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Local Veterinary Trauma Center Saves K-9 War Hero


TAMPA – In May of 2012, Eddie, a 5-year-old Belgian malinois, saved the life of his handler, Air Force Staff Sgt. Shannon Hutto, and 13 other service members, when he detected an improvised explosive device while on patrol in Afghanistan. On Monday, while training at MacDill Air Force Base, the dog nearly died after going into seizures. Fortunately, some of the very same soldiers he saved were able to return the favor.

Edwin Cruz, a veterinary technician, checks Eddie. George Holmes, one of the handlers responsible for saving Eddie's life, stayed by his side throughout the hospitalization. Photo by James Judge

Doctors and technicians from BluePearl Veterinary Partners are treating Eddie, an Air Force working dog, after he was brought in seizing with signs of heatstroke.

Eddie was training with Air Force military working dog handlers assigned to the 6th Security Forces Squadron at MacDill. The handlers rushed him to BluePearl Veterinary Partners specialty and emergency hospital in Tampa, one of nine veterinary trauma centers in the nation.

“If it wasn’t for the quick thinking handlers and their actions, this could have been a very different story,” said Dr. John Gicking, a board-certified veterinary emergency and critical care specialist with BluePearl in Tampa.

Hutto and Air Force Staff Sgt. George Holmes, also a military working dog handler assigned to the 6th SFS, were able to return the favor when they saved Eddie’s life by rushing him to BluePearl.

“This just goes to show, even a dog with the best care and training possible can easily develop heatstroke,” said Gicking. “I hope this serves as a reminder to people of how important it is for everyone to know the signs and symptoms of heatstroke and if they believe their pet may be experiencing it, they should seek veterinary care as soon as possible.”

Sticking with the tradition of never leaving a man behind, Holmes remained by Eddie’s side while at BluePearl. Eddies is expected to make a full recovery.

Here are some steps BluePearl doctors recommend to help prevent your pet from taking a trip to the emergency room:

  • Avoid physical activity during the heat of the day; keep exercise to the cooler mornings and evenings.
  • Ensure your pet has access to plenty of water throughout the day and during times of exercise.
  • Spray your pet down with room temperature or cool water, but never ice water. Ice cold water causes a decrease in blood flow to the skin and heat can’t escape the body properly, which actually makes heat exhaustion symptoms worse.
  • Make sure pets are kept inside of air-conditioned spaces to avoid excess exposure to heat.
  • When walking or jogging with your pet, try to avoid asphalt as your pet’s paw pads can burn. Instead, stick to dirt or grass, as those surfaces are less hot.
  • Never leave your pet in a car unattended, even with the air conditioning running. If the air conditioning fails, your pet could easily over-heat in as little as a few minutes.
  • Don’t give sports drinks or electrolyte supplements to pets. Dogs cool off by panting and they do not sweat like people. Supplements like sports drinks can actually harm animals and make pets sick.

Most importantly, be familiar with your pet and know when they aren’t acting right. Lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and dark red gums are all signs of heat related distress. If your pet is panting uncontrollably or collapses, take the animal to your veterinarian or nearest emergency veterinary hospital immediately.


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