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Paramedics get lesson on how to treat police dogs

The Ottawa Paramedic tactical and public support units are learning how to treat a different kind of patient.

They're learning how to provide life-saving support to police dogs injured in the line of duty.

The tactical unit goes out when the Ottawa Police tactical unit is called to a scene, while the public support unit is called out in the case of a ground search for a person. In both situations, police dogs may be present.

Paramedic Chief Tony Di Monte said they recognized the need to be able to treat both the police officer and the dog.

"Our paramedics intervene on calls, we do our medicine, we're autonomous practitioners, if we need to consult we pick up the phone, we call the doc at the Ottawa Hospital for a human patient," said Di Monte. "We're doing the same thing with our canine patients and the vets at the Alta Vista Animal Hospital are able to coach, mentor, or even suggest things that the paramedics can do."

"What we want to achieve from this session is how to - in those really critical situations - what can they do to buy us a little bit of extra time, you know? Because in the human world you would have been picked up by the ambulance. Intravenous fluids would have been started. Certain measures of resuscitation would have already begun," said Dr. Victoria Bamberger with the Alta Vista Animal Hospital.

Paramedics learned how to muzzle a dog, and put on an e-collar, which is more commonly known as a cone. They also learned - using a mannequin - how to put a catheter into a dog.

Bamberger said it's not like helping just any dog.

"You don't just approach a police dog and treat it like you would your Shih Tzu at home," she said. "You have to deal with those dogs very differently. Safety is the biggest concern."

It costs a lot of money and takes up a lot of time to properly train a police dog, and Councillor Mark Taylor, the chair of the Community and Protective Services Committee said it makes sense to protect that investment and to be able to provide humane treatment for police dogs who are injured on duty.

"The last thing you want is to lose her because you can't get a little minor medical assistance to bring the dog back," said Const. Alain Rochette, a K9 handler with the police.

He handles Nika, who lay quietly as paramedics put a muzzle onto her.

"They're very loyal too," he said. "That's the thing. They don't see the danger like we [do]. Like when I sent her to prey on a suspect that would be armed or something, she could get hurt, but she will still go."

He added, while members of the K9 team are trained to give first aid to the dogs, it helps to have paramedics who know what they are doing.

"Let's say in a situation where I get injured, my dog's injured as well, which is totally possible, then you need somebody else who is able to cater to your dog."

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