961: Medical Surveillance of Dogs Deployed to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon

Grant Status: Closed

Grant Amount: $111,465
Dr. Cynthia M. Otto, DVM PhD; University of Pennsylvania
January 1, 2009 - December 31, 2013
Sponsor(s): AKC CAR
Breed(s): -All Dogs
Research Program Area: General Canine Health and Obesity

Project Summary

We have concluded the 11th year (9/11/12) and are in the last month of the 12th year of monitoring the health and behavior of the surviving Search and Rescue dogs deployed on 9/11/01 to the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Staten Island landfills and the non-deployed control Search and Rescue dogs. To date, manuscripts have been published to include analysis of the data comparing the deployed to control dogs for the time period of 2001-2006. The deployed search dogs demonstrated mild changes in bloodwork and a higher incidence of radiographic cardiac abnormalities. There was no difference in clinical radiographic signs of pulmonary disease in the two groups. At time of publication, incidence of cancer was not different between the groups either. The 9/11 Medical Surveillance study continues to follow the surviving dogs. This group consists of 5 deployed dogs and 9 control dogs. As dogs in both categories are aging, we are placing emphasis on acquiring data regarding health issues that have occurred during later years of life as well as focusing on necropsy evaluations at time of death. This vital information will allow us the ultimate understanding of the impact of deployment on long-term canine health. Of the original 95 search and rescue dog deployed on 9/11 and the 55 non-deployed control dogs, 90 deployed dogs and 46 control dogs are deceased. There is a significantly higher proportion of deployed dogs that have died compared to the control dogs. However, the median age at the time of death was almost identical, 12.55 years for deployed dogs and 12.59 years for control dogs. These results suggest two things, first the higher proportion of deceased deployed dogs is a reflection of the fact that on average they were one year older than the control dogs and second that the typical lifespan of search and rescue dogs is a healthy 12.5 years. The incidence of cancer was not different between deployed dogs (37%) and control dogs (39%). The mean age at death of dogs with cancer, whether they were deployed or controls, was not significantly different. In addition the mean age of death of dogs confirmed to be without cancer were not different. Of note, within the deployed dogs, the median age at death was significantly lower for dogs with cancer (11.9 years) than the confirmed non-cancer group (13.1 yrs). This was not the case however with the control group. As this group approaches the end of their natural lives, continual monitoring is vital. We hope that they will continue to show minimal effects of the 9/11 deployment. However, as we get a more complete picture of the causes of death and incidences of cancer, long-term impacts of September 11th may become visible. This information would be critical to the tactics employed in future Search and Rescue missions and justifies continued vigilant monitoring of these dogs so the full scope of the deployment can be documented and learned from. In addition, this work has inspired the opening of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center (www.PennVetWDC.org) a donor supported, research driven program focusing on improving the global health and optimizing performance of detection dogs.


- Hunt MG, Serpell J, Otto CM. Interactions Between Handler Well-Being and Canine Health and Behavior in Search and Rescue Teams. Anthrozoos, 2012, 25(3):323-335.

- Otto CM, Downend AB, Moore GE, Daggy JK, Ranivand DL, Reetz JA, Fitzgerald SD. Medical Surveillance of Search Dogs Deployed to the World Trade Center and Pentagon: 2001-2006. Journal of Environmental Health, 201, 73(2):12-21.

- Fitzgerald SD, Rumbeiha W.K., Braselton W.E., Downend A.B., and C.M. Otto. Pathology and Toxicology Findings for Search & Rescue Dogs Deployed to the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack Sites: Initial Five Years Surveillance. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, 2007, 20: 4, 477-484.

- Jones KE, Dashfield K, Downend AB, Otto CM. Search and rescue dogs: an overview for veterinarians. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 2004, 225: 6, 854-860. 1

- Otto, C. M. Downend, A. B. Serpell, J. A. Ziemer, L. S. Saunders, H. M. Medical and behavioral surveillance of dogs deployed to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon from October 2001 to June 2002. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 2004, 225: 6, 861-867.

- Slensky, K. A. Drobatz, K. J. Downend, A. B. Otto, C. M. Deployment morbidity among search-and-rescue dogs used after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 2004, 225: 6, 868-873.

- Otto CM, Franz MA, Kellogg B, Lewis R, Murphy L, Lauber G. Field Treatment of Search Dogs: Lessons learned from the World Trade Center Disaster. Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, 2002. 12(1):33-41.

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