Anyone who knows me or is even acquainted with me knows how much I love Gabe. I love every dog that I've ever had, and have wanted to take in numerous others, but he is one of those special, once-in-a-lifetime dogs. He is easy to love, even for visitors that come to the house, or people he meets on the street. Gabe is lucky that I love him as much as I do, because he has been one of the most high-maintenance dogs I've ever owned. Scratch that - THE highest maintenance dog I've ever owned. But, I've learned from the experiences he has thrown my way, and I figured it would possibly be helpful to pass some of the information along in case anyone else ever finds themselves in a similar spot.
In his short three years of life, Gabe has already been to the emergency vet - twice. To put a little perspective on this: in all the years of owning dogs prior to Gabe, not one of them ever went to an emergency clinic. (Emergency vet clinics are open to provide assistance and care for pets that have a medical issue after traditional office hours.) And, dog owners like me are grateful that they exist!
The first situation that warranted a trip to the animal ER was the night that Gabe found rat poison in the house I was renting at the time. The manufacturers of rat poison create it with an enticing taste (so that, you know, rats will eat it.) The problem is that household pets and other animals find the taste just as appealing, and will likely eat it if they have any chance to come near it. Since we were not the people who left the rat poison at the house, there was no way of knowing just how much there was to begin with or how much he may have consumed. Depending on the size of the dog and how much poison they eat, there can be different outcomes. But, the effects of the poison can take days to set in, and I was not about to wait around to find out.
It had been more than an hour since Gabe got into the poison by the time I found him, which meant that his stomach had already begun to absorb whatever he ingested. As I spoke with the emergency clinic a few times that night, it was apparent that coating his stomach with charcoal (to stop absorption) was likely one of the only ways the effects could be stopped by that point. I finally caved at 3 AM and took him in to have the procedure done. They did get him to throw up (as a precautionary measure), coated his stomach, and sent him home with some medications to continue coating the stomach. Thankfully, Gabe never showed any signs of being poisoned and I felt like my money was well-spent.
About a year later, the second incident happened when a roommate left a chocolate cake sitting out on the edge of our counter-top. I went to a barbecue, and when I came home, there was an empty cake pan sitting on our kitchen floor. Gabe had consumed an ENTIRE chocolate cake in one sitting. I knew that the chocolate was harmful to dogs, as many people do. I was not sure if a chocolate cake was less of a threat than being in its pure form, but the sheer amount of what he ate would likely be bad news. So, to the ER we went again. This time, Gabe was showing signs of toxicity with a racing heart. He had to stay overnight, threw up a bunch, had his stomach coated again, got an EKG taken of his heart, and was hooked up to fluids so that his system could get flushed out completely. I applied for a Care Credit account so that I could even pay for the hospital bill (both of these incidents happened while I was unemployed, go figure) and he got to come home the following morning. The bottom line to me was that Gabe would be ok, but it was a traumatic night of worry, tears, discouragement, and feeling like I had let a best friend down.
Gabe with freshly shaved legs (from where the IVs were placed).
Both of these situations prompted me to learn more about other hazardous things dogs can ingest. Some of the items on this incomplete list may surprise you!
Chocolate (common knowledge, but what some of you may not know is that the darker the chocolate/closer to the natural form of it, the more of a threat it poses to dogs.)
Coffee/tea (due to caffeine)
Poinsettia and mistletoe plants (beware during the holidays!)
These are just some of the more common household foods and substances that pose a risk to your pets. A veterinarian or Google search will yield additional information on toxic threats for dogs and cats; this list is made up of things that I feel are often in an average home and should be noted.
Furthermore, as a person who will likely move around more than once in the years to come, I would recommend doing a sweep of any new household your pet may live in before moving everything in. You never know what past renters/owners may have left behind (such as poison), and this could prevent a potential tragedy. Additionally, confining your dog when you leave can keep him or her safe from the various temptations that may exist in your house, especially if it is a messy environment (as it often is when multiple roommates live under one roof.)
For any Grey hair Gabe has caused, he is still worth more than every penny I've spent. Author John Grogan sums the relationship up pretty well:
"A dog has no use for fancy cars or big homes or designer clothes. Status symbol means nothing to him. A waterlogged stick will do just fine. A dog judges others not by their color or creed or class but by who they are inside. A dog doesn't care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his. It was really quite simple, and yet we humans, so much wiser and more sophisticated, have always had trouble figuring out what really counts and what does not. As I wrote that farewell column to Marley, I realized it was all right there in front of us, if only we opened our eyes. Sometimes it took a dog with bad breath, worse manners, and pure intentions to help us see."