry was launched by the Department of Defense Center of Excellence for Trauma Joint Trauma System and “captures military working dog casualty care epidemiology, treatment, diagnostics, and outcomes from point of injury through recovery,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Sarah Cooper, chief of animal medicine with the Defense Health Agency Veterinary Service Division.

Database Will Improve Care

In the last two decades, more than 4,000 MWDs dogs were injured in combat, but detailed information on the dogs’ injuries and treatments were not captured in any existing database, making it difficult to do any research and analysis. When a human warfighter is injured, their injuries are tracked and researched so this information can help improve treatments, recovery, and prevention in future similar incidents.

Seeing a need to keep track of this information, “in 2017, the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps established a community of interest to identify MWD trauma care gaps, and the need for an MWD Trauma Registry was established,” said Cooper. In addition, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 requires development of a comprehensive trauma care registry that includes MWDs. 

This registry will allow military veterinarians and working dog handlers to draw lessons learned and improve the training and medical care provided to these highly trained canine warfighters. Data from the registry might also help in the development of protective equipment.

“The primary objective of the MWD Trauma Registry mirrors that of the DOD Trauma Registry, which is performance improvement. By collecting MWD casualty care data, DHA Veterinary Services can support both the medical readiness of the MWD as well as the readiness of U.S. Army Veterinary Services,” she said.

Ensuring the health readiness of MWDs is vital according to Cooper. “Military Working Dogs are a force multiplier and offer a capability unmatched by any other technology.  Improving MWD trauma readiness and outcomes protects this critical force protection asset.”

“The design and functionality of the registry was based on the Joint Trauma System’s Department of Defense Trauma Registry. The data fields and patient flow were modified to reflect Army Veterinary Services as the health care providers and MWDs as the patients,” said Cooper.

Ultimately, the registry on MWD injuries aims to improve their health.

“The bond between a handler and their MWD is truly special, and my goal is to keep that MWD healthy, by their handler’s side, and performing their mission for the Joint Force,” said Cooper.

Selecting Military Working Dogs for the Registry

Military Working Dogs that meet the selection criteria are identified through three sources:

  • The DD Form 3073 - K9 Tactical Combat Casualty Care Card or DD Form 3074 - K9 Treatment and Resuscitation Record
  • The veterinary electronic health record
  • The United States Transportation Command Regulating and Command and Control Evacuation System

Once identified, the data abstractor reviews all the information available to fill the data fields in the MWD Trauma Registry.

The registry, which is funded by the DHA, has gotten accolades across the military community. “Support for the MWD Trauma Registry has been tremendous. The Joint Trauma System has been instrumental in its development, launch, and support. When the capabilities of the MWD Trauma Registry are briefed, reactions are always positive and generate questions and interest,” said Cooper.

The MWD Trauma Registry will continue to be populated by abstracting data from prospective and retrospective MWD casualties. In addition, there are plans to move the MWD Trauma Registry into the Military Health System Information platform.

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