Man’s best friend gets second chance

  • Published
  • By Capt. James Gaffney
  • 39th Air Base Wing

While Incirlik Air Base may be coded as a ‘No Pet’ base for permanent party and deployed personnel, due to operational conditions, the base is not animal free. Stray cats and dogs can frequently be seen roaming around the installation.

The care for stray animals is limited in Turkey and most animals are not vaccinated, spayed or neutered. Incirlik AB has a stray animal facility, where animals are only held for a short time until they can be reunited with their owners or relocated off of the installation.

Providing quality care for stray animals, particularly injured ones, remains a challenge.

In Jan., 2018, the veterinary treatment facility received several calls from concerned service members regarding a wounded dog. The callers indicated that the animal was laying on its side and bleeding from the leg.

Injuries acquired when an animal is hit by a car are unfortunately common in veterinary medicine and the veterinary team expected the worst.

After arriving on the scene and performing the initial assessment however, the patient was stable and even wagging her tail despite a painful, swollen leg.

To better assess the extent of the dog’s injury, the veterinary team brought her back to the vet office and sedated her so that they could conduct a thorough exam.

The team was lucky that she had a calm temperament even without sedation, as handling injured animals greatly increases the risk of a bite, with the potential to contract rabies. Her swollen, right, rear leg was shaved, allowing the veterinarian to clearly see three open wounds.

Laboratory testing of the material draining from the wounds showed evidence of infection, and in addition, some of the material was sent to the U.S. Army veterinary lab in Germany to see what type of bacteria was responsible for the infection.

The only way to determine whether there were any broken bones was to take an X-ray, fortunately there were no broken bones. Unfortunately, there were multiple gunshot wounds, likely from a small caliber ballistic projectile such as a BB gun.

The veterinary team decided to admit the dog for treatment, ‘Bebe’ was the name that ultimately stuck.

Bebe received daily medications to treat the infection and keep her comfortable and the team performed frequent bandage changes. There were a few challenges along the way, especially teaching her how to walk on a leash so that she could be brought outside for exercise and to use the bathroom.

After ten days of care, Bebe was turned over to the Base Stray Facility with the aim of having her adopted by a Turkish family, as base regulations do not permit service members to adopt animals, due to operational concerns.

Bebe’s case allowed the veterinary team to conduct public health surveillance, to make sure there are no diseases on the installation that can be transmitted from animals to people. The results from the veterinary lab in Germany identified that the wound was only infected with bacteria from the skin and mouth, a result of Bebe licking at her wounds, which is not something that is of concern to human health. Likewise, keeping Bebe for ten days, completed a quarantine for rabies which is not uncommon to the stray dog population in the surrounding area.

As an additional benefit, treating Bebe promoted the team’s readiness to care for the Military Working Dogs assigned to Incirlik Air Base, should they face a similar injury.

Above all, caring for animals in need gets at what it means to be a veterinarian, namely promoting animal health and welfare, relieving animal suffering and protecting the health of the public.

The veterinary team could not have managed the case on their own, without the help of the 39th Medical Group as they were integral in submitting the sample to the veterinary lab in Germany, particularly on short notice. Members of the 39th Civil Engineer Fire Department and 39th Security Forces helped to direct the veterinary team to Bebe and get her loaded for casualty evacuation.

Most of all, the personnel who called the clinic to alert them of the injured dog were integral in getting her the care she needed in a timely manner as she could not have survived her injury otherwise.

Individuals looking to report an animal welfare issue, contact the VTF at 676-3119 during duty hours, or 549-821-4294 after hours.