At one of my prior jobs, I saw a puppy on emergency that presented for sudden onset of salivation, vomiting, and mild tremors. He had been outside in the yard for about an hour prior to onset of symptoms. The owners were questioned about possible exposure to toxins, and they noted that due to recent rains, a large crop of mushrooms had sprouted in the yard. I induced vomiting, and the puppy brought up a large amount of grass, dirt, and some unidentifiable brown chunks. I dug through the vomit (a favorite veterinary pastime) and pieced together some mushrooms from the remnants. A few minutes after vomiting, the salivation and tremors resolved.
The busiest day of the year for intake of animals to shelters is usually July 5th. This is because many pets get frightened of the sound of fireworks and run away. Fireworks can also cause injuries to pets including hearing loss, cuts, abrasions, contusions, and even poisonings if ingested. Although you can’t call 9-1-1 for your pets, many veterinary emergency hospitals are open 24 hours a day and available for phone questions and to help in an emergency.
Many owners ask me after a serious trauma whether it makes sense to put their pet through a large surgery or several days of intensive critical care or whether it wouldn’t be kinder to just put them down. Especially when the radiographs show severe fractures, there is the question of long-term quality of life. I think what has impressed me most over my 18 years as an emergency and critical care veterinarian is the ability of animals to heal. A following case is a good example.
Jumping a fence to wrangle a litter of unsocialized backyard puppies is not a normal “day in the life” of an urban ER veterinarian. But on a warm January day in Peridot, Arizona, that is where I found myself, aided by the vet student in the pen with me, the local Animal Control officer outside the pen, and, to a much lesser degree, the lady of the house. We were working that day as an HSVMA-RAVS (Rural Area Veterinary Services www.ruralareavet.org) community outreach team for the San Carlos Apache Nation, a small part of an impressive, ongoing, public health program on that reservation.
A blue heeler puppy, hung limply in her owner’s arms, panting heavily. On exam, she had pale gums, was working hard to breathe and had quiet lung sounds. A quick ultrasound showed free fluid in her chest and abdomen. Blood work showed a severe anemia (low red blood cells). These signs, in a young dog, are most consistent with ingestion of rat bait causing severe internal bleeding. We placed an IV catheter and started transfusing packed red blood cells and plasma.
A year ago I quit my full time job at ACCES as an emergency veterinarian to explore the world with my wife and to do some volunteer work as part of those travels. I hoped that the time spent working would allow me to help animals and people that would otherwise not have access to those resources, to gain a deeper connection with the communities we were traveling through, and to gain some perspective on my work as a veterinarian in the United States. We have toured some shelters and recently just finished a week of volunteer work at the Care For DogsFoundation in Chiang Mai, Thailand and those goals were both met and exceeded.
January is National Blood Donor Month. While most people are aware of the need for human blood transfusions, many people are UNAWARE of the need for transfusions in dogs and cats. Transfusions are needed for many of the same reasons that people need transfusions. Trauma, surgical blood loss, cancer and many other disease processes could cause a cat or a dog (or a person) to require a blood transfusion. The ACCES Blood bank, as the only animal blood bank in Seattle, provides blood products to both ACCES hospitals (Seattle and Renton) as well as many of the other veterinary hospitals in the Greater Puget Sound Area (and beyond!).
The New Year is approaching next week, and with it come the inevitable resolutions. While you are making your own list, consider making one for your pet as well. Whether it’s as simple as learning to trim your pets nails, or focusing on finally getting that extra weight off your beloved companion, remember that you are your pet’s advocate and change starts with you.
The holiday season is upon us yet again, as is evidenced by the appearance of eggnog lattes and theme music in shopping malls. It is time to review the most common pet hazards seen during the next few months.