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MWD suffers heat injury, saved by 378th MDG public health

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Giovanni Sims
  • 378 Air Expeditionary Wing

A U.S. Air Force military working dog was medically evacuated from Prince Sultan Air Base due to a heat related casualty on June 9, 2020.

Cvokey, a five year old Belgian Malinois military working dog assigned to the 378th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, was medically evacuated to Kuwait where he received treatment from a U.S. Army veterinarian for a heat related injury he suffered during training.

"Having K-9 is essential to the mission at Prince Sultan Air Base. They’re our first line of defense." said Tech. Sgt. Erick Hernandez, 378th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron kennel master.

As part of their training, MWD handlers are responsible for helping their K-9s maintain a stable body temperature in environments that commonly endure extreme temperatures.

"During the training, he started showing symptoms,” Hernandez said. “His handler put him in the air conditioning, checked his temperature, and saw it was at 109 degrees. We rechecked it with a different thermometer and it came back at 108.9 degrees. We knew we needed to get him medical attention immediately.”

While it is not common for U.S. Air Force troops to deploy with an on-site veterinarian, it was Cvokey’s lucky day to have a Public Health officer with a degree in veterinary medicine on base.

"I'm thankful to have been in the right place at the right time with my background in veterinary medicine,” said Maj. Valentina Merola, 378th Medical Group public health professional. “The medical group came together and were able to treat him just as we would a human with ice and placing him in cooler temperatures.”

Unfortunately, once an MWD suffers from a heat injury, they are considered for retirement.

“This is Cvokey's second heat casualty in this particular environment,” Hernandez said. “More than likely it will happen again, so once he's treated and back healthy in Kuwait, he'll head back to the states where he will retire from the military.”