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More often than not, when tragedy strikes, emergency and rescue service personnel take the help of four-legged rescuers in disaster recovery. These dogs have been an important part of every recovery plan, from tragedies like the Oklahoma city bombing and 9/11 to man-made catastrophes like Katrina. Search and rescue dogs undergo intense training and have an incredible instinct to go to places that are out of the reach of human rescuers. With their extraordinary sense of hearing and smell, these life savers often find victims that human rescuers can't see, hear or reach.Immediate adverse effects
It goes without saying that these dogs face a lot of immediate danger on a regular basis. In many cases, the immediate danger can turn into chronic, long-term health conditions. The immediate health concerns for search and rescue dogs include pad damage, dehydration, abrasions and cuts. Their human partners take all the necessary care, including baths and frequent eyewashes, to make sure that they are healthy and fit. Such decontamination procedures are generally meant for visible wounds on the body.Risk of accidental exposure
However, as is the case with any disaster, there are a lot of health hazards that humans cannot see, taste, touch or even smell. This can lead to chronic, long term health conditions not only for the rescuers but also their canine companions. Human rescuers have access to protective gear when they work at a disaster site, including gloves, helmets, boots, clothing ad masks. Some dogs have protective covering for their feet depending on the type of disaster. While humans can use masks to prevent the inhalation of toxins at the disaster site, dogs don't have any such protection.Dogs use their keen sense of smell to explore the world around them. Constantly sniffing the ground and air, and licking their noses leaves them at a much higher risk of inhaling toxins compared to their human partners. Uneven surfaces, broken glass, fires and damaged buildings are not the only dangers to worry about. For instance, during the 9/11 tragedy, the collapsing buildings and the explosions released an incredible amount of toxins that both the humans and rescue dogs were exposed to. At Pentagon and Ground Zero, the dogs were practically walking through puddles of gasoline, fuel, oils, cleaning products, glass, asbestos, metal and acids, among other materials.Potential health risks
Dogs can develop mesothelioma by inhaling harmful particles. A lot of equally deadly diseases can develop in rescue dogs depending on the lethality of toxic exposure at the disaster site. These include, but are not limited to, gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses. The gestation period for these illnesses is much quicker in dogs than it is in human beings and the symptoms might present themselves almost immediately.