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Drug-sniffing K-9s are overdoses during routine searches: ‘This is really a big problem’

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K-9 dogs at risk to his own life to smell opioids

EMT the respondents is not able to perform life-saving acts on hairy heroes

PHILADELPHIA K-9s are an important tool in the fight against opioids – but as a result of their efforts, they die.

The Drug sniffing dogs sent to look for opioids overdose, according to the vet, and law enforcement officials who are trying to figure out ways to save them. While law enforcement officials are trained to help users who overdose, for a long time that they don’t know how to detect the symptoms in the dogs that they use to search the drugs.

“This is really a big problem,” said Cynthia Otto, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Working Dog Center, “many of these dogs officers are exposed and their facilitators don’t even know what an overdose looks like [these animals].”

Otto’s team is hoping to change that. She and her group of trainers and veterinarians have in the lead of research into the effect of opioid exposure has on the dog members of the law enforcement teams and developing best practices for handlers.

The problem grew more urgent when three police dogs in South Florida an overdose of fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than heroin, during a federal drug raid while sniffing a suspect’s home, according to NBC News. The case underlined the growing problem of how canines can overdose during a routine sweep – and how the officials are not always properly trained to detect the symptoms.

The Penn Vet Working Dog Center serves as a national research and development center for detection dogs.

(Fox News)

It is unclear how many K-9s have overdose of opioids, because there is no body collecting the data, the officials said.

“The problem is that there is no mandatory reporting, no central database and no handlers to report that their dog has been affected,” said Dr. Maureen McMichael, a veterinarian, a doctor and founder of the Work of the Dog HQ, a non-profit designed to collect data about working dogs in order to advocate for new animal care laws. “We have no hard numbers. No one, not even the AMERICAN government.”

In the factory in Pennsylvania, dogs are eight weeks old and go through an extensive training for 12 to 18 months that will prepare them for searches.

“We teach them to sit and stare as they identify,” said Bob Dougherty, a conductor in the middle. “We don’t want the dogs sniffing around by the drugs, it is for their safety.”

Naloxone is a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose. It is an opioid antagonist—meaning that it binds to opioid receptors and can reverse and block the effects of other opioids.

(Fox News)

Every dog reacts differently when exposed, but Otto says there are a number of important indicators to watch.

“Dogs may go through an excitatory phase, they would actually start to gasp, and she can pace around,” she said. “It kind of depends on the dog personality, too.”

Otto said that some of the older, more laid-back dogs can be “down for the count” after just a few minutes of exposure. While the younger, more energetic dogs can be getting more and more excited.

Fentanyl is a drug often used by veterinarians. If administered intravenously it is considered safe for animal sedation or pain.

“Dogs are not as sensitive to opioids as a human being,” said Otto, adding that it takes 20 times the dose to do anesthesia for a dog as it would a human. “If a dog is showing signs of victims of poisoning, that means that they were exposed to a large dose.”

Surprisingly, dogs have the same opioid receptors as people, which means that the same medications can be used to reverse an overdose. In a hospital setting, Naloxone is administered intravenously, blocking the effects of opioids and to eventually invert. On the field, more and more officers will carry the nasal spray for the protection of themselves and their four-legged partners.

The acquisition of the spray is a challenge for some forces.

“The text is subjective,” McMichael said. “So some pharmacies will not allow officials or units for the purchase of the medication for the animal officers.”

Only four states, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Maryland will allow working dogs to be transported to an animal hospital via an ambulance. Ohio and Colorado are the only two states that allow EMS technicians to provide care for working dogs. New York currently has a pending bill to the first state to have both the access to care and transportation for working dogs.

“Dogs are not as sensitive to opioids as a human being,” said Otto, adding that it takes 20 times the dose to do anesthesia for a dog as it would a human. “If a dog is showing signs of victims of poisoning, that means that they were exposed to a large dose.”

Surprisingly, dogs have the same opioid receptors as people, which means that the same medications can be used to reverse an overdose. In a hospital setting, Naloxone is administered intravenously, blocking the effects of opioids and to eventually invert. On the field, more and more officers will carry the nasal spray for the protection of themselves and their four-legged partners.

The acquisition of the spray is a challenge for some forces.

“The text is subjective,” McMichael said. “So some pharmacies will not allow officials or units for the purchase of the medication for the animal officers.”

Only four states, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Maryland — will allow working dogs to be transported to an animal hospital via an ambulance. Ohio and Colorado are the only two states that allow EMS technicians to provide care for working dogs. New York currently has a pending bill to the first state to have both the access to care and transportation for working dogs.

Talia Kirkland is a multimedia reporter based in Philadelphia, Pa.

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