Police Dogs Are Overdosing on Opioids – And Surviving.

Sniffing or ingesting just a miniscule amount of fentanyl, a popular synthetic opioid that’s 50 times stronger than heroin, can sicken and kill humans as well as animals. That’s why many police dog handlers are now taking the precaution of bringing along naloxone for their K-9 partners when they’re sniffing for opioids. This drug, which reverses opioid overdoses, has already saved the lives of some police dogs.

Primus, Packer and Finn, K-9s with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, exemplify just how dangerous fentanyl can be. After the dogs sniffed out a deserted house last year, Primus, a German shorthaired pointer, began acting strangely.

“He was just staring out into the distance without seeing his handler,” Detective Andrew Weinman told BuzzFeed News. “He wouldn’t play with his toy, wouldn’t drink water, was kind of leaning on the back of the car.”

Packer and Finn soon showed similar behaviors, so their handlers rushed the dogs to a veterinarian. As it turned out, fentanyl had been hidden in the house. It was inside a box at ceiling level that the dogs couldn’t have physically reached.

“What we think happened was that some surface where there was mixing of the drugs, a couch or a coffee table, became contaminated with just a little fentanyl,” Weinman told BuzzFeed News. “The dog might have sniffed it, or licked it off its foot or even just had contact with the pads on their feet.”

Fortunately, all three dogs survived, thanks to injections of naxolene.

Fentanyl, like heroin and morphine, binds to the opioid receptors in the brain that control pain and emotions, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It increases the levels of dopamine, creating a feeling of euphoria. The problem is that those opioid receptors are in the same area of the brain that controls the breathing rate. So even a tiny amount of fentanyl – imagine the equivalent of a few grains of sand – can cause breathing to completely stop.

The antidote, naxolene, works by binding to the opioid receptors and quickly reversing the overdose, enabling breathing to resume.

The United States is experiencing an opioid epidemic. Deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids increased by a whopping 72.2 percent from 2014 to 2015. Fentanyl can be prescribed, but a non-pharmaceutical type of the drug is illicitly manufactured and often mixed with heroin without the user knowing it.

Because of this growing problem, over the past year, police dog handlers across the country have started carrying naxolene for their K-9 partners.

Should Police Dogs Have to Search for Fentanyl?

To protect themselves from contact with fentanyl, police officers can put on hazmat suits and heavy rubber gloves. But protection is more of a challenge for their K-9 partners, who must sniff out the evidence.

At a workshop held recently in Canada, where fentanyl abuse is also a major problem, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police demonstrated how dogs can “safely” be trained to detect it using a diluted form that can’t be accessed by the dog. All RCMP narcotics dog handlers carry Naxolene.

But why are police dogs being put in danger by sniffing out such an extremely deadly drug? Some police departments across the U.S. are debating whether to train their K-9s to detect it.

“I think the question is, do you find it first with the dog to save other people from becoming contaminated with it, which would put the dog at risk,” Weinman told BuzzFeed News, “or do you let it go undetected and let someone else stumble into it? Which one is better? I don’t know the answer.”

I don’t know the answer either, but here’s an idea. Thanks to modern technology, 3D-printed dog noses have been developed that can sniff out explosives better than the real thing. Why not develop 3D-printed dog noses that can sniff out fentanyl? They would be much safer and much more humane than having to rely on naxolene to save police dogs that have stopped breathing.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

Melania Padilla
Melania P1 years ago

So sick of humans using animals for their convenience... Sharing as well

Margie FOURIE1 years ago

I hope they do prevent any deaths in the future.

Maria P

Thanks for posting.

Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga1 years ago

thanks, i hope and pray it doesnt harm the dogs

earthism info
earthism info1 years ago

police dogs are very helpful in sniffing all illegal drugs

earthism info
earthism info1 years ago

Well police dogs are every helpful in sniffing all illegal drugs

Carl R
Carl R1 years ago


Janis K
Janis K1 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

natasha s
Past Member 1 years ago

Poor pups--all working animals i feel so bad 4. The greater majority have brutal lives which most people don't realize.