01943-A: In Support of Our Working Dogs: Medical Surveillance of Dogs Deployed to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon 2013-2014

Grant Status: Closed

Grant Amount: $12,960
Cynthia M. Otto, DVM, PhD; University of Pennsylvania
June 1, 2013 - November 30, 2016


Breed(s): -All Dogs
Research Program Area: General Canine Health
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Project Summary

We have concluded the 15th and final 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 including 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. The incidence of cancer was also not different between the groups.

In its later years, the 9/11 Medical Surveillance study continued to the remaining deployed and control dogs, 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.

As of June 6, 2016, all 95 search and rescue dog deployed on 9/11 and the 55 non-deployed control dogs are deceased. The median age at the time of death was almost identical, 12.8 years for deployed dogs and 12.9 years for control dogs. These results suggest that the typical lifespan of search and rescue dogs is close to 13 years, which compares favorably to typical life expected from these breeds of dogs. In the control group 23 dogs had cancer, this reflects 42% of all control dogs. In the deployed group, 37 dogs had cancer, representing 39% of deployed dogs. There was no significant difference in the incidence of cancer between groups (p=0.863). 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; however, deployed dogs without cancer were significantly older than deployed dogs with cancer. This finding likely reflects that several of the deployed dogs lived in excess of 15 years.

As we complete the data analysis we hope that they will continue to show minimal effects of the 9/11 deployment on the causes of death and incidences of cancer. This information will 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.


Otto, C. M., Hare, E., Buchweitz, J. P., Kelsey, K. M., & Fitzgerald, S. D. (2020). Fifteen-year surveillance of pathological findings associated with death or euthanasia in search-and-rescue dogs deployed to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack sites. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 257(7), 734–743. https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.257.7.734

Hunt, M., Otto, C. M., Serpell, J. A., & Alvarez, J. (2012). Interactions between Handler Well-Being and Canine Health and Behavior in Search and Rescue Teams. Anthrozoös, 25(3), 323–335. https://doi.org/10.2752/175303712X13403555186253

Jones, K. E., Dashfield, K., Downend, A. B., & Otto, C. M. (2004). Search-and-rescue dogs: An overview for veterinarians. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 225(6), 854–860. https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.2004.225.854

<>Otto, C. M., Downend, A. B., Moore, G. E., Daggy, J. K., Ranivand, D. L., Reetz, J. A., & Fitzgerald, S. D. (2009). Medical surveillance of search dogs deployed to the World Trade Center and Pentagon: 2001-2006. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 4(6), 241. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2009.04.002

Otto, C. M., Franz, M. A., Kellogg, B., Lewis, R., Murphy, L., & Lauber, G. (2002). Field treatment of search dogs: Lessons learned from the World Trade Center disaster: Field treatment of search dogs. Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, 12(1), 33–41. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1435-6935.2002.00004.x

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