During the past half-century, police department personnel have been training dogs for several uses, including detection of illicit drugs. Although most injuries incurred by these dogs during searches are a result of trauma, such as scratches, cuts, and ligament and muscle damage,a drug-sniffing dogs may be exposed to illicit drugs and other toxic agents in the line of duty, most commonly through inhalation and ingestion. Ingestion is the most common route of exposure. Inhalation exposures are generally of lesser magnitude but may result in a more rapid onset of action of the agent. Originally, dogs were trained to aggressively paw, mouth, or bite at the object of interest, thereby risking contact with chemical substances.a Recently, the trend has been toward training that includes more passive search and recognition behaviors to decrease the risk of exposure.a Passive behaviors include increased rate of respiration, jumping up to the object, and abrupt head turns. Dogs may “break their plane” by sitting or lying down, staring at the strongest odor, or barking.a Astute handlers are well aware of possible chemical hazards that drug-detection dogs may encounter and take measures to avoid dog-chemical contact.a However, exposures can and still do occur. Many illicit drugs have a rapid onset of action, and rapid intervention is necessary to minimize effects. The purpose of this report is to review the most common illicit drugs and toxic agents that police dogs may encounter and provide the veterinarian with practical emergency medical treatment guidelines. In managing cases, it is important to be aware that most police dogs are so-called 1-person dogs, necessitating that the police officer handler be present for examinations and medical procedures.a
Officer Douglas Beckman, University of Illinois Police Department, Urbana, Ill: Personal communication, 2005.
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