UT-VMC emergency room tails: falling on deaf ears

UTVMC COLUMN HEADER  2By Dr. Amanda Rainey

Otis wasn’t quite sure why he was at the UTVMC. He had recently moved into a new home with his owners, and on a quiet Sunday morning while they were enjoying a cup of coffee over the day’s paper, he had stealthily discovered a small green square in the corner of the dining room. Otis started chewing on it and even ate some of it, but was disturbed by his owner when she realized what he had in his mouth. The next thing the Boston terrier knew they were in the car and arriving at the UTVMC, where a vet student immediately scooped him up from his owner’s arms and ran him to the ICU.

“We need to weigh him and then calculate the dosage of apomorphine immediately,” I told my student Mike, who quickly plopped poor Otis on the scale and called out the number. Within several minutes we had administered the drug intravenously and waited anxiously to see the effects. We were rewarded soon after when Otis produced multiple small piles of green mush, ridding his stomach of the toxin.

“He’s such a good boy! What a nice dog you are,” I cooed at Otis, rubbing his head as he wobbled back and forth on the exam table. The drug not only makes the animal sick, but makes them slightly sedated for a short time. Otis looked at me with his furrowed brow and seemed completely confused about the whole situation. We then needed to figure out his vitamin K dose, as he had ingested something that would interfere with clotting and the clotting factors that depend on vitamin K.

It turns out that the previous owners of the home Otis and his family moved into had placed bricks of rat poison throughout the house. His owners thought they had removed all of them, but Otis’ keen sense of smell had detected one piece left behind. If treated immediately after consumption, the prognosis for rat poison ingestion is excellent and most dogs go on to never suffer any consequences. They require oral vitamin K therapy for at least 30 days, but otherwise need no other treatment. If animals are not seen until they start showing signs of the poison such as bleeding, then the chances are not as good for complete recovery and require a great deal more care.

We all enjoyed caring for little Otis and was ready to go home within an hour of arrival. I went up to talk with his owners before discharging him and told them how much fun we had with him.

“He’s doing so well and we just love how cute he is when he cocks his head to the side when we talk to him,” I told his female owner. She started laughing at this comment and I couldn’t help but ask what was so humorous. It was then that she told me that Otis was completely deaf, so he’d never heard a word of what we’d been saying to comfort and praise him. Then it made total sense why he would turn his head side to side, since he was trying to make sense of it all. It made us all chuckle a little, but we all remained pleased at the fact that Otis was most likely going to be fine.

(Dr. Amanda Rainey, DVM, is a clinical assistant professor in the small animal clinical sciences department at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center in Knoxville.)

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