PORTLAND, Ore. — When walking in downtown Portland, the scenes of a deadly crisis are hard to miss. Fentanyl is affecting not only those who smoke it, but nearly everyone who shares the sidewalks, including dogs.
“Fentanyl is fast-acting, and it can have really severe, even fatal consequences for pets,” said Tess Payne, director of community engagement at DoveLewis Veterinary Emergency Hospital in Northwest Portland.
In the past few weeks, they’ve treated three dogs who overdosed on fentanyl. At least one picked it up from the sidewalk.
“It may be they actually ate the product or they ate some bodily fluids from somebody who ingested it recently,” Payne said. The vets were able to save them with Narcan.
“Some symptoms to look for can be a change in their breathing, they may have a lower respiratory rate, they may have difficulty walking, less coordination than usual, they might have seizures,” warned Payne.
Some Portland dog owners are worried and keeping a closer eye on what their pets sniff on the sidewalk.
“Just really scary to hear that that’s happened three times. I'm definitely going to make sure I’m looking out for my dog now walking on the street,” said Liam Mireles, who walks his dog in Northwest.
“It only takes a second or two for a dog to see something it might be interested in and really quickly get it before you even realize it,” added Alexa Harris who works as a dog walker in Portland.
As it turns out, this isn’t new to Portland vets.
“It’s a fairly common occurrence — whether it’s fentanyl or ingestion of prescription medication — it is a daily occurrence for us to have dogs who have gotten into household items. It might be prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, we see quite a bit of marijuana ingestion,” said Payne.
Payne added that caring for dogs who have ingested fentanyl started to become more common when doctors began prescribing people fentanyl patches, resulting in some dogs digging the used patches out of the garbage at home.
But some dog owners say that this points to the larger drug problem facing the city.
“It's dogs that are affected, but the entire community is affected … just something to be careful of and see if we can get some legislation or something going to make our community safer,” said Mireles.
The city of Portland is trying. Last week, the city council voted to ban the use of hard drugs, like fentanyl, on public property — but now it’s up to the state to get involved to allow Portland to enforce such a ban. Governor Tina Kotek tells KGW she hopes to work on this during next year’s legislative session.
In the meantime, there are still drugs and drug paraphernalia on many sidewalks in downtown Portland, so keep an eye out when walking your dog.