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Fentanyl is a potent opioid used clinically as a pain medication and anesthetic but has recently seen a sharp rise as an illicit street drug. The potency of fentanyl means mucous membrane exposure to a small amount of the drug can expose first responders, including working canines, to accidental overdose. Naloxone, a fast-acting opioid antagonist administered intranasally (IN) or intramuscularly (IM) is currently carried by emergency personnel in the case of accidental exposure in both humans and canines. Despite the fact that law enforcement relies heavily on the olfactory abilities of canine officers, the effects of fentanyl exposure and subsequent reversal by naloxone on the olfactory performance of canines are unknown. In a block-randomized, crossover trial, we tested the effects of IN and IM naloxone on the abilities of working dogs to recognize the odor of Universal Detection Calibrant (UDC) prior to, and two, 24, and 48 h after intravenous fentanyl sedation and naloxone reversal. No detectable influence of fentanyl sedation and naloxone reversal on the dogs’ olfactory abilities was detected. We also found no difference in olfactory abilities when dogs received IN or IM naloxone. Together, results suggest no evidence that exposure to intravenous fentanyl followed by naloxone reversal impairs canine olfactory ability under these conditions.


Originally published in Animals.

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