When Mike Axthelm arrived back at his home in Wyoming recently, he found his dog Mav was foaming at the mouth. He picked up the 9-year-old Labrador and drove to the closest veterinary hospital.Read More »
The rural veterinarian who treated Mav soon realized that she was facing her first case of serotonin syndrome, a dangerous and rare condition that can be fatal to pets. The reason for the condition: Mav had ingested as many as 600 dietary sleep supplements.
Growing danger to pets
Veterinarians point out that dietary supplements are becoming more popular. The market for the supplements, which assist many people, has increased to more than $140 billion a year and continues to grow.
Along with the growing popularity, however, comes an increased danger for pets. Accidental poisoning can easily take place if the supplements are left in a place where a pet can find them.
Pet owners should keep their supplements safe in the same way that they safeguard prescriptions, says Dr. Renee Schmid, a senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline. They can cause serious health problems and possible death for your pets in a short space of time, she adds.
Brought by visitors
Axthelm says before Mav (short for Maverick) became ill his son and his wife were visiting. They had brought a bottle containing sleep supplements with them. The bottle was left in a room when they all left the house.
On his return Axthelm saw that his dog was hiding and was acting guilty. Then he realized that Mav was foaming at the mouth and also had defecated in the house, which the dog had never done before. When he found the empty supplement bottle Axthelm realized what had happened as, he says, Mav will eat anything.
Called Pet Poison Hotline
When Axthelm called his local veterinarian from the house he was advised to call the Pet Poison Helpline, which he did. He told them what he believed had happened and told them to which veterinarian he was taking the dog.
As Axthelm drove Mav to the hospital, the experts at the helpline analyzed the ingredients in the supplement. They realized that the dog had eaten a highly toxic amount of 5-HTP, which is a compound that helps to boost serotonin levels in the brain and was in the supplements.
Began treatment immediately
When Axthelm arrived at the pet hospital, the veterinarian—Dr. Amy Stockton of The Stock Doc Veterinary Services—was able to start treatment at once, based on the information and recommendations from the Pet Poison Helpline.
She began with injections of Keppra. When the dog continued shaking, she used up her complete supply of methocarbamol IV. She followed that with phenobarbital and cyproheptadine.
The dog’s temperature of 105.5 started to fall with the use of cool fluids; his blood pressure remained normal during the entire ordeal. Within four hours his pupils became less dilated and more responsive to light.
After eight hours he was responsive. Twelve hours later Mav was able to get up and relieve himself outside.
It took three doses, each four hours apart, of cyproheptadine to handle Mav’s serotonin syndrome.
Dr. Stockton was so pleased that she had a solution that worked that she has now stocked up on the medications she used. In some cases she used all the medication she had at the time to save the dog’s life.
In 25 years of practice, this was the first time Stockton had had to deal with a case of serotonin syndrome. She praises the Pet Poison Helpline for its help. The organization has a large database that contains the most current information, she says.
Owners should call
Pet owners are encouraged to call the helpline to find out whether a situation with a pet is an emergency and what steps to take if it is. Once the helpline knows what the situation is they are able to advise veterinarians on ways in which medications can help to treat the original cause of a poisoning.
The experience with Mav can also serve as a warning to pet owners to make sure they do not leave supplements lying around where their pets can find them and eat them.
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