Police dogs or military working dogs can present interesting challenges for the veterinary clinician. It is important to understand
the duties and work that they perform. From an administrative view, it is best to establish a veterinary-client relationship
before any veterinary care is needed. First establish who will be the responsible entity for paying any veterinary charges.
A charge limit should be established and understood by all parties involved. Too often an emergency scenario arises and the
emotions at the time can create a veterinary bill that cannot be paid. Determine ownership of the dog. If the dog is housed
by the handler, the law enforcement agency and the canine officer should develop an agreement related to home management of
the dog. It should be designed to prevent or minimize irresponsible sickness or injury that can occur at home environment.
The handler should be trained on how to handle the dog in the veterinary environment. The handler should honestly convey their
ability to handle the dog during the veterinary visit. At the veterinary clinic or hospital the dog will be exposed to new
and different stimuli than normal. The veterinarian must protect clients, staff other dogs in the clinic. By understanding
the handler's abilities, the veterinarian can make a determination as to whether sedation is warranted or if a special appointment
outside of the normal client hours is needed.
It is important for the veterinarian to know what activities the dog is performing. Patrol and deterrence are two common police
dog activities. These activities of these dogs might include aggression or bite work. For this reason, there are many musculoskeletal
problems that are specific for these actions. The veterinarian should develop very good palpation skills and a palpation style
that can be used on these strong, high-energy dogs. Detection work is also a common activity of police dogs. The veterinarian
should be well educated on olfaction metabolism. They should avoid using drugs or medications that would negatively affect
the scenting ability of the dog. Nutrition, nasal care, environmental conditions are just a few things that play a large role
in the canine's scenting ability. The veterinarian will need to be a very good diagnostician to identify subclinical problems
as well as the normal everyday issues that arise in police dogs The veterinarian must be well educated in canine exercise
physiology to understand how to optimize the canine's performance. Many law enforcement agencies utilize dual-purpose dogs.
These dogs are utilized for both aggression work and detection work.
Working with the police dogs can be satisfying as long as the veterinary-client relationship is set up properly.