This weekend we learned a very valuable lesson about caring for your dogs in the Pacific Northwest. Slug bait, used in gardens to prevent the freakishly-large area slugs from consuming veggies and other plants, is highly toxic. The main ingredient, metaldehyde (say that three times fast - or once even!) is a poison that attacks the neurological system, causing tremors, seizures, high fever, trouble breathing and eventually death.
Unaware of the deadly risks, Apple poisoned herself only inches away from me. Saturday afternoon, after I had finished with the day's lessons, I was in the yard picking blueberries. Lots and lots of blueberries in fact. Apple, always on the lookout for something to eat, was following me, happily munching on the blueberries that had fallen to the ground, either over-ripe or plucked free by birds.
The blueberries had mainly landed directly below, where there is a large patch of strawberries. Turns out slugs love strawberries as much as we do, so there was slug bait all around them. Old slug bait, that had been sitting out in the sun and rain for months (okay, this is Oregon, mostly rain!). Seems the stuff remains highly toxic, because a few hours later (since Apple isn't graceful or selective enough to have only eaten the blueberries themselves), my husband noticed something was amiss.
He tried calling Apple out from under the bed because she was panting very heavily. She wouldn't come. He tried calling her again, and just got a glassy stare and more heavy panting. He sent for me, and while I was able to get her out from under the bed, I knew immediately that something was very wrong. Apple was panting like she had just run up and down Mt. Hood. As can happen when she gets worked up, her breathing wasn't just fast, but coarse and raspy, making horrible grating noises every time she drew a breath. Which was about every second.
As she tried to walk she had a bit of a drunken look to her, not placing her feet in quite the right places, and swinging her legs wide as if even her frying brain knew she was likely to tip. Her hind end was trembling, not the excited muscle twitches she gets when she's waiting for someone to throw the ball again, but a heading-for-seizure kind of shaking.
I made a beeline for Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital, even running a red arrow (shh, no telling!). I promise no one was coming. The wonderful staff there took a quick look at her and rushed her straight to the back where their ER clinic and ICU areas are. Thank goodness for a 24 hour hospital. Even more thanks for one of the best in the country.
The veterinarians and staff took wonderful care of Apple, bringing down her temperature (105 by the time we walked in) with cool IV fluids and wet blankets, stopping the tremors with medication, sedating her to slow the swelling that was causing her so much trouble breathing, and giving her oxygen to help her until the worst past. It was a terrifying night. I went home with the passenger seat empty, praying that Apple would pull through. I had been told before I left that if her breathing didn't improve soon they would need to put her under anesthesia, put a tube in her throat and breathe for her for a period of time. What a way to try getting some sleep - wondering if that's the path your dog is taking.
Sunday morning brought great news. Apple had not only survived the night without anesthesia, but was eating and wagging her tail, convincing the veterinarian who had taken over her care that she would be ready to go home by the afternoon.
Today, you wouldn't even know that Apple had a brush with death, aside from the telltale shaved patch on her forearm that allowed the Dove Lewis staff to place the IV line. Apple was running around, chasing the ball and trying to instigate games of tug. The slug bait has been carefully removed, and once she's done pooping out all the charcoal she was given (to bind with the remaining toxins), she really will be 100% healthy. We are a little poorer, but with Apple home to sleep on the bed and greet Ethan when he comes home from school, it doesn't really matter!