Rethinking Heat Injury in the SOF Multipurpose Canine: A Critical Review


Baker JL, Hollier PJ, Miller L, Lacy WA 12(2). 8 - 15 (Journal Article)

Heat injury is a significant concern of the Special Operations Forces Multipurpose Canine (SOF MPC). The unique athletic abilities and working environment of the SOF MPC differ from that of companion dogs or even conventional military working dogs. This should be considered in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heat injury of the SOF MPC. A critical review of the literature on canine heat injury as it pertains to working dogs demonstrates limited scientific evidence on best practices for immediate clinical management of heat injury in SOF MPCs. A majority of management guidelines for heat injury in veterinary reference books and journals are based on review articles or professional opinion of the author vs. evidence from original research. In addition, guidelines are written primarily for companion animal populations vs. SOF MPCs and focus on measures to be undertaken in a clinical setting vs. point of injury. The phenomenon of "circular referencing" is also prevalent in the heat injury literature. Current guidelines supported by review articles and textbooks often provide no citation or cite other review articles for clinical standards such as normal temperature ranges, treatment methods, and recurrence of heat injury. This "circular referencing" phenomenon misrepresents anecdotal evidence and professional opinion as scientifically validated, reinforcing concepts and recommendations that are not truly supported by the evidence. Further study is needed to fully understand heat injury in SOF MPCs and how this applies to prevention, diagnosis and treatment guidelines. In order to provide SOF canine programs with best clinical advice and care, SOF Veterinarians must make clinical judgments based on evaluation of the most accurate and valid information possible. Clinical guidelines are fluid and should be reviewed regularly for relevance to the defined population in question. Clinical Guidelines should also be utilized as guiding principles in conjunction with clinical judgment vs. dictate a clinical protocol. SOF veterinarians as the veterinary support asset to SOF MPC programs should be clinically competent as well as versed in evidence based medicine practices to provide the cutting edge clinical support that is required to keep SOF MPCs operating in modern warfare environments.

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