Drug addicts are maiming their own dogs to get their hands on opiate pills from vets in a shocking new trend, authorities have warned.
Dogs cut open by their drug taking owners for opiate drugs
Painkiller tramadol is being hunted down by sick pet owners who have discovered it can be prescribed to their four-legged friends for pain relief and arthritis.
The drug, prescribed to human cancer patients to dull their pain, is dramatically cheaper than he more widely abused opioid oxycodone.
Tramadol costs up to 20 times less than oxycodone, leaving experts suggesting it "may become the new opioid of choice for abusers."
And the addiction crisis in America is driving addicts to new lows.
In December, a woman named Heather Pereira of Hardin County, Kentucky, was arrested after twice using a disposable razor to slice open the leg of her 4-year-old retriever to get her hands on tramadol.
Childless Pereira, 23, was reported by the vet who became suspicious when she returned for pills three days after her initial visit - claiming her child had flushed the first bottle.
Dog owners have been arrested amid new investigation into US opiate problem
Chad Bailey, noticed on her third visit the dog's wounds were "not the sort of cuts you see in nature".
Mr Bailey told the New York Post: "What's scary is it took me two times to pick up on what was happening.
"It worries me about the instances we miss."
Pereira was convicted of trying to obtain controlled substances by fraud.
But officers in the US have now discovered what appeared to be isolated incidents - has escalated into a big problem.
American drugs addicts are taking hunt for opiates to new levels
Jim Arnold, chief of policy and liaison for the diversion control division at the Drug Enforcement Administration told the New York Post dogs are being injured for drugs.
He said: "They've gotten very sophisticated in how they obtain drugs and go about their activities.
"It's an area that allows drug seekers to fly under the radar.
"We know it's happening, but I wouldn't be surprised if there's a lot more activity than we're aware of."
Last year, outside Portland, police seized 100,000 tramadol pills and rescued 17 dogs living in squalid conditions.
Four people who claimed to be breeding AKC-registered puppies were accused instead of running a opioid distribution ring.
Veterinarians in the US are beginning to cotton on to the alarming trend.
So-called "doggy doctor shopping" warnings are going out all over the nation as addicts search out gullible practitioners.