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Family Matters Blog: Military Vets Aid Families’ Pets

By Navy Lt. Theresa Donnelly
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 13, 2012 – Active duty service members and military retirees who own a pet and live near a military installation have a great service at their disposal: veterinary clinics.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Capt. Dixie Burner and Army Spc. Carol Albino examine a stray cat that recently gave birth to kittens. U.S. Army photo by Kathy Eastwood
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Clinic providers ensure the health of our furry friends by providing preventive care and wellness checks.

These clinics are run by the Army's Veterinary Corps, a special group of dedicated soldiers who have a host of missions. They care for pets stateside, handle veterinary medical and surgical care, food safety and defense, and biomedical research and development.

Caring for pets is beneficial not only for the pet owners, but also for the veterinarians, explained Army Col. Robert Vogelsang, program manager for clinical veterinary medicine for U.S. Army Public Health Command. “Along with the primary animal-care mission for military working animals, providing some care to authorized beneficiaries' pets helps veterinarians and technicians sustain skills they need for wartime and contingency operations,” he said.

Animal doctors travel to conflict-affected areas around the world to administer vaccines and other treatments for farmers’ livestock in rural areas and underserved communities where care for animals is limited or unavailable. In many countries, the veterinarians are part of the Army’s civic action teams, meeting with government leaders and helping them with sustainable agricultural programs. These “soft power” programs help build rapport in the community and can help weaken support for insurgent activity, officials said.

Most service members’ primary interaction with the Army’s veterinarians is through the military’s 160 veterinary treatment facilities, which provide wellness checks, preventive medicine and outpatient services.

Veterinary care is funded by nonappropriated funds generated through services charged to pet owners, Vogelsang explained, which limits how much care can be offered. However, clinics try to keep pet owners’ costs reasonable while still covering the expense of clinic operations.

Vogelsang pointed out some common issues Army veterinarians experience when working with military families, including a lack of knowledge of the import and entry requirements when moving to a new installation. He recommended service members contact the Army VTF at their prospective duty station and find out the base’s requirements.

He also addressed the stray animal issue. “Though the vast majority of pet owners consider their pet as a member of the family and take very good care of them, some installations have experienced increases in stray animals assumed to have been abandoned by owners,” he said. “We encourage service families who can't move their pets to find homes for them.”

To stay informed on the latest developments in their field, military veterinarians have a working relationship with the American Veterinary Medical Association, a nonprofit organization representing veterinarians working in private and corporate practice, government, industry, academia and uniformed services.

The AVMA website has numerous videos, pamphlets, and other frequently asked questions on pet care. The website also lists resources for understanding symptoms affecting animals and information on other topics such as disaster preparedness for pets, pet food safety, heartworm prevention, pet first aid and animal dental care.

Taking on the lifetime responsibility to care for an animal is a huge commitment for any family, especially a military family who deals with regular moves. A pet should be a carefully thought-out decision, taking into account alternative homes of care and what pets are able to travel with the family. Our Army veterinarians can provide another great resource to answer your questions and to ensure your pet stays healthy.

(Guest blogger Navy Lt. Theresa Donnelly, of U.S. Pacific Command, is the owner of Hawaii Military Pets, which provides pet resources for military families. She’s offered to share her pet-related knowledge in a series of blogs for Family Matters.)

 

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