EMS agency deploys nation's first pain detection K-9

The patient may gently stroke Sherlock's chin or even tousle his ears while the terrier is on the job

BASKERVILLE, Calif. — EMS officials, in cooperation with K9USATraining.com, introduced the newest member of the Baskerville EMS Agency to local media, elected officials and interested citizens this week.

Sherlock, a rat terrier, has completed a rigorous training and certification program to become the first prehospital pain detection K-9.

"Sherlock is quite clever and has an amazing nose," explained Brittany Malinois, the chief of training for Baskerville EMS. "Pain is the most common patient complaint, and with the ongoing shortage of pain medication, we need to be very cautious about to whom we administer narcotics."

A careful review of Baskerville EMS records reveals that patients frequently complain of pain to the chest, back, throat, head and extremities.

"Since pain is so difficult to objectively measure and we suspect that many patients are exaggerating their pain complaints, we are going to use the olfactory power of the canine to determine the presence of pain," Dr. Jack Russell said during the press conference.

Sherlock, because of his small size, is able to leap softly onto a patient's lap or bed. Once near the patient, the paramedic handler will cue his or her furry assistant to begin sniffing.

The patient may gently stroke Sherlock's chin or even tousle his ears while Sherlock is on the job. If Sherlock detects pain, he will lie still and quiet at the patient's side until narcotic medications have relieved the patient's pain.

"When the peripheral nervous system transmits a pain signal from the body to the central nervous system, a complex set of chemical reactions occurs," said Corgi Leonberger, owner of K9USATraining.com. "The dog, with scent detection capabilities 300,000 times greater than humans, is able to detect the odor from these chemical reactions."

Leonberger added that if pain is not detected, the dog will bark sharply and incessantly because "nothing says, 'You are full of s***' to a patient quite as well as a hyperactive rat terrier."

"I am excited to add Sherlock to the crew," enthused P.B. Griffon Vendeen, the first paramedic scheduled to work with Sherlock. "We are going to teach him to bark for each milligram of morphine that we should administer to the patient."

"It will be tough to keep my partner from sneaking Sherlock's bacon-flavored treats," Vendeen added with a chuckle.

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