Health studies of Sept. 11 dogs ongoing

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The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation and AKC Companion Animal Recovery continue their support of studies to determine long-term health impact of search-and-rescue dogs deployed at the World Trade Center and Pentagon following the Sept. 11 attacks.

As of late January, nearly $125,000 has been contributed, including $62,000 from AKC-CAR through its Canine Support and Relief Fund. The remaining costs are being provided by AKC-CHF and supporters.

For six years, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania, led by Dr. Cynthia Otto, have been monitoring the health and behavior of 97 search-and-rescue dogs deployed Sept. 11. No clinically obvious differences have been observed between the dogs and a control group of 55 nondeployed dogs.

A veterinary epidemiologist is analyzing the first five years of health survey data. In addition, Dr. James A. Serpell, director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals & Society at the University of Pennsylvania, is analyzing data from his validated behavior survey to identify any significant differences over time and determine any correlation with their deployment.

To date, 35 deployed dogs and 15 control dogs enrolled in the study have died. The proportion of deceased deployed dogs to deceased control dogs is not significantly different than the control group, nor is the rate of cancer.

To further evaluate the effect of deployment on rate and onset of health and behavior problems, it is essential to continue monitoring the dogs and the controls throughout their natural lifespan, according to the AKC.