Police dogs involved with rescue and cleanup efforts after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City appear to be in fairly good health several years later. This is despite their exposure to smoke, dust, and toxins—and the fact that well over half of them had experienced some kind of health problem in their first week on the site.
Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Bob Levoy wrote about those rescue dogs, their health challenges, and the veterinary care they received at Ground Zero back in the November 2001 issue of Veterinary Economics. Click here to read that report.
In the study, researchers affiliated with The Animal Medical Center in New York City focused on 27 New York City Police dogs that assisted in the relief operation, 19 of which were still alive five years later. Many of the dogs worked during the entire 37 weeks of cleanup, heading out to locate victims in the pile of rubble that had been the World Trade Center.
The study reports that about 63 percent of the dogs experienced some type of health disorder during the first week, including fatigue, eye irritation, respiratory problems, decreased appetite, dehydration, and lacerations. However, only mild health problems occurred in the next five years, and they were infrequent. None of the dogs suffered from ongoing respiratory disease or blood disorders. In fact, the five-year mortality rate for the rescue dogs was similar to that of household pets.
In contrast, some people who worked at the site have experienced higher rates of illness, especially respiratory tract disease. Researchers speculate that differences in human and canine lung defense mechanisms may have allowed dogs to recover more completely than people. The study was published in the July 1, 2008, issue of JAVMA.