GLADWYNE, Pa. -- An injured dog will bite, even if it is your own.
If there was one takeaway at the first-aid class for K-9 police officers held at Gladwyne Fire Company recently it was this: Don't take risks when a dog's teeth are inches from your face.
"They have some deeply wired behaviors," said Jon Detweiler, an emergency medical technician who was instructing about 15 officers on how to recognize and respond to medical emergencies involving their four-legged partners. "Please be ready for that."
The officers and their companions from Montgomery and Delaware Counties gathered for the three-hour class and practice sessions. An afternoon class for paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and nurses addressed issues the group might encounter when responding to emergencies involving working canines, each valued as high as $50,000. The classes were sponsored by Narberth Ambulance.
Much of what the professionals learned about canine injuries due to car accidents, heatstroke, and penetrating trauma would be useful for owners of household pets as well, said Scott Kramer, a paramedic with Narberth Ambulance.
"Anything anybody can do in an emergency situation will help save a life," said Sharon Minninger, a veterinarian who was teaching the class. She and Detweiler own Telford Veterinary Hospital.
For working dogs with a strong drive to work, it is important their police partners know when to give them a break so they don't overheat.
Hyperthermia or heatstroke can happen any time, said Detweiler. "This is huge. This is 100 percent preventable."
It's also an issue for household pets.
"We had a dog die this week," she said about a case at her veterinary practice. The family pet was accidentally left outside in the sun all day without water. "They start with a higher body temperature than us. It doesn't take long to get to a high level."