Overdoses from extremely potent illegal opioids are on the rise across America – but not just for humans. These drugs are now endangering working dogs who encounter them in the line of duty. As a result, veterinarians are increasingly asked to consult by phone for dogs suffering from overdoses in the field.
To ensure veterinarians have the resources they need to respond to this emerging health threat, and in response to law enforcement requests, the University of Illinois reached out to the AVMA and other organizations for help in creating educational materials. The result is a comprehensive training video to help veterinarians and law enforcement teams provide potentially life-saving treatment for dogs.
Emerging opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil are so potent that even a small exposure can be deadly. To combat these drugs, many law enforcement officers have begun carrying naloxone, sometimes sold under the brand name Narcan, which can reverse the effects of a drug overdose. In the right hands, this drug can be used effectively to provide emergency treatment for working dogs, but the version carried by law enforcement officials is often a nasal spray rather than the injectable version commonly used by veterinarians.
Law enforcement officials are encouraged to take a dog suffering from an overdose to a veterinarian immediately. However, available research indicates that administering naloxone on-site can be a proactive, life-saving option. This video provides critical information for veterinarians who have a doctor-client relationship with canine handlers and need to provide advice by phone.
The video received expertise and financial support from the Police Training Institute. Other collaborators included the University of Illinois’ Division of Animal Resources and Extension Office, and the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association.
As a follow-up to the video, University of Illinois veterinarians and the Police Training Institute plan to study K-9 officer training and opioid-related adverse events in working dogs.