Military working dogs, companion animals can receive care at WPAFB

Khat, a 6-month-old female rescued pit/husky mix owned by Air Force National Guard Senior Airman Amanda Wilson and her husband, Casey, is examined by veterinarian Capt. (Dr.) Jessica Clarkson, an Army reservist, while veterinary health assistant Denise Ulery keeps Khat calm. (Skywrighter photos/Amy Rollins)

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Khat, a 6-month-old female rescued pit/husky mix owned by Air Force National Guard Senior Airman Amanda Wilson and her husband, Casey, is examined by veterinarian Capt. (Dr.) Jessica Clarkson, an Army reservist, while veterinary health assistant Denise Ulery keeps Khat calm. (Skywrighter photos/Amy Rollins)

The close bond between a military working dog and his or her handler is well-documented, but part of every such pair’s success are the veterinarian care teams who keep the MWDs healthy.

That concept also applies to the privately owned, companion animals eligible to receive care.

The Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Veterinary Treatment Facility, Bldg. 1425, Area A, just off Communications Boulevard near Gate 15A, does more than provide almost all facets of care of the installation’s MWDs, plus U.S. Customs and Transportation Security Administration working dogs.

The facility also offers a primary level of sick call care for the companion animals of people with military IDs, with those animals being dogs and cats. The service also includes USDA health certificates, surgical services like spays or neuters and mass removals, laboratory tests, blood workups, allergy treatment, vaccinations, nail trims, ultrasounds, microchipping and preventative medications for heartworms, fleas and ticks.

Often pricing is less than at civilian veterinary care facilities. Potential customers are welcome to call the clinic for a “ballpark” quote.

“We provide high-quality care at a very affordable price,” said Army Capt. (Dr.) Elizabeth Punger, military veterinarian. “We stay up to date on treatments and if need be, we have consultants available to confer with. We want to work with you so you are comfortable with the care your pet receives.”

In addition, the Veterinary Treatment Facility provides comprehensive veterinary services on base, she said, such as when petting zoos or reindeer appear for an event and the animals need to be checked out.

“We work behind the scenes to ensure those animals are healthy and are being appropriately treated,” Punger said.

The veterinary staff also works with the 88th Medical Group’s Public Health Flight to support their mission as well as attend community outreach events to be of assistance to the base community.

The facility falls under the jurisdiction of the Army Public Health Activity-Fort Knox, Fort Knox, Kentucky. Active-duty, retirees, Guard and reservists are eligible to bring their animals for care.

The Army is the Department of Defense executive agent for all veterinary care. As a Tier II facility, Wright-Patterson AFB’s facility has a military veterinarian, civilian veterinarian, two military animal care specialists and two civilian animal health assistants, when fully staffed.

“We want people to know we are here so they can take advantage of what we offer,” said veterinarian Capt. (Dr.) Jessica Clarkson, an Army reservist. She has worked at the facility since 2011.

Punger and Clarkson frequently confer to provide the best of patient care. Punger has been stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB since July 2018.

During this active change-of-station period, the veterinarians advise making an appointment immediately so animals may receive care for health certificate purposes.

“We recommend that when people think there is a potential for moving they give us a call, especially if they might be going overseas,” Punger advised. “Schedule a review because some countries have very strict timelines and policies for vaccinations. Tests and their results can take time.”

Military dogs are welcome patients

A side benefit of the clinic is it sharpens the veterinarians’ and staff’s medical and surgical skills to sustain their main mission of caring for military working dogs.

Not surprising is that the military working dogs are the best-behaved patients the veterinarians treat.

“They are so easy to work with because they are so well-trained,” Clarkson said.

“The military working dogs are amazing,” Punger added. “They are incredibly smart athletes that really help support the base as well as a world-wide mission. Working with them and their handlers is really a privilege because of how much they care and how much we can trust them to be force multipliers, protecting us not only here on base but across the nation and world-wide. They are high-energy, driven dogs.”

A large, color-coded whiteboard grid opposite the vets’ shared office helps keep track of the working dogs’ medical readiness and needs and their handlers. The prominent visual aid indicates the scope of the clinic’s top mission.

The MWDs’ activity levels, immunizations records, weight and diet as aspects of overall health are carefully monitored, with handlers’ comments respectfully considered.

What the veterinarians especially enjoy about their work

Punger graduated from the North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine in 2017 and commissioned with the Army soon after.

“It’s amazing I get to work with dogs and cats, and have their owners trust me to provide care. It’s fun to talk about everyday things in their pets’ lives,” she said. “It’s really gratifying to get to help them with an issue they have to deal with. It’s great to come up with a plan we can work together. As a military veterinarian working with the MWDs, it’s great to be trusted to make sure they are good to go world-wide at any time.”

Clarkson said she enjoys interacting with veterans and hearing their stories as she is caring for their pets.

She and her family have a dog, pygmy goats and chickens, while Punger and her family have a dog and a cat.

To locate a military veterinary treatment facility anywhere in the world, go online to https://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/animed/vtfo/Pages/Veterinary-Treatment-Facility-Interactive-Map.aspx.

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Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Veterinary Treatment Facility

Bldg. 1425, Area A

Available to: Active-duty military, retirees, Guard and reservists

Hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., open on some Air Force Materiel Command Family Days

937-257-6853

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