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Military Working Dog Undergoes Root Canal Treatment

Pictured above: Captain Dr. Melissa Ruff, Hospital Corpsman, HN Jonathan Lamberth, Army Veterinary Corps Officer Captain Kelly Horgan, Veterinary Tech Krystal Tronboll.

By Michael Dobrow

The military is serious business. So is saving one’s natural teeth, even for four-legged service members which is why Dr. Melissa Ruff, Captain in the US Navy, 1st Dental Battalion/Naval Dental Center Camp Pendleton performed root canal treatment on a Military Working Dog (MWD) on July 2.

“During my 20 years of service, I have only worked on human Sailors and Marines.  This was the first time I treated a military K9,” Dr. Ruff said. “This was a very special and fun experience, and I was extremely honored to treat a military K9, who performs amazing work and saves lives.”

The MWD, a Belgian Malinois, is considered a military service member, holds Non-Commissioned Officer rank, and performs detection and patrol work, such as, bomb sniffing and many other operations with military personal.

It’s vital for the military dogs to keep their natural teeth maintaining bite strength to fully perform their job. Army Veterinary Corps Officer (VCO) noticed two broken teeth and thought that pulp was exposed.  Upon examination, the tooth had exposed gutta percha from previous root canal treatment which had no coronal restoration.  Dr. Ruff performed retreatment and placed coronal restoration to prevent microleakage.

Since the procedure was performed at the veterinary clinic, transporting and setting up all endodontic equipment including microscope was challenging.  However, thanks to collaborated team effort between dental and veterinary staff, successful outcome was resulted.  According to Dr. Ruff, the procedure was similar to treating a human other than dog’s teeth are different shape and a lot longer.

“The Army veterinarians knew of the endodontic specialty and that endodontists have advanced training in saving teeth! When their K9 needed root canal, they sought after an endodontist,” Dr. Ruff continued. “The dog is doing great!  The VCO updated me that the K9 is much happier after he got his teeth fixed!”

Michael Dobrow is an integrated communications specialist for the AAE. He can be reached at