|Our Canines in Vietnam:
We have been told by our government that our canine partners were to sick to be returned to the United States.
Here is what I found out about the disease. Ehrlicha canis was recognized in this country after the Vietnam War. The disease ehrlichiosis was called tropical pancytopenia because dogs that were chronically affected had demonstrable bone marrow failure. Infected dogs had minimal numbers of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets (pancytopenia) and succumbed to anemia, infection, or blood disorders.
Canine rickettsiosis, canine hemorrhagic fever, canine typhus, Tracker dog disease
Dogs, cats, and in rare instances, humans. German shepherds and Doberman pinschers tend to be affected more severely by the disease.
Dogs get ehrlichiosis from the brown dog tick, which passes an Ehrlichia organism into the bloodstream when it bites. There are three stages of ehrlichiosis, each varying in severity. The acute stage, occurring several weeks after infection and lasting for up to a month, can lead to fever and disorders of the blood. The second stage, called the subclinical phase, has no outward signs and can last for up to five years. If the infected dog’s immune system is unable to eliminate the Ehrlichia organism, the third and most serious stage of infection, the chronic phase, will commence. Lameness, neurological and ophthalmic disorders, kidney disease, and anemia and other blood disorders can result. Chronic ehrlichiosis can be fatal.
Antibiotics, administered for an extended period of time, are effective at eliminating the infection. Dogs with severe cases of chronic ehrlichiosis cannot be cured, but supportive care and treatment of diseases secondary to the infection, such as anemia, can help stabilize the dog.
The acute stage of the disease, occurring most often in the spring and summer, begins one to three weeks after infection and lasts for two to four weeks. Clinical signs include a fever, petechiae, bleeding disorders, and vasculitis. There are no outward signs of the subclinical phase, which can last for up to five years. Clinical signs of the chronic phase include pale gums due to anemia, thrombocytopenia, vasculitis, lymphadenopathy, respiratory dyspnea, coughing, polyuria, polydipsia, lameness, ophthalmic diseases such as retinal hemorrhage and anterior uveitis, and neurological disease.
Symptoms of the acute stage of disease include a fever, lesions within the mucous membrane, bleeding disorders, and inflammation of the blood vessels. The subclinical phase has no outward signs of disease. Signs of the chronic stage of the disease can include pale gums due to anemia, inflammation of the blood vessels, swollen lymph nodes, difficulty breathing, coughing, kidney symptoms such as increased urination and increased drinking, lameness, eye disorders, and neurological disease.
Ehrlichiosis is a tick-borne disease of dogs that is caused by an organism called Ehrlichia. There are several species of Ehrlichia, but the one that most commonly affects dogs and causes the most severe clinical signs is Ehrlichia canis. The brown dog tick, or Rhipicephalus sanguineous, that passes the Ehrlichia to the dog is prevalent throughout most of the United States, but most cases tend to occur in the Southwest and Gulf Coast regions where there is a high concentration of the tick.
There are three stages of the Ehrlichia canis infection: acute, subclinical, and chronic. Approximately one to three weeks following the infection, clinical signs of the acute phase begin and typically last for two to four weeks. The subclinical phase, which does not produce outward clinical signs, lasts for up to five years. If the dog’s immune system is unable to eliminate the organism during this stage, the chronic phase will occur and may last for years, depending on the severity of the infection. Dogs that are severely affected can die from this disease.
Although people can get ehrlichiosis, dogs do not transmit the bacteria to humans; rather, ticks pass on the Ehrlichia organism. Clinical signs of human ehrlichiosis include fever, headache, eye pain, and gastrointestinal upset.
Diagnosis is achieved most commonly by serologic testing of the blood for the presence of antibodies against the Ehrlichia organism. During the acute phase of infection, however, the test can be falsely negative because the body will not have had time to make antibodies to the infection. Thus, the test will need to be repeated if the first result is negative. In addition, blood tests will show abnormalities in the numbers of red cells, white cells, and platelets. Uncommonly, a diagnosis can be made by looking under a microscope at a blood smear for the presence of the Ehrlichia organism, which sometimes can be seen within a white blood cell.
The prognosis is good for dogs with acute ehrlichiosis. For dogs that have reached the chronic stage of the disease, the prognosis is guarded. When bone marrow suppression occurs and there are low levels of blood cells, the animal may not respond to treatment.
Transmission or Cause:
The Ehrlichia organism is passed to the dog through the saliva of a tick called Rhipicephalus sanguineous. These ticks are prevalent throughout most of the United States, but most cases of infection tend to occur in the Southwest and Gulf Coast regions.
Supportive care must be provided to animals that have clinical signs. Subcutaneous or intravenous fluids are given to dehydrated animals, and severely anemic dogs may require a blood transfusion. Treatment for ehrlichiosis involves the use of antibiotics such as doxycycline for a period of at least six to eight weeks; response to the drugs may take one month. In addition, steroids may be indicated in severe cases in which the level of platelets is so low that the condition is life threatening.
Prevent tick infestation by avoiding tick-infested areas. In addition, there are many methods for controlling fleas, including medicated shampoos, dips, sprays, the Preventic® collar, or Frontline®. If tick control is not feasible, tetracycline at a lower dose can be given daily for 200 days during the tick season in endemic regions.
MEDICAL SUPPORT OF THE U.S. ARMY IN VIETNAM 1965-1970
by Major General Spurgeon Ned
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
WASHINGTON, D.C., 1991
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 72-600264
First Printed 1973-CMH Pub 90-16
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, US. Government Printing Office Washington, D.C. 20402
Routine care. Initially, in 1965, routine professional veterinary care for military dogs, in Vietnam was provided by three small veterinary food inspection detachments then in-country. Each of these units was authorized one veterinary animal specialist, in addition to its food inspection specialists. At that time, approximately 350 Army and Marine Corps sentry dogs were assigned to some 10 locations throughout the country.
With the buildup of US, forces and the accompanying increased use of dogs in field operations, the dog population rose from the 350 in 1965, to more than 1,200 in 1968, dispersed widely throughout Vietnam.
With more veterinary support required in the forward areas, additional veterinary detachments arrived in Vietnam, but without a comparable increase in the numbers of animal specialists. Veterinary food inspectors from the forward detachments were used to augment the small number of these specialists. Utilizing the services of these additional veterinary enlisted men was, at first, hampered by their inexperience in animal medicine and by the lack of veterinary medical equipment sets in the food inspection units. This situation was remedied by training food inspectors locally in certain animal specialist skills, and by obtaining equipment from the veterinary hospital and dispensary detachments.
The need for fewer food inspectors and for more animal specialists and animal medical equipment sets in Vietnam constituted a significant change in the operation of veterinary service detachments. To reflect this need, appropriate changes were subsequently made in the veterinary service tables of organization and equipment.
Hospitalization and evacuation. The 4th Medical Detachment maintained a small-animal clinic in Saigon for the emergency care and treatment of military dogs and for mascots and animals privately owned by U.S. Army troops and other authorized personnel. All animals requiring extensive treatment were evacuated to Saigon, except Marine Corps dogs which were evacuated to Da Nang.
In January 1966, the 936th Veterinary Detachment (ID), a veterinary small-animal hospital, arrived at the Tan Son Nhut Airbase to provide definitive medical care and hospitalization for all military dogs in the II, III, and IV CTZ. Additionally, it provided a consultation service to the field, monitoring all dog medical records, requisitioning and issuing all veterinary drugs to area veterinarians, and collecting and evaluating veterinary military dog statistics. On 19 October 1966, a small-animal dispensary detachment, the 504th Medical Detachment (IE), arrived in Da Nang. Although organized as a dispensary, this unit provided complete veterinary service for scout and sentry dogs in the entire I CTZ. In 1966, also, the veterinary department of the 9th Medical Laboratory became operational, making available comprehensive veterinary laboratory diagnostic services and investigations of animal diseases of military and economic interest.
In 1968, with the arrival of additional small-animal dispensary detachments, the three echelons of veterinary care and treatment of military dogs- unit, dispensary, and hospital,–became clearly established. Particular emphasis was placed on improving administrative procedures to provide more definitive data on the health of military dogs. An expanded monthly morbidity and mortality reporting system was developed, and
completion of detailed admission reports for hospitalized dogs, was stressed.
Deployment of scout dogs in 1966 resulted in casualties suffered in action. To insure prompt treatment, dogs were evacuated by air to the 936th Veterinary Detachment (ID). Handlers were evacuated with their dogs, and remained with them until treatment was completed.
During 1969, difficulties were encountered in evacuating military dogs from dog units and veterinary dispensaries to veterinary hospital facilities. Accordingly, a firm evacuation policy was established. All dogs requiring treatment for more than 7 days, were evacuated. In addition, a veterinary medical regulator was designated to direct the flow of dogs to the hospital facilities. Evacuation of military dogs was co-ordinated with the Air Force and with medical units utilizing ground and air ambulances.
In 1969, also, the high incidence and prolonged course of Tropical Canine Pancytopenia left some military dog units unable to perform adequately. The remedy was establishment of dog-holding detachments at the two veterinary hospitals. Dogs to be hospitalized for 15 days or longer were transferred to the, dog-holding detachment, thereby enabling the dog unit to requisition replacement dogs.
Medical problems. Canine disabilities most frequently seen, in addition to wounds from hostile action, were heat exhaustion, ectoparasites and endoparasites, myiasis, nasal leeches, and dermatoses of varying etiology. Heartworms posed a potentially severe canine disease problem. Cases of microfilaria were as high as 40 percent in some scout dog platoons, although few animals exhibited clinical signs of disease. The incidence of hookworms was comparable to that of heartworms, and was frequently manifested by clinical signs. Outbreaks of disease resembling leptospirosis occurred; one incident involved 55 dogs, but laboratory examinations did not confirm the clinical diagnosis. Ticks, a persistent problem throughout Vietnam, required equally persistent control measures.
Tropical Canine Pancytopenia, an unusual disease, characterized by hemorrhage, severe emaciation, pancytopenia, and high mortality, broke out in 1968, in U.S. military dogs in Vietnam. Know first as IHS (Idiopathic Hemorrhagic Syndrome) and ultimately as TCP (Tropical Canine Pancytopenia), the disease seriously jeopardized the operational efficiency of combat units dependent on military dogs. Between, July 1968 and December 1970, about 220 U.S. military dogs, primarily German Shepherds, died of the disease, and it was the contributing reason for the euthanasia of many others. Near the end of 1969, a program of tetra-
cycline and supportive therapy for 14 days, based on recommendations from the WRAIR laboratories in Saigon, was initiated for all TCP cases. This therapy returned to duty approximately 50 percent of the dogs treated for the disease.
Beginning in May 1969, “red tongue,” a nonfatal, nonsuppurative glossitis, occurred in a significant number of military dogs. The glossitis was often accompanied by excessive, salivation, gingivitis and edema of the gums, and, at times, a serious conjunctivitis. The condition is extremely painful, and affected dogs could eat and drink only with difficulty. In most instances, the signs regressed and the dogs returned to normal in 3 to 7 days. The etiology of the condition has not been established.
Acute glossitis in scout dogs spread throughout Vietnam during 1970. Morbidity rates as high as 100 percent in some platoons made these units noneffective for periods up to 2 weeks.
Up to 1966, the Army veterinary rabies control program was primarily restricted to vaccination of military dogs, pets, and mascots. In August of that year a co-ordinated rabies program was put in operation. Vaccination clinics were held, often as far forward as medical clearing stations. Three major difficulties were recognized, the enormous number of pets acquired by Americans, the large. number of small units throughout the country, and the absence of meaningful civilian rabies control programs.
In September 1967, standard procedures were established for the control of pets and the program was widely publicized by radio and television, stressing the dangers of rabies. More than 7,000 animal vaccinations were reported for 1967, the majority being rabies immunizations. Nevertheless, in that year only half of the animals owned by U.S. soldiers were vaccinated. The significant problem here was that many men were located in small detachments scattered among the Vietnamese communities, where pet control was essentially nonexistent. One countermeasure was to vaccinate Vietnamese dogs around US, military installations, thereby lessening the chance of dogs on these bases coming into contact with rabid animals. Where possible, dogs were vaccinated on Vietnamese military installations. Also, with the requirement that soldiers pay for having their pets vaccinated, many were reluctant to immunize or identify their animals.
The Vietnam experience showed the need for free rabies vaccinations for animals privately owned by U.S. personnel, to assure an unhampered, comprehensive disease control program. Toward this end, with the existing active combat conditions in Vietnam, the Army waived the provisions of the regulation which required payment to the Government for immunization and quarantine of such privately owned animals.