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Baseline Acetylcholinesterase Activity in Healthy Dogs


To develop an accurate way to detect exposure to toxic agents in military working dogs.


Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme that supports essential functions of the nervous system. Genetic problems, along with exposure to radiation or chemical agents can damage the functioning of this enzyme, inhibiting the nervous system’s ability to efficiently conduct messages through the nerves. For this study, we’re testing the baseline activity of this enzyme in the blood of healthy dogs in order to improve the accuracy of a machine that measures acetylcholinesterase levels. Our aim is to develop an accurate way to detect exposure to toxic agents in working dogs.

This study is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.


  • Adult dogs of any age, weight, sex, or breed who are systemically healthy 

Exclusion Criteria

  • Dogs with serious systemic illnesses or cancers

Study Design

As part of a routine veterinary visit, such as a spay/neuter operation or annual check-up, owners will be offered the opportunity to enroll their dogs in this study. A physical examination will be performed to determine the health status of the dog, and a venous blood sample collected. For the study, we will set aside approximately 1-2 drops from each dog’s venous blood sample and test it using a new machine, which is designed to detect acetylcholinesterase activity. Test results are for research purposes only and will not affect the clinical care of enrolled dog. Results will not be shared with owners.

A small blood sample may also be collected from the elbow callus from recruited dogs. To collect this sample, a commercially available lancet will be used to obtain 1-2 drops of blood from enrolled dogs using the skin over the elbow. The procedure is quick and causes minimal discomfort. Owners may opt out of this part of the study. These samples will be tested for acetylcholinesterase activity in the same way as the IV blood samples.


There is no cost for participating in this study, and participants are not compensated. We hope the results of this study will benefit future military, law enforcement, and other working dogs. 


Dr. Jennifer Davis, DVM, PhD  
Office Phone: (540) 231-4621  |  Email:  

Mindy Quigley, Clinical Trials Coordinator
Office Phone: 540-231-1363 | Email:

If your query is urgent, please call the Small Animal Hospital at 540-231-4621.