JANESVILLE — Almost all the knowledge a paramedic uses to treat humans can be used to help an injured police dog.
Most paramedics don’t know that, said Paul McNamara, a veterinarian and owner of Odin’s Fund, a nonprofit that teaches canine first aid to first responders.
McNamara demonstrated canine first aid for a packed room full of Rock County first responders recently at Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville.
His class teaches basic first aid that will help police dogs that are injured on the job.
Police dogs face the same hazards as human officers: guns, knives, explosives, chemicals, insects and other threats. Dogs often approach a scene first, making them the most vulnerable, McNamara said.
The opioid epidemic has exposed dogs and humans to even more danger because of substances such as carfentanyl, which can cause overdoses simply by touching it, McNamara said.
The class was one of the most impressive groups McNamara has trained, he said, because it included canine handlers, paramedics, doctors and other first responders who normally don’t attend the training.
The turnout showed the commitment local professionals have to police dogs and the community, he said.
Some treatments carry over
Many medical skills that stabilize humans before they’re transported to a hospital can also help police dogs, McNamara said. Likewise, many of the same drugs that help humans can be used on dogs — just in smaller doses.
Rock County sheriff’s Deputy Nathan DeBoer and his partner, Sasha, a German shepherd-Malinois mix, helped give a demonstration to the class.
McNamara used Sasha to show how to approach an injured police dog: give a visual examination, approach the dog from the front, give the dog a few pats and scratches for comfort and then begin care.
Sasha let McNamara check her pulse and arteries.
DeBoer then scooped up the large dog in both hands to show how a handler can calm a dog for an exam.
Police dogs provide valuable services to law enforcement and the community. Treating humans is always the priority during an emergency, but helping a police dog preserves an important resource, McNamara said.
Physician Jennifer Gibson Chambers said police dogs provide another layer of safety to medical staff in dangerous scenarios.
Parker McKenzie, a paramedic who works with Beloit’s Special Weapons and Tactics team, said he has never seen a police dog get hurt, but he is glad to know what do if that happened. He was surprised at how many of his paramedic skills transfer to animals.
For her part, Sasha didn’t seem nervous at all. She lay in DeBoer’s arms with her tongue out, tail wagging, loving the medical attention she was getting.