Skip main navigation

Military Health System

Clear Your Browser Cache

This website has recently undergone changes. Users finding unexpected concerns may care to clear their browser's cache to ensure a seamless experience.

Defense Health Agency Veterinary Services Protect Military Working Animals

Image of U.S. Army Capt. Rebecca Reed, officer in charge, Fort Belvoir Veterinary Medical Center, conducts a physical exam of Peti, a military working dog, while Eduardo Vazquez, K-9 handler, Provost Marshal Office, Security Battalion, holds him still at the Veterinary Medical Center on Fort Belvoir, Virginia, April 25, 2022. (US Marine Corps photo: Lance Cpl. Kayla LaMar). U.S. Army Capt. Rebecca Reed, officer in charge, Fort Belvoir Veterinary Medical Center, conducts a physical exam of Peti, a military working dog, while Eduardo Vazquez, K-9 handler, Provost Marshal Office, Security Battalion, holds him still at the Veterinary Medical Center on Fort Belvoir, Virginia, April 25, 2022. (Photo: Lance Cpl. Kayla LaMar)

Military working animals, along with their human counterparts, play an important role in protecting our nation and U.S. interests worldwide.

From bomb and drug sniffing working dogs to working mules and horses—these animals are crucial to the safety and security on and off the battlefield.

The U.S. Army Veterinary Corps promotes the health, safety, and welfare of all military working animals to maintain mission readiness. The corps also provides care for service members’ pets at veterinary treatment facilities around the globe. The Defense Health Agency Veterinary Services Division supports the Veterinary Corps’ animal health mission by providing policy guidance, support, and coordination with other departments and agencies when needed.

“We accomplish this by providing veterinary public health capabilities through veterinary medical and surgical care, food safety and defense, and biomedical research and development,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Patti Glen, chief of DHA’s veterinary services division. “In addition to the vet corps, officers provide military veterinary expertise in response to natural disasters and other emergencies. We're an integral part of supporting a nation at war. Everything we do ultimately focuses on the warfighter, the soldier, sailor, airmen, and Marines.

Taking Care of Military Working Animals is a Team Effort

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Melissa Hehr, deputy chief of DHA’s veterinary services division, said that military working dogs receive semi-annual physical exams at a minimum, as well as other routine and preventive veterinary care that includes vaccinations, and flea, tick, and heartworm prevention.

She said wellness exams are recommended for personal pets on an annual basis. Consulting a veterinarian is recommended to “determine what vaccinations are most appropriate, given their pet’s location, breed, age, health status, and activities.

“For our working animals, the handlers have a really close relationship with the veterinarian so that they can call them anytime they need to,” said Glen. “There is an Army veterinarian on call 24/7 for our working animals.

Glen noted the summertime can be especially hard on working animals, particularly dogs.

“The working dogs are out there in the heat, and their work is so intense that they must be on work-rest cycles. They need to have plenty of shade. Their coat gives them more insulation, so it's harder to keep them cool. It is important for them to have access to shade, and water to cool down and to drink.”

Even something as common as walking your dog can be dangerous for their health during the warmer months.

“If the concrete is too hot for you to touch,” said Glen, “then it’s too hot for them to walk on. Find some grass to get them off the hot concrete.”

“Another thing for military families to keep in mind is maintaining their pet's rabies vaccinations and rabies titers.” She added  this is especially important if a service member is about to move outside of the U.S. Having pet records up to date is vital to prevent delays.

Military personnel with mules U.S. Marines lead military working mules on a hike during Animal Packers Course 23-1 at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, California, June 18, 2023. (U.S. Marine Corps photo: Lance Cpl. Justin J. Marty)

DHA Veterinary Services Design Strategy

Although not responsible for the day-to-day care of the military’s working animals, or service members’ personal pets, the DHA veterinary services division helps to analyze, inform, influence, and shape policy and strategy.

Along with their work with military working animals, “a large part of our mission is protecting or enhancing the health of the warfighter and beneficiaries of the Military Health System,” said Hehr.

“One of the things I enjoy about working in DHA Public Health is that there is no such thing as a typical day,” said Hehr. “I enjoy the challenge of not knowing what may come my way as I go about my workday. We spend a lot of time analyzing and informing policy that can impact our stakeholders, the joint force, and the nation.”

Being a Veterinarian is ‘Best Job in the World’

“I can't imagine that there's a more exciting job than as a veterinarian in the Army,” said Glen.

In her current capacity she noted that she gets to do a little bit of everything.

“We get called on for our expertise in food protection, animal health and welfare, global health engagements, disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, and zoonotic disease. I get to help develop and shape policy.”

Her passion to help animals fueled her career path.

“I became a veterinarian because I love medicine and wanted to help not only animals, but also people,” said Hehr. “I liked the fact that veterinary medicine would give me the option to change course multiple times throughout my career to pursue my ever-evolving interests and passions.”

“I like knowing that I can make a difference on so many levels. Whether it’s because I’m able to cure a sick pet, prevent the spread of a transboundary animal disease to U.S. livestock, mitigate the risk of zoonotic diseases to people, or support national security,  my role as an Army veterinarian enables me to have a positive impact in so many areas that I feel are important.”

You also may be interested in...

Article Around MHS
Jun 11, 2024

Army Veterinary Corps Celebrates 108th Birthday

Military personnel teaching a dog at Ft. Campbell Vet Clinic

The Army Veterinary Corps celebrates 108 years of service to our nation June 3. The Soldiers and staff of the Fort Campbell Veterinary Clinic strive to provide the best animal, food and public health support to the entire Fort Campbell community.

Article Around MHS
Feb 20, 2024

Dover AFB Veterinary Treatment Facility, Warm Zone Team Conduct Decontamination Training with MWDs

U.S. Army Capt. Alicia Bailey, right, Dover Air Force Base Veterinary Treatment Facility officer in charge, and U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Courtney Burns, 436th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, demonstrate decontamination techniques on Military Working Dog Zorro during a training session at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, Jan. 10, 2024.

Members of the Dover Air Force Base Veterinary Treatment Facility, 436th Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog section, and the 436th Medical Group Warm Zone Team held a training session on January 10, 2024, to practice the skills necessary to properly decontaminate MWDs and possibly save their lives in the aftermath of a nuclear, biological ...

Article Around MHS
Feb 16, 2024

Newest Pacific Veterinary Treatment Facility Enhances Care, Strengthens Partnerships in Japan

Noncommissioned officer-in-charge, U.S. Navy Staff Sgt. Ryan Spach, examine military working dog Jutas from the Commander Fleet Activities Sasebo Kennels, Japan. Jutas made history as the very first patient at the newly opened Sasebo veterinary treatment facility following a ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 18, 2024. (Courtesy Photo)

Despite intermittent downpours and cloudy skies, a palpable sense of excitement and anticipation filled the air as the Public Health Command-Pacific, Veterinary Readiness Activity, Japan and Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo leadership came together on January 18, 2024, to celebrate the opening of the newest veterinary treatment facility in the Pacific.

Article Around MHS
Aug 18, 2023

Pet Therapy at Keesler: Creating a Paw-sitive Environment

An airman in training from the 81st Training Group plays with a therapy dog at the Levitow Training Support Facility on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, on July 13, 2023. Volunteer teams of therapy animals and their handlers visit the 81st TRG weekly to help alleviate stress for airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly L. Tou)

Overall, both military men and women are nearly twice as likely to report feeling high levels of stress in their military work (39%) than in their family life (22%), according to the National Library of Medicine. Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi provides multiple resources for airmen and their families who may need physical or psychological ...

Topic
Aug 4, 2023

Veterinary Services

Veterinary Services performs food safety operations and inspections to ensure deployed forces receive the safest food and water available. They also care for military working animals and provide public health services during humanitarian assistance missions.

Article Around MHS
Aug 1, 2023

Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital Celebrates Dog Days of Summer

Piper, an English Bulldog, loves sleeping and cuddling with her human, Carmen Rutledge, a military health assistant with managed care at BJACH.  (Photo: Carmen Rutledge)

“Dogs are like little mood boosters in hospitals,” said U.S. Army Capt. James Walker, hospital chaplain of Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital. He submitted a photo of his dog, Scout, to participate in DHA's Dog Days of Summer campaign, which raises awareness of facility dogs across the MHS. Everyone, including the hospital and dental commander, and ...

Article Around MHS
Jul 17, 2023

Clear Vision, Wet Noses

Senior Airman Joseph Fox, 22nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and military working dog Sani stand outside the veterinary clinic at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas May 30, 2023. A team of ophthalmologists from Kansas State University's Veterinary Health Center visited McConnell, where they provided free eye exams for military working dogs. (U.S. Air Force Photo: Airman Gavin Hameed)

A team of ophthalmologists from Kansas State University's Veterinary Health Center visited McConnell Air Force Base, where they provided free eye exams for military working dogs.

Skip subpage navigation
Refine your search
Last Updated: September 06, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery