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Veterinarians Intervene In Stress-Related Illness
By Suzanne Berry
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Job-related stress can affect a working dog's health much like it does humans, but diagnosing problems in an animal that cannot communicate feelings can make treatment a challenge.
Hurricane Bob, an 8-year-old labrador retriever worked as an arson-sniffing dog for the Jackson Fire Department until an unknown illness began to take a serious toll on his health last fall.
Bob's partner, arson Investigator Danny Benton, noticed that Bob was lethargic and had no interest in food, was losing weight and just wasn't himself. Bob's veterinarian in Jackson diagnosed and treated him for a bacterial infection after a thorough examination.
Over the next few days, the dog's condition did not improve enough to suit his doctor, and he referred Bob to Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in Starkville.
MSU veterinarians conducted a series of diagnostic procedures to find out why Bob was not getting better even with his antibiotics. They performed an endoscopy, which allows visualization of hollow internal organs via a scope with a fiber optic light source attached. This test revealed that Hurricane Bob was suffering from stomach ulcers.
"Dogs can develop ulcers from tumors, aspirin, toxins and stress," said Dr. Buck Clark, an intern at MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine who treated Bob during his illness. "I think job-related stress is what caused Bob to get sick."
Hurricane Bob underwent training by the Department by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to learn how to sniff out accelerants used in setting suspicious fires. The intense training process takes five weeks, seven days a week and uses food for motivation. Dogs trained with food instead of toys tend to work harder for longer periods of time.
Bob was given to the Jackson Fire Department by the ATF in 1995, and has investigated more than 800 fires since he began his job with the department.
"Before we had Bob on the job, investigating a fire took a lot of time and extra work," said Jackson Fire Chief Norman Presson. "Bob saved us time during an investigation. He was a tool that made our job easier by detecting accelerants in the burned out area.
"Most of the dogs trained and used by the ATF are former seeing eye dogs, because they are already house-trained, good with people and used to working," Presson said. Bob was a seeing eye dog prior to his career as an arson-sniffing dog.
After MSU veterinarians diagnosed Bob with stomach ulcers, he received medication to protect and soothe the lining of his stomach and began the long process of recovery from his stress- induced illness. Bob officially retired from his service with Jackson Fire Department at the end of the year and will spend the rest of his life with Benton, his former partner.
Contact: Dr. Buck Clark, (662) 325-3432