Whole Dog Journal's Blog September 9, 2013

Keep Drugs Somewhere EXTREMELY Safe

Posted at 02:21PM - Comments: (7)

Some blog posts just write themselves -- like this one. It’s almost 3 am, and I just got home from the emergency veterinary clinic.  At approximately 11:15 pm, Riley, an 18-month-old Labrador I am fostering for my local shelter, walked into my home office happily chewing something. I couldn’t see what it was, so I got up from my chair and put my fingers in his mouth. I extracted a white plastic lid, the kind that caps a large childproof medicine bottle. My mind spun, and I remembered that there had been a bottle of another dog’s medicine on my kitchen counter earlier in the evening. I trotted into the kitchen, and sure enough, the bottle was gone.


It was a pleasantly cool evening, so I had left the back door (which is off the kitchen) open, and Riley and my dogs had been going in and out as they pleased for an hour or so. I walked outside with Riley and quickly spotted the bottle, lying on one of the dog beds scattered on the deck. I picked it up, hoping it was still full of medicine, but there were just three pills inside it.

A few weeks ago, a friend’s dog passed away, and she gave me all of her dog’s things, to donate to my local shelter. She included her dog’s prescriptions, and I took them, intending to ask the veterinarian at the shelter whether she could use them for any of the shelter dogs. The drugs had been sitting on my kitchen counter – not a safe place when you have an untrained, adolescent Labrador in the house. This was totally my fault; I shouldn’t have had anything that is potentially harmful to a dog on the counter with a dog like Riley in the house. That goes for the bottle of Advil, pack of AA batteries, and even the pack of sugarless gum. I’m putting those in various drawers now.

I trotted back into my office, and entered the name of the drug and “canine overdose” into a search engine. One of the first articles to appear was in a reputable veterinary magazine, and written by a vet who works for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, the only 24/7 animal poison control center in the U.S. The article listed symptoms of an overdose as well as treatment. One of the symptoms mentioned was piloerection – when the dog’s hair stands up, as if he’s scared or angry (even though he’s not). I turned and looked at Riley; all his hair was standing up. Yikes. Time to pick up the cell phone and car keys and a leash.

I called the only emergency veterinarian clinic around, which is located about 25 miles from my house. I told them what happened, and the timeline. After a minute’s discussion with the vet on call, the receptionist suggested giving Riley some hydrogen peroxide, to try to get him to vomit up some of the pills, and then to come to the clinic as quickly as possible.

The clinic admitted Riley and took him into the back to check his blood pressure, which is one of the main symptoms of a overdose of this drug – and what can kill a dog if untreated and the dose was high enough. Then the vet tech instructed me to call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, which charges a flat rate of $65 to consult (with a victim’s owner and/or vet) on poisoning cases. I gave the poison control center my credit card number and all the information I knew, including Riley’s weight, how long it had been since he ate the drugs, and the greatest possible dose he could possibly have consumed. (I was able to work that out based on the date of the prescription, the dose the dog had been receiving, and the date of her death.) The poison control staff transferred the call to their on-call veterinary toxicologist, who conferred with the emergency clinic’s vet about the best course of treatment for Riley. He was treated several times during the night/early morning with Acepromazine, to reduce his blood pressure every time it started increasing to a dangerous level, and some fluid, to help move the drugs through his system. I picked up the very dopey dog at about noon the next day.


I’m totally kicking myself. The whole thing was my fault. I’ve given this advice to other people dozens of times, but since I hadn’t actually seen Riley jump up on my counters, I hadn’t made them Labrador-safe. And I should have known better, especially since I HAD seen him jumping up onto the equally high potting table on my back porch where I feed my cats, to eat their food.

Take home point: If you are caring for a dog who is new to you, or if you have a dog who is prone to (or liable to, in the case of a young untrained dog) jumping on counters or seeking out odd things to chew, put anything that might cause harm if consumed WELL out of the dog’s reach. I should have put these drugs (as well as that bottle of Advil, that pack of AA batteries, and a half-pack of sugarless gum) in a cupboard or a drawer – or, I should have barred Riley from the kitchen altogether. Just because my big dog wouldn’t dream of jumping on a counter to explore, and my little dog wouldn’t be able to (though plenty willing), doesn’t mean the counter was a safe spot. And don’t count on the childproof top of a pill bottle to save you (or your dog): the bottle and the lid were barely chomped on, and yet Riley was able to eat almost all of the contents. Thank goodness, the bottle wasn’t full, just half full – not a lethal dose, though a highly dangerous one.

Photo caption: Waiting for the vet to come into the exam room at the emergency clinic. Check the hairdo! Piloerection is a classic sign of an overdose of the drug Riley ate.

Comments (7)

Even things seemingly harmless can kill.
A family friend mixed up a large batch of bread dough, enough for 4 loafs, and left it on the counter for its first rise. Since the dough needed to set for an hour or so, she went over to a neighbors to visit. She had a black lab, who jumped up on the counter and ate ALL of the dough.
The yeast metabolized, the dough expanded .....

Over the years I have found that our pets can come to harm in all kinds of strange ways. My youngest dog was running full speed, misjudged a corner and crashed into the taillight bracket of a utility trailer. Punched a hole in her skull, opened up her sinus cavity. I never ever would have thought a dog would run into a parked trailer. Rose turned out fine, has a dent in her head, no real lasting harm.

As dog owners we can only do so much to safe guard our companions, accidents still happen.

Posted by: Kate S | September 12, 2013 2:36 PM    Report this comment

I lost my beloved Star to this same situation -- which was most likely Proin. The danger to some canine drugs such as the Proin i had on hand is that they taste like dog treats. Star ingested an entire 60 pills of Proin and landed in intensive care for 5 days -- thinking she was not going to make it but she did. She came home and went into cardiac arrest a few days after she arrived home -- we let her go peacefully as the drug had caused to much damage to her heart. She was a vibrant and strong RR just shy of her 12th birthday with no health issues before i accidentally left this drug on my kitchen counter one night-- something i will never get over.

Posted by: sgozdiff | September 10, 2013 6:05 PM    Report this comment

Ditto on the comment about being careful when you're taking your own pills. My Golden Retriever puppy (probably about 4 months then) scarfed down one of my Omeprazole capsules in the blink of an eye right in front of me. By the time I realized what was happening, it was over. I had apparently dropped one somehow...panicked, I called our local veterinary ER, and reached a veterinarian with the resources to look up Omeprazole for puppies of mine's age/weight. Fortunately, Omeprazole was harmless to him in the dose he'd taken--but it could easily have been otherwise. Good article.

Posted by: Jane C | September 10, 2013 4:55 PM    Report this comment

My first dog, a chocolate lab had a penchant for my sewing things. As a puppy, he got a hold of my tomato shaped pin cushion, I'm sure thinking it was a soft ball toy. He casually walked into a room where I was sitting, chomping away. I pulled it from his mouth and found many of the sewing pins in his mouth, laying down between his cheeks and gums. Needless to say, I rushed him to the vet where he was x-rayed and examined thoroughly. I grew many gray hairs that day. All of my sewing tools are now in drawers or plastic sealable tubs.

Posted by: SueW | September 10, 2013 11:47 AM    Report this comment

Sorry this happened but thank you for sharing. You never know what the dogs are going to get their mouths on. We have a 13 year old Shih Tzu who jumped from the breakfast nook onto a slippery granite counter to snatch a banana that I had put there to remind myself to put banana slices in the dogs' after dinner dessert yogurt. I found Henry on the breakfast nook happily chewing the banana skin.....he was obviously exploring on the counter and it could have been much worse if it had been chocolate or medicine....now there is nothing on the kitchen counters.

Posted by: Olivia | September 10, 2013 11:32 AM    Report this comment

And don't forget cats! My adventurous felines know no boundaries and I'm always aware that they may knock pill bottles off into the floor where my bulldogs, who could never reach the counter, would rip them open and scarf up the contents. Will they take a pill voluntarily? Of course not! Contraband is so much better. I also ask my husband to please shake out his medication into his hand over the sink, since I have on occasion found a stray pill on the floor - luckily, before the dogs saw it. Always have to be on guard.

Posted by: Mary F | September 10, 2013 11:14 AM    Report this comment

Oh my God! I had something similar happen to our dogs. We have a beagle puppy. I think he was about 6-7 months old at the time, but he pulled a dish towel off the counter. Of course, my mini doxie's thyroid medicine came down with it.
My husband and I got home and I'm looking for the medicine to give to my doxie with dinner & I can't find it. Suddenly, I realize what those little bits of blue plastic we found scattered around the house were. I immediately called my vet and explained the situation. He told me what to look for and said that if they weren't showing any signs by that time, they should be fine. Told me to keep an eye on them through the night.
I was so scared. Thankfully, it didn't end up as a vet visit but, now, I am way more cautious about leaving anything on the counter.

Posted by: joandmar | September 10, 2013 10:33 AM    Report this comment

New to Whole Dog Journal? Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In