Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name



Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Cynthia A. Bir


The purpose of this research was to establish a biomechanical assessment of canine body armor with a primary focus on civilian law enforcement canines. The specific aims included: 1) the compilation of canine casualty data to determine commonly reported causes of death/euthanasia while in service for civilian law enforcement canines, 2) the evaluation of the biomechanical response of the canine related to a behind armor blunt impact, 3) the identification of an injury criterion that will best predict canine thoracic injury as a result of behind armor blunt trauma, 4) correlation of the behind armor blunt trauma response to the standard backface testing medium (clay), and 5) the evaluation of commercially available canine body armor to determine if the armor inhibits or distracts the canine from performing tasks.

The three leading causes of traumatic death in civilian law enforcement canines were as a result of being struck by a vehicle, heat injury, and ballistic penetrating trauma. The biomedical response of the canine thoracic cavity was determined for three armor conditions: 8-ply packet, 15-ply packet, and commercially available Point Blank canine armor. Fracture of the impacted rib occurred as a result of behind armor blunt trauma in the majority cases. Measured and calculated engineering parameters were not identified as significant predictors of rib fracture. Testing the backface signature (BFS) in clay of the armor packets did prove to predict rib fractures in the post-mortem canine specimens. Both depth in clay and volume of indentation were significant predictors. The Point Blank armor did prove to increase the time it took canines to complete certain training tasks and also increased their core body temperature. The results of this research provide an initial biomechanical assessment of canine body armor and the response of the canine thorax during behind armor blunt impact. The data from this study could help future research better evaluate and protect law enforcement canines.