A couple of months ago, Lilly started limping on her right fore leg. She was admitted to our clinic for a work up, including x-rays, and the most likely final diagnosis was that she had sprained her shoulder and elbow joints. She’s a large, rapidly growing, active dog, and she puts a lot of pressure on her body as she charges around. The recommended treatment was simple: a combination of rest and strong pain relieving medication.
Eva was supplied with a month’s supply of tablets, and after ten days’ treatment, Lilly was doing well. The lameness had vanished, and Lilly was in good form. She even enjoyed taking her medication: modern pet medicines are designed to be tasty, making it much easier to give them to dogs and cats. Eva wrapped the tablets up in a piece of cheese every morning, and Lilly ate them with no problem.
The crisis happened on a Monday. Eva remembers the facts clearly: she had been given thirty tablets, and Lilly had taken one tablet per day for eleven days, so there were nineteen left in the package. Eva stored the medication at the back of the kitchen counter, behind a heavy knife block. The counter was higher than in a typical kitchen, at bar-height, so the tablets were out of sight, and Eva was sure that they were well out of reach of Lilly when she headed out for a few hours one afternoon.
Lilly lives in the kitchen area, along with Eva’s older dog Tia. The two dogs are always taken for a long walk before being left alone indoors, so they are usually tired enough to snooze peacefully in their beds. Lilly is still at the puppy chewing stage, and in the past, she has chewed shoes, skirting boards and furniture. She’s maturing now, and her behaviour is improving. Or so Eva had thought.
When Eva came home later that afternoon, she found shredded foil and cardboard all over the kitchen floor. She knew at once what had happened. Lilly had somehow managed to stand up on her hindlegs, push the knife block to one side with a front leg, than drag her tablets out. She had ripped open the packaging and scoffed every remaining tablet, all at once. Eva realised that Lilly had taken a massive overdose, eating all nineteen of her pain relieving tablets, so she rushed her down to our clinic at once.
As soon as I heard what had happened, I did a quick calculation: Lilly had eaten ten times the recommended dose, all at once. This was a dangerous situation: the high level of medication could seriously damage the liver, kidneys and digestive tract. I gave Lilly the most effective instant treatment: a drug which caused her to vomit repeatedly, completely emptying her stomach. She brought up a mixture of food, tablets and tin foil. I reckoned we had successfully removed most of the medication from her stomach, but it was difficult to judge if we had been in time. Could a harmful amount of medication have already been absorbed into her system.
We kept her in our clinic for a day, using blood tests to monitor her liver and kidney function, and giving her medication to protect her digestive tract from damage. Lilly made a good recovery: she remained happy and healthy, as if nothing had happened.
Eva has learned that when there’s a big, active dog like Lilly around, all potentially dangerous items, including medication, has to be stored in a locked cupboard. Lilly may be smart, but she hasn’t yet learned how to turn a key in a lock.
- Pet medication must be given at the recommended dose
- Even safe drugs can be poisonous if too much is taken
- If an overdose is taken, an emergency visit to the vet is always the safest option