UT-VMC emergency room tails: The breakfast bandit

UTVMC COLUMN HEADER  2By Dr. Amanda Rainey

I was poring over records concerning the young puppy that had just arrived when another page sounded overhead, indicating that we had a new patient in the reception area. Our fourth-year student on emergency duty called up front to determine the nature of the case and turned to me after replacing the receiver.

“There is a dog here that ate raisins. I’ll go get her,” the student informed me. As she was leaving the room, I instructed her to gain permission from the owner to induce vomiting if the dog had eaten the incriminating items within the last few hours. Grapes and raisins happen to be very dangerous for dogs and cats. We don’t know the exact toxic principle, but even small amounts can cause irreversible kidney damage or even complete kidney failure. Raisins seem to be more toxic than grapes. So, I knew time was of the essence in regards to instituting treatment.

“Here she is. This is Mia. She ate raisins out of her owner’s cereal bowl about an hour ago,” the student stated, handing me a tiny gray terrier mix. Mia looked up at me with frightened dark eyes that peeked out from the scruffy hair surrounding her face. She immediately cuddled close to my chest and I could feel her trembling. I spoke softly to her as I performed a quick physical exam. She seemed to relax a little as I placed her on the scale to obtain her weight.

“I’m sorry sweet girl. I’m going to have to make you very sick to try to get those raisins out,” I quietly told her. With the help of my technician, we injected a medication intravenously that would cause vomiting. Within minutes she produced the contents of her stolen meal, including a small handful of raisins. As my technician obtained a blood sample to check her baseline kidney values, I made my way up front to speak with Mia’s owner. It turns out she was quite the sneaky little girl and had been waiting hopefully at her owner’s feet for a snack while he enjoyed his breakfast. When the phone rang and he got up, she made her move and jumped onto his chair and accessed the table. When he returned, his breakfast was gone and Mia was licking the cereal bowl clean.

I explained how serious raisin ingestion is and recommended that we hospitalize her for fluid therapy and monitoring her kidney values for the next several days. He was very worried about Mia and gave us permission to do whatever was needed to give her the best chance to get well.

Mia soon became a favorite of the ICU staff, as she was the best little patient. Her owner came to visit every day, after which she loudly voiced her displeasure about not being able to go home with him. Hearing her shrill chirps up and down the hallway outside of ICU made me smile. She was feeling great and her kidney parameters continued to be normal.

She was discharged to her owner after 72 hours in the hospital. As she was leaving, I gave her a last scratch and told her to stay out of trouble. Her dark eyes were bright and seeing the mischief hidden there made my heart feel thankful, as the greatest reward we can ask for is to see our patients reunited with their owners in health.

(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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