Crack is Whack, Especially for Drug Detection Dogs

The Details

Pet Toxicology Experts Share Drug-Related Poisoning Cases for Service Dog Month

 It’s not unusual for law enforcement to investigate and arrest suspected drug dealers and buyers, and they often use trained police service dogs to assist.  Unfortunately, some of these public service animals come into direct contact with dangerous narcotics, requiring immediate medical treatment.

“September is National Service Dog Month. In addition to recognizing the critical work traditional service dogs do for their humans, we want to highlight the dangers faced by our nation’s heroic public service animals, like police detection canines,” said Dr. Renee Schmid, a senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline®. “Pet Poison Helpline® assists service animals that work as detection dogs with police departments, and we advise on the cases at no charge. These dogs, and their handlers, are trained to prevent accidental inhalation or ingestion of illicit drugs, however there are some accidental exposures that do occur.”

While at a property search in Pasco, Washington, for example, a working narcotics dog named Bear ingested what would later be determined to be methamphetamine. The canine cop may have also ingested other dangerous materials. Shortly after exposure, the dog began showing drug-related signs – he was severely agitated, pacing, restless and hyperthermic. To counteract the effects of the narcotics, the officer gave Bear an injection of Narcan (naloxone), an opioid reversal medication used for the emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdose. The injection seemed to have no effect, and Bear was taken to Mid-Columbia Pet Emergency. The treating veterinarian called the toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline®.

“The described signs fit more with methamphetamine, cocaine or both, and less with opiates such as fentanyl, heroin and others,” Dr. Schmid explained. “Opiates and derivatives would be expected to lead to profound sedation with hypotension and bradycardia, which respond well to Narcan. Given the poor response to the Narcan, and the opposite clinical profile, a stimulant like methamphetamine was more likely.”

The hospital’s medical team provided Bear with round-the-clock nursing care, placed him on IV fluids and administered medications to sedate him. The toxicologists recommended beta blockers, anticonvulsants and cooling measures. The intensive care Bear received by the highly trained medical staff was imperative in his recovery and he was released two days later.

One of Pet Poison Helpline®’s most severe drug detection dog cases involved Ori, a police service canine from Traverse City, Michigan. Several years ago, Ori was searching an impounded vehicle and was exposed to an unknown drug. On a field test he tested positive for cocaine and amphetamines. He was agitated, ataxic and had a temperature of 105.5. He was taken to Bay Area Pet Hospital, where he was placed on IV fluids and administered naloxone as a precaution for potential opioid exposure. After consulting with the toxicology specialists at Pet Poison Helpline®, treatment recommendations included hospitalization, bloodwork, sedation, cyproheptadine, a medication to treat potential serotonin syndrome, cooling measures, and an antiemetic.  Methocarbamol for tremors, standard anticonvulsants for seizures and lipid therapy were also recommended if tremors or seizures had developed or if Ori’s clinical signs were not improving with standard care.

“Nearly half of all calls received by Pet Poison Helpline® involve human medications, but fortunately pet owners often know what their pets ingested,” Dr. Schmid added. “With police service dogs, the officers may know what they’re looking for, but they never know what the search dog is going to find. It makes treating these exposed animals even more challenging.”

Pet Poison Helpline® created Toxin Tails to educate the veterinary community and pet lovers on the many types of poisoning dangers facing pets, both in and out of the home. All the pets highlighted in Toxin Tails have been successfully treated for the poisoning and fully recovered.


About Pet Poison Helpline®

Pet Poison Helpline®, your trusted source for toxicology and pet health advice in times of potential emergency, is available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. We are an independent, nationally recognized animal poison control center triple licensed by the Boards of Veterinary Medicine, Medicine and Pharmacy providing unmatched professional leadership and expertise. Our veterinarians and board-certified toxicologists provide treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals and exotic species. As the most cost-effective option for animal poison control care, Pet Poison Helpline®’s fee of $85 per incident includes follow-up consultations for the duration of the case. Based in Minneapolis, Pet Poison Helpline® is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680. Additional information can be found online at