Survivors Helped us Push Ahead

big hound

Fourth in a series

I offered to help Placitas pet parents with their poisoning problem and, well, they took me up on it. The next morning Gretel, a big hound who I already knew as a wild and active girl, lumbered listlessly through the door. I almost didn’t recognize her. Her gums were pale, her respiratory rate increased. A quick check of her blood showed a serious but not-yet life threatening anemia. And, yes, she’d been allowed to roam loose.

This dog was going to make it – if we moved fast enough. To reduce the risk of more bleeding I gave Gretel the antidote for diphacinone poisoning, vitamin K1, by injection through a very tiny needle. Only mild sedation was necessary for her to relax enough so we could slide the stomach tube down her esophagus. Up came dog food mixed with suspicious-looking pellets that Amos deftly collected in a plastic jar. Multiple warm water rinses later and our patient’s stomach finally gave back only clear fluid. Activated charcoal was tubed in to absorb any remaining poison.

We fed Gretel small fatty meals that would speed the absorption of oral vitamin K1. She was tough; her bone marrow rallied and over the next few days her gums became gradually pinker. I sent the big girl home on tablets with strict instructions to be stay on-leash or safely confined at home. She would be OK as long as she avoided rat poison.

Seeing a really sick pet ‘round the corner and go home to recover with its loving family makes me want to dance in the street but this difficult saga had only started. Gretel’s people freely shared this triumph of modern medicine with their neighbors. Dogs who’d played and roamed with canine poisoning victims arrived for preventive treatment in a steady stream.

The next 3 weeks felt like they’d never end. We treated 11 poisoned dogs; 6 of them survived. It was too late for 7 more who arrived for necropsy, having already passed away at home. Each dog’s stomach contents were submitted for analysis. These pets came from multiple locations in and around their rural village. This wasn’t coming from an isolated location. Would this end only when the long arm of the law collared the perpetrator?
Next week: No shortage of outrage or solutions.
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Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.