US Army veterinarian provides medical knowledge to assist dogs

Inside The Gates
Soldiers learn medical treatment for working dogs
Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 5:33 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Capt. Mary Helen Wilson grew up on a farm in central Florida. As a child, Wilson dreamt about working as a large animal veterinarian. However, now as an adult, she has altered that dream and has become an Army Veterinarian.

Wilson is one of two veterinarians working with the Alaska Army. There are approximately 700 veterinarians employed with the U.S. Army.

“These are essentially world-class athletes,” Wilson said. “So we pay attention to their hips, knees.”

On Monday Wilson performed a routine check-up exam on her patient Chelia, one of the working dogs on Joint-Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Dogs play an essential part in combat missions during deployment, missions, and on base.

“One IED sniffed out by a dog. How many soldiers, it’s impossible to put a number on that. The force multipliers our dogs are,” Wilson said.

If a dog gets hurt while in the field, Wilson will not be there in person there able to assist them. The responsibility falls on the soldiers in the field.

“If they can’t be stabilized before they can get to us, then it’s a lost cause. Even the best vet can’t turn back the time,” Wilson said.

In order to make sure troops have the medical knowledge on hand, Wilson and other veterinarians hold workshops teaching K-9 tactical combat causality care. One of the ways Wilson does this is by using a mechanic simulation dog named Hero. Soldiers can practice commonly used medical procedures on Hero, including drawing blood, inserting a catheter, or having to place an IV on the dog.

“Having that knowledge, and knowing how to apply it can save their life,” Lauren Clifton, a dog handler on JBER, said.