Waylaid by a Rimadyl Overdose

This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series Cancer & the Fight

Normally, the Rimadyl wouldn’t even have been in the house.

A 100 mg Rimadyl pill bought in the United Sta...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I personally don’t like carprofen for my dogs, due to the potential liver damage (which, I’ve read, Dobermans may be more susceptible to than some other breeds), and we tend to use other anti-inflamnatories when necessary. But Shakespeare was given as little as 3 weeks to live, and living long enough to develop liver problems would be a win anyway, so I brought home Rimadyl to keep him as comfortable as possible.

It didn’t even occur to me to ask if it came in a non-flavored version. My dogs are , and a regular capsule would have been much safer than bringing a liver-flavored drug into a house with Laev on prednisone, giving her chronic munchies and motivating her to new heights of counter-surfing.

(It seems this is actually an unfortunately frequent occurrence with liver-flavored Rimadyl, so be aware. This bottle was in a location where we had stored dog meds for years without a dangerous incident like this.)

We came into the house to find her carrying the Rimadyl bottle, just one pill left inside. I immediately induced vomiting, which took several tries, but the pills turned out to be long ingested. Long digested. A call to Animal Poison Control confirmed that the ~2700 mg she had taken was roughly twice a toxic dose for her 65 pounds, and I took both dogs in to the ER.

The Scary

Turns out that the same prednisone which made her munchy also made her stomach and GI system more susceptible to damage from the Rimadyl overdose. As did the H2O2 I used to induce vomiting. Plus, the dog has lymphoma and is undergoing chemo. Plus, she got twice the dose to induce renal failure.

This all adds up to Not Good.

I gambled that Shakespeare hadn’t ingested any pills, which is a fairly safe bet, and initiated treatment only for Laev. We gave her a big heap of activated charcoal to absorb what we could of the drug in her system, a couple of gastroprotectant drugs, and then I took her in to my regular clinic for IV fluids this morning.

Bullets we have to dodge:

  1. Laev is at high risk for stomach ulcerations, due to a stomach-damaging substance on top of stomach-sensitizing substances.
  2. Her kidneys have gotten a doubly-toxic dose, so we’re flushing and hoping. Flushing and hoping.
  3. And then, if she gets past immediate danger, we look to see how much damage her liver took.
  4. Oh, and this obviously postponed today’s chemo session by at least a week, and her oncologist says we should keep an eye on her lymph nodes in case they start enlarging again in the meantime.

The Teeny, Tiny Silver Lining

My dog is awesome.

A vet tech wanted to take Laevatein into the back to give her the activated charcoal. “Can’t you do it here in the exam room?” I asked, and she told me that they needed her in the back because Laev might make a mess.

I was very distracted — I had just signed a Do Not Resuscitate for Shakespeare, pending deciding he probably wasn’t at risk, and so I was feeling like the worst dog person ever — and got momentarily confused with the charcoal to absorb and a drug to induce vomiting. I know better, but it was 3 am and I was not thinking about charcoal. So I didn’t know why Laev couldn’t vomit on the tile floor of the exam room just as well as in the back, but I didn’t argue as much as I might have, and they took her.

I suspect they put her into a kennel while deciding they needed a blood test first, because when I authorized the test and told them I definitely wanted to do the draw in the exam room with me, Laev dragged the two techs into the room like she was winning the Iditarod, and she immediately began jumping and climbing me and snapping her jaws at my face and neck. This is what she does when she is on the verge of panic, and it’s not pretty. Or comfortable. I have a hickie now.

I grabbed the can of Kong liver paste from my bag and shoved the mat toward her, cuing “park it.” She did. I cued “chin” — ordinarily I’d let her take herself through her relaxation protocol, but we needed an intervention — and she did, and I treated with liver paste straight into her mouth. We repeated the chin-down perhaps a half-dozen times while I asked where they wanted to draw blood. “Rear leg? Oh, that’s easy!”

I cued Laev to stand, then to do a chin target on my hand and to hold it. They stuck her, drew blood, and her chin never budged. She was a rock star, totally on task and infinitely more comfortable. Panic to voluntary blood draw in SECONDS. She’s a good girl, and I’m terribly proud of her.

(We then gave her the activated charcoal mixed in with a can of wet food. I have no idea why it needed to be done in the back.)

Right Now

Exhausted sleepy dog. This is NOT what Laev typically does in an exam room; there's a reason we have a relaxation routine!

Exhausted sleepy dog. This is NOT what Laev typically does in an exam room; there’s a reason we have a relaxation routine.

Laev spent the day getting IV fluids at our regular clinic, but with all the risks, tonight I took her back to the specialty clinic, where she’ll be on fluids all night and getting bloodwork to monitor kidney function, etc. Also, the vet who will be supervising the interns responsible for Laev tomorrow is her oncologist, by the luck of the schedule. And they are kenneling her in a recovery area, not the regular kennel, to help her maybe relax a little. Laev does not kennel well in a clinic, and she was exhausted from today at least as much as from her sickness.

So now, I just wait to hear back on successive blood tests. And tonight, Shakespeare and I are going to have a movie marathon.

(By the way, Shakespeare is doing well. Two weeks tomorrow, and he’s still got great appetite and enthusiasm for dining. We’re gonna kick that three-weeks in the teeth, we are.)

More as I learn!

UPDATE, MON PM: Just got a call from the overnight vet, who says Laev’s bloodwork and urine are “beautiful.” So that’s a real good start to the evening. Far from home safe, though; we won’t be sure about GI and kidneys for a couple of days.

UPDATE, TUES AM: Laev did well overnight, even seems to be resting and quiet, which I’m hoping means she’s relaxing in the private area rather than that she’s exhausted. The vets seem pleased, though, and while it’s too early to be sure about GI damage, no obvious signs of trouble have appeared yet. And her oncologist examined her this morning and said her lymph nodes feel good, and we’ll knock on wood that we won’t lose too much ground before she can take another round of chemo.

UPDATE, WED: Laev came home today! No evident GI damage, no apparent kidney damage so far (will check again in a few days). Will keep an eye open for other fallout, but all immediate danger is past. Huzzah! Thank you for all your prayers and support!

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About Laura VanArendonk Baugh CPDT-KA KPACTP

Laura was born at a very young age and started playing with animals immediately after. She never grew out of it, and it looks to be incurable. She is the author of the bestselling FIRED UP, FRANTIC, AND FREAKED OUT. She owns Canines In Action, Inc. in Indianapolis, speaks at workshops and seminars, and is also a Karen Pryor Academy faculty member.
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  1. I avoid emoticons and the like, but it seems appropriate this time … {{{ hugs }}}

  2. I’m breathing a sigh of relief for you that so far things seem to be going okay with both Laev and Shakespeare. Laev’s really not the sort to be brought down by something so simple as a drug overdose or stomach issues. She’s the kind of dog that will only fall after a long high-speed chase on top of a train, followed by a kung fu fight in some dark alley…

  3. I am so so sad to hear all of this. Poor Laev. She’s so confused by the drugs in her system. But it’s amazing to see how much she trusts you, and how well she responded to her cues. As always, I’m incredibly impressed with your wonderful dogs. Is Shakespeare accepting visitors, or is he better off with folks he is used to? I’d love to see him if possible. And Laev, but you know, I bonded with Shakes during that Avengers cuddlethon. 🙂 Aside from that, anything I can do to help, don’t hesitate to say so. If you want ridiculous, first-draft, only-half-researched piracy to laugh at, I can provide that. If you need food delivered during the week, no problem. *hug*

  4. What and emotional roller coaster ride! I am exhausted just reading it. The emotional lows and highs, the fear, the expense. I feel so much sadness when I read about all the huge challenges you all are facing, the careful balancing of so many health issues. But when you described Laev’s transition from panic to chin target, I had a huge grin. Thank goodness for moments like that. (My first service dog, Jersey, gave me a hickey on the same day I had a date. I wore a turtleneck. I didn’t want to have to explain that my dog gift me hickey.)

  5. If Laev wasn’t the kind of dog that steals a Rimadyl bottle and empties it because it tastes like liver, we probably wouldn’t love her so much. But her timing could really improve.

    Loved how she kept her chin target in spite of everything else. Kudos to her for being such a trooper, and to you for having been so careful about husbandry training.

    We keep hoping for a quick recovery and no further surprises – not of this kind, at least.

  6. Laura, Glad to hear that Laev is surviving the Rimadyl scare and that Shakespeare is doing as well (and better!) than expected. Keeping positive thoughts for you, your movie buddy and surfer girl.

    Rita and Abby

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