A K9’s Fall Prompts Change

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Paramedics for K9s will now be onsite in Mount Pleasant after a joint project between the town’s police and fire departments.

BY SHANE HIMES, MT. PLEASANT FIRE DEPARTMENT PARAMEDIC

IT WAS A HORRIBLE FALL. A THREE-story plunge by one of Mount Pleasant’s finest during a training exercise. When Arko, a police K9, hit the ground after falling through a window, his handlers did everything they could to save him and rushed Arko to a nearby emergency vet for treatment.

While he was seriously injured, Arko survived and is now enjoying retirement in the home of his K9 handler.

ARKO’S FALL PROMPTS CHANGE

Following this traumatic event, the K9 Handlers looked for lessons in what happened.

In Arko’s case, there was no prior notification to the emergency vet that an injured K9 was en route to them so they could prepare. There was a delay in medical care while trying to obtain information on Arko, such as his weight. Finally, questions lingered on whether the handling of this emotionally chaotic event could have gone smoother.

Mount Pleasant Police K9 Handler Andrew Scott reached out to me at the Mount Pleasant Fire Department – and together we searched for solutions.

Our central question: What could be done to make sure that an injured K9 receives medical care immediately following an injury?

ONSITE PARAMEDICS FOR K9s

Together we created a program to provide advanced lifesaving care in the event that one of the Mount Pleasant Police Department K9’s becomes injured.

Having medically trained personnel present during emergency scenes and hazardous training would guarantee that these K9s receive immediate treatment.

The program will train the Mount Pleasant Fire Department’s Tactical Emergency Medical Support (TEMS) Team to be able to provide Paramedic care to an injured law enforcement K9.

The TEMS Team consists of one Emergency Physician, one Chief Officer Paramedic, and five Tactical Paramedics that are already trained to provide medical care in the tactical setting.

HOW THE PROGRAM WORKS

K9 Handlers now have the ability to request a TEMS Paramedic for training. TEMS Paramedics also respond with the K9s to emergency scenes where the K9s will be utilized.

The TEMS Paramedics will be able to sedate the K9 in the event that the K9 or the K9’s Handler needs immediate medical attention. This will reduce the physical and emotional stress on the K9 during this emergency. An injured K9 could cause further harm to him or herself.

The TEMS Paramedics are trained to notify the receiving medical facility while en route to give them preparation time. Upon arrival at the veterinary emergency hospital, the TEMS Paramedic will then turn over the K9 patient to the staff to ensure immediate continuation of care.

Lastly, the TEMS Paramedics are trained to be able to provide life-saving interventions in the most stressful and chaotic situations. They will bring stability throughout this event.

Paramedics are already trained to provide the care outlined in this program to human patients. The programs curriculum will include an anatomy section on police working dogs and scenarios of providing K9 care in the tactical environment.

The TEMS Paramedics will then attend a clinical rotation in a veterinary operating room to prove clinical proficiency as they add K9 care into their skills set.

The K9s primary care veterinarian will serve as the Medical Control Physician for the K9 care program. They will oversee the TEMS Paramedic training in the form of signed clinical operating guidelines.

Members of the TEMS Team will periodically visit Charleston Animal Society to continue training in the anatomy and treatment of dogs with on-staff veterinarians.

“We think this is an amazing program and we want to support our first responders in any way we can,” said Charleston Animal Society Senior Director of Veterinary Care Dr. Lucy Fuller.

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