Whiteman vet clinic cares for furry friends
By Airman 1st Class Shelby R. Orozco, 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 23, 2013
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- When Airmen or their family members get sick, they know to go to the base clinic for care, but what about their pets? Nowadays, cats and dogs are seen as another member of the family who requires care as well.
That's where the Whiteman Veterinary Clinic comes into play.
Ran by one doctor, one military veterinary technician and one receptionist, the clinic is a limited facility that is able to perform basic checkups, such as vaccinations, microchipping, dermatology and blood tests as well as handle minor sicknesses.
"We cater to Whiteman's military working dogs as well as to cats and dogs of active duty and retired members," said Joanna Kuecker, Army Public Health Command District-Carson non-appropriated fund veterinarian.
The clinic treats up to 75 patients a week, said Kuecker.
"We handle medical appointments Monday and Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to noon," said Kuecker. "However, we are open all week staff permitting from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for customers to buy things such as products and medication."
During checkups, Kuecker has to handle the differences of working with household pets and the working dogs.
"When the regular pets come in, we are able to play with them and pet them," said Kuecker. "When the MWDs come in, we can't do that. They are trained to do a job so we leave the handling of the dogs up to their handler, not our staff. The dogs also get as full a treatment as we can provide to them, so we sometimes have to order special things to treat them."
In the event a working dog needs treatment that cannot be provided here on base, such as surgery, the dogs are transported to nearby Fort Leonard Wood, said Kuecker.
"Dr. Kuecker does everything she can for the MWDs," said Senior Airman Shane Truman, 509th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler. "Not only does she do health inspections twice a year on the dogs, she also inspects their kennels and food supplies to make sure everything is up to code."
The vet clinic staff is always prepared to handle any MWD emergencies, said Truman.
"If something goes wrong they stop everything to attend to the dogs," said Truman. "If a dog needs medication, she goes in depth on the medication, what it's being prescribed for and the correct dosage for the dog."
The clinic also handles the necessary steps involved in owning a pet on base as well as the services required to take one overseas during a permanent change of station.
"Pets have to be current on everything, and have the proper veterinary health certificates completed," said Kuecker. "We ask owners who are PCSing overseas to give us at least a six to eight month notice before the move so we have time to help them prepare their pets."
Before working in Whiteman's clinic, Kuecker served in the active duty Army where she was deployed overseas as a veterinary medical officer for deployed MWDs. She also traveled across the Middle East to complete facility inspections for any company that supplied food for military members deployed to duty sites outside the continental U.S.
"In remote locations, the clinics have to offer much more than normal," said Kuecker. "The working dogs get injured in combat alongside their human counterparts and they can't be transported to another clinic to get treatment, so we have to be out there to take care of them."
Kuecker also worked in stray population management while deployed, where they took in stray dogs and cats to spay and neuter them in an attempt to reduce the stray population.
The veterinary clinic will expand in the next few years to accommodate more procedures, with dental coming first because it will be the most practical for the working dogs, said Kuecker.
The clinic is typically able to treat pets for much less than off base clinics can, with annual exams costing $10, a sick call visit costing $25 and a rabies vaccination costing $10. All tests and vaccinations are $30 or less per procedure.