PULASKI BARRACKS, Germany -- When people get sick, they visit their medical treatment facility, but where does a military working dog go for care?

When Military Working Dog Autumn wasn't acting like her normal self, her handler got concerned and took her to see the experts at Veterinary Medical Center Europe.

VMCE's provides comprehensive veterinary care to military working dogs, eligible pets in the Kaiserslautern Military Community on a space-available basis, and referral cases from across Europe.

Similar to the care Landstuhl Regional Medical Center provides to injured service members, VMCE is a Category IV hospital for military working dogs evacuated from a combat theater or distant-duty site.

An examination of MWD Autumn revealed that she had signs of bladder inflammation.

"We performed a cystoscopy in order to visualize the inside of her bladder, because she had signs of chronic cystitis (inflammation of the bladder)," said Maj. Justin DeVanna, VMCE director. "Cystoscopy is the insertion of a tiny video camera through her urethra into her bladder."

DeVanna says that video endoscopic procedures are nothing new, but over the past 10 years or so, improvements in technology and techniques have identified many benefits from these minimally invasive procedures.

"The recovery time decreases significantly from weeks with surgery, to a very few days or even potentially the same day with endoscopy," DeVanna said. "Also, there are generally fewer complications with minimally invasive procedures."

Fortunately for Autumn, DeVanna and his team didn't identify any underlying problem and were able to give her a clean bill of health.

"This is the best news you can receive as a medical provider. By considering less invasive procedures we often reduce patient pain, shorten hospitalization, and facilitate a quick return to duty for our MWDs."

For MWD Autumn, that meant she was cleared to return to full duty two days after her procedure instead of the 2-4 weeks she would have been out if she had surgery, according to DeVanna.

Quickly returning four-legged service members to duty is a priority for VMCE, just like it is for medical treatment facilities.

"This is a perfect example of the strategic importance of Veterinary Medical Center Europe," said Lt. Col. Ken Spicer, Public Health Activity-Rheinland Pfalz commander. "Every day, the Defense Department's premier Level IV veterinary hospital outside the United States plays a strategically significant role in support of combatant commanders' missions throughout Eurasia and Africa. Our job is to get the injured or sick MWD back into the fight as soon as possible -- service members lives may depend upon it."