By Pierre B. Bland, DVM

Over the years I have done a lot of emergency work. Every case starts out as a life and death situation, then some progress to not so much and in time some even become comical. The bottom line is to help the client and their pet trough a trying and traumatic situation, be it some situations are much less traumatic in light of their outcome and the passage of time. One of the most common cases involves pets, especially dogs, ingesting intoxicating substances. This happens most frequently over weekends and holidays.

The typical presentation is a pet that is exhibiting impaired perception and reaction to external stimuli, having trouble walking and/or standing along with difficulty staying awake. In short, the pet is drunk or stoned. One of the tale tell signs of this presentation is the client frequently also exhibits many of the same symptoms of the intoxicating substance. The symptoms the pet is exhibiting are classic and about as self- diagnosing as possible. The challenge is getting the client to be honest in sharing with you what the pet has ingested, because it could be life threatening depending on the type and amount of intoxicant ingested.

Often the clients present as a pair, with small children. The standard story is they have no idea what happened and the condition appeared all of a sudden. In the process of taking a history and performing a physical exam, I ask if the the pet has had exposure to any toxins or “adult recreations substances.” On occasion I get a straight answer, but more often than not I get the standard “Heavens NO!” to which I know better. At this point, I dismiss any minors present to the waiting room and get a bit more pointed with my questions. I explain I have a pretty good idea of what is going on with the pet, am not trying to get into their business, and it is important I know what the offending substance was. Many continue to deny, some come clean, but often I get divergent stories from the clients. When this happens, I excuse myself from the exam room to give them time to parse their story out.

Upon my return, I get the real story along with their appropriate attribution of blame. I thank them for their honesty and assure them what goes on in the exam room stays on the exam room. Of course that promise is not valid if it makes for an interesting column topic.

Next we develop a treatment plan and for the pet which usually runs between $250.00 to $400.00, depending on the severity of the pets condition. The first timers typically consent to treatment, which is not a bad idea. The veterans of substance use and abuse typically either opt for very minimal to no treatment and go home and collectively sleep it off, suffering the physical consequences that come with the morning after. Yes dogs do get hangovers and I have even seen and treated many a case the next day.

So what did we learn this week? Be it yourself or your pet, it is prudent to heed the cautionary admonition of former First Lady Nancy Reagan and just say no. Your pet will thank you for it.

Dr. Bland is a practitioner in Oakland Park. He can be reached @ 954 673-8579.