Civil Affairs Veterinarians Share Canine First Aid with Kenyan Defence Force

Veterinarians, dog handlers and technicians from the 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion (CA BN) and Kenyan Defence Force (KDF) assessed and shared best practices during a five-day KDF Military Working Dog Handler Canine First Aid Training Course, January 13-17.

The course was an opportunity for the 433rd CA BN to gain knowledge of the KDF program, address problems KDF’s military dogs are having, and identify areas to improve future military-to-military missions.

“The importance of the training is to give the dog handler the skills to respond to the care of the working dog in an austere environment where veterinary support is not available,” said U.S. Army Colonel Trudy Salerno, 443rd CA BN Functional Specialty Team (FST) veterinarian. “Often times a basic knowledge of what is normal and what is not and how to read the signs and rapidly respond is critical in keeping that dog alive.”

Designed by Major Jenifer Gustafson, 443rd CA BN FST veterinarian and KDF Major Dr. Marion Amulyoto, the course provided basic canine first aid training to dog handlers of the 1st Canine Regiment. The training is critical because the handlers deploy to Somalia with their dogs, where there is no veterinary support.

The dogs were initially used for installation security, but their role has been expanded to include counter-improvised explosive device detection, patrol, search and rescue and border patrol.

The student’s medical experience was varied, but this was the first time they had attended a class dedicated solely to veterinary medicine and canine first aid.

“In the after-action review, the students self-rated themselves according to their medical knowledge before the class and after the class on a scale of one to ten with one being low,” Salerno said. “All students gained at least a two point increase in knowledge with some gaining as high as seven points by the end of the class.”

Each day of the course was split between classroom time in the mornings and live animal practicals in the afternoon. Students learned about vital statistics, shock treatment, bandaging and splinting techniques and clearing airway obstructions.

Each training day involved more advanced techniques and by the fifth day the students practiced giving injections, placing and removing IV catheters and administering fluids.

“By the end of the fifth day the students have progressed in their medical abilities by leaps and bounds,” Gustafson said. “All groups were very comfortable with the physical exam and taking vital signs and have mastered bandaging, and giving injections.”

Salerno said that she received numerous comments from the students saying how much they learned and how much they appreciated the support of the United States in putting on this class.

A few weeks after the class, Gustafson received feedback from Amulyoto that a deployed military working dog had survived because of the lifesaving techniques taught in the course. “This makes the course invaluable since it saves a valuable asset to the operations in Somalia,” Gustafson said.