9/11 Dogs Fared Better than their Humans

10 years after one of the biggest tragedies to hit American soil, many 9/11 first responders are living in their own version of hell. They suffer daily struggles with depression, PTSD and numerous cancers and repiratory illnesses. If there is a single bright side, it is that the long-term health impacts on the 95 search and rescue dogs have been much better.

“The most striking thing is that many of the humans that responded have developed reactive airway diseases, such as asthma, sinusitis or other chronic infections in their nasal sinuses. The dogs on the other hand have fared extremely well,” explained Dr. Cynthia Otto, DVM, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine associate professor of critical care and principal investigator of the research. “They’re not developing any problems with their lungs or sinuses. That is a real surprise.”

The overwhelming majority of 9/11 dogs suffered only minor cuts and scrapes during the rescue. Only four dogs needed stitches.

Mysteriously, the average lifespan of the 9/11 dogs has been 12.5 years (13 out of the original 95 are still alive). The average lifespan of search and rescue dogs is 11.8 years.


Scientists are hoping to use this data to help humans become more resilient.

“The findings may open our eyes to the difference between dogs and people that makes them so resilient,” Dr. Otto said. “If we could tap into that, we might actually help move human health forward.”