2021 AAHA Working, Assistance, and Therapy Dog Guidelines

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Paws in Service: Caring for Working, Assistance, and Therapy Dogs

The AAHA Working, Assistance, and Therapy Dog Guidelines provide an important resource for the veterinary team tasked with safeguarding the health and wellbeing of dogs in various occupational roles. Tailored to the distinct needs and demands faced by working dogs, these guidelines provide a roadmap for comprehensive healthcare, covering aspects from physical fitness and preventive healthcare to behavioral wellbeing. With an emphasis on collaborative efforts, these guidelines aim to enhance the quality of life and efficacy of working, assistance, and therapy dogs across various settings by preparing veterinarians to meet their unique needs.

These guidelines offer a comprehensive framework for veterinary professionals engaged in the care of working dogs. Key points include:

Lifestyle Considerations

  • Recognizes the unique lifestyle and demands placed on working dogs, considering their roles in various fields such as police, search and rescue, or service work.
  • Emphasizes the importance of tailoring healthcare plans to meet the specific needs and challenges faced by working dogs.

Nutrition and Dietary Planning

  • Highlights the significance of a well-balanced and nutritionally dense diet for sustaining the energy and stamina required by working dogs.
  • Encourages customized dietary plans based on the individual dog’s activity level and specific job requirements.

Preventive Healthcare

  • Recommends a proactive approach to preventive healthcare, including vaccinations, parasite control, and routine examinations.
  • Acknowledges the potential occupational hazards that working dogs may face and addresses preventive measures accordingly.

Musculoskeletal Health

  • Stresses the importance of monitoring and maintaining musculoskeletal health in working dogs.
  • Provides guidelines for the early detection and management of orthopedic conditions that may impact performance.

Dental Care

  • Recognizes the role of dental health in the overall well-being and performance of working dogs.
  • Recommends regular dental examinations and tailored dental care plans.

Behavioral Health

  • Addresses the mental and emotional well-being of working dogs.

Emergency and Critical Care

  • Advocates for preparedness in handling emergencies and critical situations that working dogs may encounter.
  • Provides guidelines for rapid response, first aid, and emergency care tailored to the unique needs of these dogs.

Collaborative Care

  • Emphasizes the importance of collaboration between veterinarians, handlers, and trainers to ensure comprehensive care for working dogs.
  • Recommends regular communication and coordination to address evolving health and performance needs.

By fostering collaboration, promoting preventive measures, and acknowledging the unique challenges faced by these canine professionals, the AAHA Working, Assistance, and Therapy Dog Guidelines set a standard for veterinary care that aligns with the exceptional dedication and service provided by working dog companions.

These guidelines are supported by generous educational grants from the AAHA Foundation,
Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., CareCredit, Merck Animal Health, and Zoetis.

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