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Incirlik defender receives preventive surgery

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Raymond Hoy
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
A 39th Security Forces Squadron defender is a little safer after completing preventive surgery Aug. 27 at the Veterinary Clinic here. 

The defender, Suli, is a 9-year old German shepherd Military Working Dog who received prophylactic gastropexy, also referred to as stomach tacking, to prevent gastric torsion, or twisting of the stomach. 

Stomach twisting is caused by gastric dilatation and volvulus, commonly known as bloat. Bloat is currently the second most common killer of dogs behind cancer and is most common in deep-chested breeds, according to recent studies. This includes shepherds, the most common MWD. 

The surgery itself involves attaching, or "tacking," the stomach to the abdomen wall. This won't necessarily prevent bloat, but the actual turning of the stomach. The surgery, after more than an hour of preparation, only took about 30 minutes to complete. 

"There has been a dramatic increase in the need and number of MWD's worldwide and the Dog Center hasn't been able to send them all out with the surgery, so we are all participating in the effort," said Army Maj. (Dr.) Katheryn Hanson, the Incirlik Veterinarian. "We had one dog die here this past year from GDV so if we can prevent that from happening ever again, it is worth the time it takes for us to do the surgery and the time it takes the dog away from work for recovery." 

Suli received this surgery after a recommendation by the Army, the service in charge of the medical care for the MWD program, for all dogs in the program to undergo the procedure. The recommendation was made to all military installations earlier this year, but the ultimate decision was left up to the owners of the dogs. And in the case of Incirlik AB, that meant Lt. Col. Glen Christensen, the 39th SFS commander. 

"We are extremely fortunate to have not only an amazing kennel master and staff, but also the best veterinary support possible," Colonel Christensen said. "It was a no-brainer to follow their combined recommendations. Given the additional fact that the Air Force and DoD are so short on MWDs, the choice to proceed with the surgeries was easy. It will be great for the dogs and ultimately great for us." 

Not one to leave all the dangerous stuff for his dog to handle by himself, Suli's handler, Staff Sgt. Eric Bonner, assisted in the two-person surgery. And while he has received training on certain aspects of the shepherd's medical care, the surgery was a first for Sergeant Bonner. 

"Assisting in these kinds of procedures is a great experience for dog handlers," Sergeant Bonner said. "It not only helps us understand what's happening with our dogs, but also better understand how to save them if something goes wrong. The Veterinary staff here is amazing when it comes to getting us the knowledge we need to make both of our jobs that much easier." 

Female working dogs receive the gastropexy when they are spayed and still in training back at the Dog Center in Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. That leaves most of the males like Suli that still need the surgery. This means a lot more work for Doctor Hanson and her staff. 

"We work with these dogs all the time," Doctor Hanson said. "I know they protect me, so now it's my turn to protect them. " 

"It's like any surgery," she added. "You don't breathe with any relief until a couple of weeks afterwards when everything's healed and the dog's back at work." 

NOTE: For more information on bloat and what you can do to prevent it, contact the Veterinary Clinic at 676-3119.