He may be small in size but this cheeky ‘gun metal grey’ Chihuahua has a big personality.  Sammy has a loving home with a nutritious diet and veterinarians for parents.  Everything was on the up for Sammy until the moment an error in judgement almost cost him his life.

Full of Christmas spirit, Sammy went on a mini-expedition through his house in search of mischief.  He was overjoyed when he discovered a new toy.  Many hours were spent rolling around and playing with the ‘toy’.  He enjoyed chewing on the bottle, instinctively pulling away at the coating to the treat hidden within  Hearing his parents approach, he abandoned his toy and resumed the ‘good boy position’ on his bed, tail wagging with vigour.  The distraction of cuteness was always effective to avoid getting caught.

Sammy’s victory was short-lived.  His owner noticed the damaged ‘toy’ lying on the floor and was horrified at the discovery.  Being a successful veterinarian, Sammy’s owner was well aware of the situation at hand and became concerned.  Sammy could sense this, but he was confused at the over-reaction.  He felt fine!

What Sammy didn’t realise was the toy he had been chewing was actually a bottle of Meloxicam and he had ingested about 10 times his normal dose.  Meloxicam is part of a class of drugs known as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) including popular medications ibuprofen and asprin.  Most NSAIDs cannot be used on pets due to serious side effects such as stomach ulcers or perforation of the stomach, kidney failure and bleeding.  Meloxicam is safe and effective when the correct dosage is administered under strict veterinary advice. Overdoses can be very dangerous!

On December 30th, Sammy was presented to Animal Emergency Service after close monitoring by his parents recognised the early signs of toxicity.  Sammy’s personality had become dull, he vomited (containing traces of blood), his mucus membranes were pale, he was dehydrated.   Sammy also had mild abdominal pain.  Investigations by Dr Sumner-Armstrong confirmed that Sammy was suffering a NSAID overdose requiring treatment and 24-hour monitoring in hospital.  Sammy was admitted and immediately placed on fluid therapy providing a transfusion of plasma to increase his blood protein levels.  Supportive care of medications and pain relief was provided, with regular blood tests, as well as monitoring of the stomach via ultrasound.

By New Years Eve, Sammy started to feel better and ate well.  There was no more vomiting and the stomach pain appeared to have ceased.  However a quiet night relaxing in a comfy hospital bed was about as exciting as Sammy’s New Year’s Celebrations were going to get.   Sammy was destined to remain in hospital until Friday 6th January when he was finally able to return home under strict bed-rest and close monitoring by his parents.

Sammy is lucky to be alive, and we can all learn from his experience.  Our homes are full of an assortment of medications – both over-the-counter and prescribed.  While they are beneficial when used correctly, they can be very dangerous if they are not out of reach of Chihuahua’s (or children) who don’t read the label!

Labels should be clear to read and followed concisely.  Any questions or concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian, and your pet should be monitored for any reactions or changes in behaviour.  Of course, pets are curious creatures and as Sammy’s veterinarian parent’s discovered – accidents do happen.  In these instances, information that will aid the treatment of your pet include:  The name of the medication, the approximate amount consumed, and the time of consumption.  Seek veterinary assistance immediately.  If your regular vet isn’t open, Animal Emergency Service is always available to help out.

Written by Dr Rob Webster & Solange Newton

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