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May 25, 2013 6:48 PM   Subscribe

How often is normal for otherwise healthy pets to have medical emergencies?

I've had my dog Alvy for a little more than three months now, and it feels like every other week we are in some kind of animal health crisis.

So far:

At least two instances of eating (cooked) chicken bones and at least one instance of eating chocolate off the street during walks. He was ultimately fine in all these instances.

One cut toe resulting in a $400 visit to the emergency vet and two weeks wearing the Cone Of Shame.

And just now, on another walk, he snarfed a discarded plastic bag containing some goopy stinky Taco Bell that someone had littered in the street*. I was able to pry most of the bag out of his jaws, but he definitely swallowed some of it and now we're on yet another Poop Watch. Per the receptionist at the vet clinic, who suggested observing him before opting to bring him in -- it being a holiday weekend, we could well end up having our second emergency vet visit since April.

Is this normal? Am I being anxious and catastrophizing normal situations? I knew going into pet ownership that emergency health situations where a "when" rather than an "if". But I feel like I'm in a constant state of crisis over my otherwise healthy and active dog's physical well being.

How often do you find yourself calling the vet, taking your dog into the vet, or making visits to the emergency vet?

*Do not even get me started on people throwing half-eaten fast food litter in the street in my neighborhood.
posted by Sara C. to Pets & Animals (51 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Sounds to me like you've just simply gotten into an unlucky streak of events. It does happen... I've never had dogs (8 cats) but you just can't predict some stuff. One of our cats, which came right off the streets of Williamsburg at a couple weeks old ended up costing us about 10K in vet bills. She better live to be 300 years old...
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:59 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

The solution to a lot of this is teaching your dog "Leave it," and to use a short leash to keep him well-heeled when you're in areas where he could eat stuff that will make him sick. That will reduce the number of scares and your stress too.
posted by klangklangston at 7:04 PM on May 25, 2013 [9 favorites]

Best answer: This depends on how we define normal.

(Many) dogs will eat just about anything that even remotely resembles food. I know a dog that eats snails off the sidewalk like they are puppy candy. (which can result in seriously life threatening internal lacerations!) Another dog will eat an entire batch of compost stuff out of the pile if you've so much as put a chicken bone, drop of beef stock or other hint of meaty goodness near the container you just dumped. These two dogs hardly ever spend any time at the vet. It would take more than two hands to count the dogs I have met who have "ate an entire bag/bar of chocolate" stories.

Another dog I know has been hit by a car which required multiple surgeries. He got into something on a vacation once and got an enormous cut on his foot that required stitches. That same dog just finished ten days of medication for a cough, an itchy skin thing, and upset stomach issues. He seems to always be at the vet for something.

Dog ownership seems like a lottery.

The only real suggestion I have to offer regards walking. It sounds like he ate the chicken bones and the chocolate on walks. (Though from that sentence, maybe it was only the chocolate that he got to outside?) The command you want is "leave it," and bonus points for "drop it," because you sometimes won't notice that the dog is already close enough to temptation before he realizes. Generally telling a dog "No" isn't quite as effective because they can't really figure out what they are supposed to do. Dogs (generally) like having jobs. They like knowing what you want, so they can make you happy.

You can train drop it and leave it with toys, or treats, or other animals, and they are really good for all kinds of situations.
posted by bilabial at 7:04 PM on May 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

We have two cats, and have been on only one emergency vet visit once in the past four years, for asthma. But our cats aren't ever outside, which it sounds like is the reason for all your vet visits. Definitely agree with klangklangston to just be more attentive to where your dog is walking, what the dog is picking up outside, etc.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:05 PM on May 25, 2013

Best answer: My cat has averaged about two emergency vet visits per year over eight years of life, but a bunch of them were concentrated around the front end of ownership when he was an indoor-outdoor cat who kept getting into scrapes. Still, we've been twice to the vet over the past year in addition to his physical/teeth cleaning, once for a repeated puking incident and another for a case of Mysterious Yowling During Pooping. I am a bit of an anxious person, so I generally let my more even-tempered husband tell me if I'm overreacting or not in rushing him in.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:08 PM on May 25, 2013

Response by poster: We are working on "leave it" and "drop it", with maybe a 50% success rate at this point. He is on the usual 6-foot static leash, though I often keep him in a tighter heel if I see a potential for distraction/acting out on the horizon. Whether that's food litter, cats, dogs I can tell we shouldn't interact with, etc.

In the plastic bag situation today, he was within two feet of me, snarfed the bag, was too excited to Drop It, and then when I tried to pull it from his jaws it broke and he quickly swallowed what was between his teeth.

The thing about "leave it" and "drop it" isn't so much that I'm not aware of those commands, it's that it takes time to train a dog. You can't really think "I wish my dog knew Leave It" and then *whoosh* your dog never eats tempting snacks off the street ever again.
posted by Sara C. at 7:13 PM on May 25, 2013

...but if your dog is right next to you, rather than six feet ahead of you, you'll have a better chance of seeing the delicious rotting trash before he does.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:19 PM on May 25, 2013 [7 favorites]

You can't really think "I wish my dog knew Leave It" and then *whoosh* your dog never eats tempting snacks off the street ever again.

Oh man, this is so true. I just didn't want to leave it unsaid in the event that you (or someone else coming along later) didn't know about these two magical commands. I promise you, they will make your life so much easier when Alvy gets them down cold. But that's little comfort now.

My next suggestion is keep him closer, if not completely heeled all the time until you have him at 90% on at least the drop it. (how does he do with the leash? Does he nose around in front of you so the leash is taut? Does he pull the leash? Does he get over to your side so that he's out of your peripheral vision? None of these are conducive to comfortable or safe dog walking.) Ideally you want a dog that will walk at your pace with a bit of a curve in the lead, and not very far from you. 6 feet doesn't feel like a lot of space between you and a dog, but it really is.

Also hand signals? Is he learning hand signals? Because sometimes dogs can tell that you're about to panic (or have already started) and then they get freaked out and either Can't Remember what the words mean, or because your tone is so different, the words just don't mean anything in the new mood. But the hand signal can be very grounding for you and for the dog when you're kneeling down in front of him wanting him to give that plastic bag up.
posted by bilabial at 7:26 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: OK guys I need you all to assume that I know how to walk a dog, and that I am making a serious effort to train my dog.

This is not a "please tell me all the ways I'm a terrible dog owner" question.

I'm genuinely curious how normal it is for pets to have health emergencies, and whether I'm making too much of minor things that dogs do all the time.
posted by Sara C. at 7:27 PM on May 25, 2013

Best answer: Did your dog show signs of distress after eating the chicken bones or chocolate? My dog eats a lot of Things She Shouldn't, and we've never taken her to the vet over any of it. Like, a couple of years ago we were out playing frisbee in the snow and I swear to Dog that she ate a drawer knob about 1.5" in diameter that someone had used to decorate a snowman...that took a long and somewhat uncomfortable while to poop out, but I guess unless she were acting extremely listless or distressed or vomiting alot or bleeding poops, I wouldn't take her to the vet over any of that.

The one time we've taken her to the vet over this kind of stuff is when she sliced up a paw pad on something sharp in the grass. Even there, I think if it had been after hours we would have treated it at home rather than take her to the emergency vet; it was a lot of blood and I don't regret taking her to her regular vet, but in the end he just gave her antibiotic ointment and oral antibiotics--no stitches, no cone of shame...

I'm not saying you have to dial down your "to the vet!" instincts. But it also wouldn't make you a bad pet parent if you didn't rush her to the vet for every little mishap or poor impulse control on the edibles. Dogs are amazingly resilient, really. I never had to take my previous two dogs to the vet for any sort of emergency. And they were beagles, with quite the knack for finding and scarfing down discarded chicken bones when out on walks.
posted by drlith at 7:33 PM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: When we brought home kitty 2, kitty 1 hadn't had any issues. Kitty 2 brought six weeks of ping pong illness, that at one point required smearing ointment on kitty 1's eyeballs. Good times.

There's streaks of bad luck, there's ricochets, there's "how are you not dead yet?" pets. What you've listed sounds like a bad streak, and I'm pretty sure it's common for all pets to go through bad streaks at least once or twice.
posted by fatbird at 7:34 PM on May 25, 2013

Best answer: I have only once brought my dog to the vet after eating something off the sidewalk. And the vet essentially told me to chill out. We went through my dog's vomit, didn't find the forbidden object, and the vet said to just watch him and see how it goes. Dog had a little diarrhea the next day. Not a big deal.

I know my dog is a lot bigger than Alvy, but you'd be surprised at what they can digest. I really wouldn't worry about the taco bell bag. I think you are catastrophizing some normal situations. Dogs eat crap off the sidewalk. Some crap - like chocolate, or in my dog's case, a fuckload of tinfoil - need to be taken care of immediately. Some crap deserves a wait-and-see approach.

You can also make your dog vomit at home. This page has some good advice.

I'm saying this in the nicest way possible, but: He's a dog, and dogs are disgusting. He just wants to eat poop and chicken bones, and poop and chicken bones are not going to kill him.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 7:37 PM on May 25, 2013

Best answer: You might be making too much of things. The chicken bones were bad, good on you for that. The amount of chocolate one usually finds on the street won't kill your dog. Part of a plastic Taco Bell bag will come out just fine (a whole bag is bad).

I say this as a dog parent who had one puppy try and fail to eat a bag of Bic disposable razors, and another who scarfed 300 mg of Ritalin, barfed it all up, and is still happy and healthy six years later.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:37 PM on May 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: My rule of thumb is as follows:

Eating: If it is something sharp, vet. If it is a small quantity of something concerning (soap, chocolate, whatnot), probably going to give it a bit before checking out vet OR give peroxide to induce vomiting. My dogs have eaten ALL SORTS of stuff, often things I didn't know about until you see blue bits of sponge or orange ear plugs in the yard later, so...often they're fine after eating weird stuff. Though that can depend on breed, if it's one that is prone to bloat, you need to be more careful.

Bleeding: If it's something that doesn't look like it'd require stitches, I clean and dress it like I would a person wound. I have a set of clippers and a cone on hand in case they're needed.

I highly recommend getting a home veterinary handbook type thing. I have a big honking one, but since I just moved, I have no idea where it is. I'll post the title if I find it. It helps a lot to be able to look things up and go "oh, I can totally handle that at home" or "WHOA VET NOW".
posted by HermitDog at 7:38 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Being a dog parent is a tough job. Once you realize that you love that pup as much as you do a child, every possible medical event becomes a crisis. I think the trick is to find a vet that can help you sort through the events with a bit of calm realism. The plastic bag... I wouldn't have worried about it, it will pass...literally. My pup has swallowed a multitude of items, the trick has been to watch for the effects... she doesn't poop for two days, there's a problem, poops are normal, then, don't worry.

Injuries are easier, cuts demand immediate attention, you'll know when that's the case....

Illness is harder...we've just gone through determining a symptom that we suspect is canine lupus, it was hard to diagnose, expensive, but, with a second opinion and $1,000 later, we have it under control...

We don't anticipate these events when we make the commitment, but we need to deal with them...

hang in there...
posted by HuronBob at 7:38 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It may help, if you don't know already, that the latest wisdom on how dogs became domesticated was that wolves followed people and ate their trash, including poop.

I know that chocolate is bad for dogs, but I haven't worried when my dog has eaten a small amount of it. When I thought he ate a bunch (got into a stash hidden by one of the kids, oy), I went to the grocery store in the middle of the night for hydrogen peroxide and induced vomiting in him. It didn't occur to me to call the vet, actually, especially when he was fine the next day.

But, as an adult, I've had three cats and seven (!) dogs, including one who liked to tango with poisonous snakes and other creatures of the wild.

Am I being anxious and catastrophizing normal situations?

posted by bluedaisy at 7:40 PM on May 25, 2013

Eh, it happens. My cats were barrels of fun after they were born and it was just one of those things that we figured came as part of the package that was being a pet person.

Have you considered using a snout leash as opposed to a collar leash? Maybe that would cut down on the snarfing since his mouth would be closed more.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 7:40 PM on May 25, 2013

Best answer: My dog barfs it out several hours later or poops it out. "It" being pieces of toys or garden hose or cardboard box or....

That being said, my dog is smaller than yours and she's eaten all sorts of cooked bones* without any issues. Her system breaks them down just fine. From what I've heard of chocolate, it requires quite a bit to make a dog sick. Especially if you consider how little cocoa goes into most chocolates. The same with grapes. My point is, yes I do think you are exaggerating a bit.

* about chicken bones. I've heard that conventionally raised chicken bones are okay since they grow in 6 weeks so they're not strong. But I am nervous to give them to my dog, although I've done it before without a hitch.

Your dog will let on if something is not right with his/her tummy, don't worry about it.
posted by Neekee at 7:41 PM on May 25, 2013

Best answer: I have two dogs and we've only had two vet emergencies over the last 10 years, which is how long I've had Max. Max ate a bunch of chocolate once (another one for bilabial's running total) , and Ollie had a major upset stomach as a puppy that required special food.

Max will pick up any food he finds. It's how he's wired. I tell him to drop it and with a resigned sigh, he will. Ok, mostly. While Ollie is 100% on board with "drop it" Max will forever be at 90%. Max has also swallowed pieces of paper towel, brown paper bags and tissues, cat poop from the litter box (and associated clay litter) and some beads here and there from my jewelry making hobby. As long as what he swallows is neither pointy nor gigantic, I just keep an eye on him. And as long as he doesn't show signs of persistent upset stomach, I don't even call the vet. He has only had an upset stomach once, and that was from the chocolate.

Ollie gets an upset stomach from time to time for absolutely no reason. He's checked out fine and my vet says that some dogs just get urpy once in a while.

Eventually you'll become wiser to what's a big deal and what's not. Alvy's lucky to have a parent who cares so much!
posted by kimberussell at 7:41 PM on May 25, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the reassurance, guys.

This is one of those times I'm happy to be told that I'm making a mountain out of a molehill.
posted by Sara C. at 7:49 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Once you have had the dog for a while you get a better handle on what is an "emergency." For example, at first you are going to freak out any time they barf or have the runs. Then you realize that a single barf/diarrhea episode is not a big deal, but two or three in a row is a concern. They eat weird stuff, you keep an eye on them, then they're usually fine. And you know the dog well enough to know when they are not fine.
posted by radioamy at 7:57 PM on May 25, 2013

We have a lovely basset hound (The Baron) who eats stuff constatly and Vanna breaks nails and cuts her feet all the time.

I have a bottle of hydrogen peroxide with a squirty syringe rubber banded to it under my sink to avoid taking Baron (eater of batteries, Christmas ornaments, rocks etc.) to the emergency vet all the time.

When Vanna hurts her feet we now cone of shame her and clean it and keep an eye out.

After a bit you'll become more able to discern what to ignore, what to treat at home and what to go to the vet for.

I've been to the emergency vet a few times but after seeing the results of those visits I think that in about 10 years with my dogs I've never had an ACTUAL emergency with any of them.
posted by Saminal at 7:57 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can probably help with the cold, hard, facts.
Pet dog owners can have multiple episodes of the kind of gastric indiscretion you describe. Some dogs go back to the well many times. Chicken bones, tampons, D-Con, river-rock, sticks.
Some doggies stop it and some do not. Some require surgery and some do not. Some are in terrible distress and others sail through when you would expect them not to be able to.

Do your best to keep him out of trash and everything else that might mess with him.

Pay attention to:
Diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, anything "off"
-Peeing and pooping

Anything unusual is reason to call the vet.

That's really it.
He is very handsome in his cone of shame, BTW.
posted by bebrave! at 8:08 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

i don't have dog emergencies very often, probably 2 or 3 in 6 years of dog ownership with 2 of those being pretty minor and one being quite serious. my dog ate something spoiled off the street in hot weather, got über sick and was in the hospital for days. my dog's foster mom said basically when your dog's nose is on the ground you need to be really alert as he's up to something like looking for a place to poop or he's about to eat something. i am very vigilant and have been known to pull all sorts of food out of his jaws of life.

once my dog got stung by a bee on the bottom of one of his paws on a walk right before i had a phone appointment to receive some prayer. i had to carry all 18 lbs of him home, gave him 1/2 a benedryl and was going to take him to the vet right after my 15 minute phone call. he was hopping on 3 legs then came and laid down next to me on the sofa moaning like the big baby that he is. after the lady prayed for me he jumped right off the sofa and was running around fine on all 4s. i couldn't believe it and i think the little guy got healed when this lady prayed.

since i know you are in LA here is the number i called when he tore open and ate part of a felt highlighter: animal poison control 888.426.4435 (it looks like they charge now but they are always open). they told me what to do and i didn't even need to take him in.
posted by wildflower at 8:24 PM on May 25, 2013

As far as food goes, I think about it like, what happens when humans eat something bad? We puke or shit until it gets out. We try to stay hydrated. Usually the doctor won't be much help unless we ate something toxic.

And then I think that dog digestive systems are way more equipped to handle some foul stuff than we are.

The first week I had my dog she ate a cicada. I was grossed out and worried that my partner would be mad that I should have kept a better eye on the dog. I confessed and my partner was like "Ehh. She'll be fine. Dogs are gross."

(She's also eaten candle wax, tampons, an entire bag of sour balls, a slice of baloney that was on the street after being in the hot sun who knows how long, and what my partner describes as a "truly irresponsible amount of food" after we accidentally left it out. She was always fine).
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:02 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

My puppy is a little over a year now and he's eaten all kinds of stuff he's not supposed to (bright green tennis ball fluff, I'm looking at you). I've never been concerned. He always seems his same bouncy little self and eats and poops more or less like normal. The only difference is that sometimes he barfs, and it's always to barf up little bits of whatever it is he shouldn't have eaten.

Obviously if anything ever had a repeat occurrence (multiple barfs, or anything longer than a day) I'd take him to the vet, but so far it's never come up. Echoing others that you're probably overreacting a bit.
posted by phunniemee at 9:04 PM on May 25, 2013

My dog Lyle had two stomach surgeries to remove things he shouldn't have eaten in the first three years I had him. Fun! Expensive! Sometimes these things just happen.
posted by judith at 9:05 PM on May 25, 2013

I personally have never taken a dog to the vet for eating weird leftover stranger food or chocolate, which she has certainly done. Past dogs have gotten chicken bones from the trash and no one took them to the vet. What will the vet do? Tell you to watch and make sure there is not a problem later. I have never worried about her health when my dog ate deer shit, a plastic barbie doll, other dog's vomit, or an entire bookshelf. I called poison control when she ate a Duracell log. Yes ate, chewed and swallowed. They said not to worry about it.

I did call the vet when my doll mistook a fallen glass ball Christmas ornament for a regular ball, pounced on it with her jaws and looked shocked to have a mouth full of glass. After I cleaned out her mouth I just called the vet, and the vet kind of laughed and said, "Oh, when dogs eat glass give them a Vaseline sandwich." So I have also never worried when my dog at Vaseline.

I would take the dog to the vet if she ate raw yeasted breaddough that would rise in her stomach, alcohol, rat poison, human medicine, or enough chocolate to kill her by her body weight, which would be a lot of chocolate.

I no longer live in a big city and people here in the small city are much more relaxed about what is normal and OK for dogs. In New York my vet tried to sell me aromatherapy for my dog.(Uh, my dog would find the smell of a dead squirrel therapeutic.) As I find with many things, it is just not as intense a worry out of NY or LA. Dogs get sprayed by skunks, bitten by other dogs, roll in dead squirrels, jump in gross algae ponds, they chase deer and yes, eat a whole lot of crazy stuff. They puke and have diarreah and you clean it up and say "Oh, poor dog." We pull ticks off them and give them a treat. We give them preventive heartworm medicine and put the tick liquid on their shoulders and then let them be dogs. By the way this is not way out in the country, just a small city with green space.
My dog is extremely healthy and happy. YMMV.
posted by third rail at 9:18 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yep, just to add to the reassurances, having a lab tends to relax your standards for what qualifies as an emergency... I wouldn't have considered any of the things your dog ate to be vet worthy, at least for my tough eating machine.

My little lab has eaten plenty of chocolate in her time, most recently she ate a one pound candy bar that was part of a Christmas gift. It was milk chocolate and so still nowhere near enough to kill her by weight, but she paid the price in gastric distress. No vet visit. Other things she ate in her younger years: shoes, towels, socks, rugs, aluminum cans, horse manure, a book, various wooden and plastic items (no vet visits for these, and yes when I say eat she did not just chew, she ingested them either whole or in pieces). It is a running joke with the family because we will see her trying to poop something out and try to guess what the hell she ate. Sometimes the more stringlike things or pieces of cloth require a little, ahem, assistance from us. She ate the popcorn string we were making for the Christmas tree with the needle still attached to the thread. For that one we did call the vet but all they said was keep an eye on her and wait for it to come out the other end.

She has had true emergencies about 4 times in 8 years. Twice she got hit by a car. And twice she ate a bottle of pills and had to get charcoal, cone of shame, and an overnight stay. Labs have stomachs of steel and they bounce back like you wouldn't believe!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:47 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Trying to think... in the two years I've had my current dog...

-He got in a fight with a skunk and I took him to the emergency vet ONLY because I am paranoid about rabies and I wanted to make sure he got his booster ASAP.

-He got an eye infection, that was pretty much just gunk starting to form and didn't warrant an emergency, but I went to the emergency vet anyway because they were open at night and I did not want to skip work during the day.

-He's had a couple ear infections, that were not emergencies.

I can't tell if you were looking for comments on whether those incidents with your dog were emergencies? If so here are my opinions.

-I wouldn't take a dog to the vet for eating a normal amount of chocolate. If they ate like a pound of chocolate yes, but a small amount shouldn't be too bad.

-Chicken bones... I would be nervous and watch for signs of internal bleeding, but not take him to the vet unless I saw that. I feel like there's not much you can do until/unless that happens.

-Cut toe... I would probably give that first aid myself, keep it clean, and wait and see. If it were an open wound that wasn't closing and/or would not stop bleeding, that would be emergency vet time because infection can set in and then you get in trouble.

-A bit of plastic bag would be another wait and see. I would be way, way more worried about a large, solid or pointy object, like jumping jacks or coins or something like that.

-Random bits of rotten food, poop, or roadkill on the street, I would not even worry about that. You do your best to keep them away from it of course, but I've seen plenty of dogs eat some shockingly gnarly stuff with no apparent ill effects.
posted by cairdeas at 11:57 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also you might find this helpful. My vet told me to give my dog pepto bismol when she gets diarrhea, which happens when she gets dairy. (You can try very hard not to give a dog dairy but one day you will drop a milk carton and the dog will magically appear from where she was napping and lap a bunch of it up while you are getting a sponge.) The pepto *really* works to prevent repeat episodes of the diarrhea and has changed my life (because don't discount your own mental health in dogs' messiness.) You can ask your vet for the correct dose, it will be some portion of a tablet depending on your dog's weight. Wrap it up in a small amount of cheese or turkey or treat pocket like any pill.

Also, although of course calling the after hours vet would be a good idea if the dog eats glass, I wanted to actually explain the Vaseline sandwich bc it could be a great home remedy in the meantime for anything pointy. Seriously, the vet meant: spread Vaseline on bread like a peanut butter sandwich. My dog loved it and begged for another one.

IME the only thing dogs don't wolf down is what you buy for them as healthy food. (If you go take your dog to a friend's house, your dog will totally steal and wolf down your friend's dog's organic kibble, the same stuff that they turn their snout up to at home. Then they will find and eat your friend's chocolate from her purse that was upstairs out of sight, for dessert.)

If you have a rescue dog, btw, a lot of them have a dumpster mentality from being hungry as strays or undercared for pets. It often does lessen (a bit ) after years of getting used to being fed regularly.
posted by third rail at 5:01 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes. When I was driving my current dog home from the shelter (he had been a stray), I stopped to give him a pee break, and he absolutely LUNGED after a passing rat. He could have knocked me off my feet with that force, and he is not big. I figured getting that rat could have been life or death for him in the situation he was used to. I basically kept his bowl full all the time for the first year and let him eat whenever he wanted to, figuring it would help him chill out, and in his case, it did.
posted by cairdeas at 5:06 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Should have added: I am not a vet. Call the vet before you give a vaseline sandwich or if your dog eats something like glass.
I think it is just like being a new parent -- you get less worried with time!
posted by third rail at 5:09 AM on May 26, 2013

Oh yeah - other types of bones. I guess this falls under roadkill, and maybe you already know this, but I don't worry at all about bones that aren't cooked, no matter what they come from. I remember this one time with my older dog. He was about 12 then so I am not sure how he was so quick. But he spotted this piece of roadkill that I could not even identify, and snatched it up. I could not get it away from him, he snarled. We were going to the park and he proudly carried that thing around the whole park, crunching on it all the way, as we got some really weird looks from people. It was fine.
posted by cairdeas at 5:20 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Most pets have at least one or two emergencies in their lives, some more. Sounds like you have gone through a bad patch, but as you know teaching a "leave it" would have prevented at least some of them! I never walk my dogs without a pocketful of cookies, and I regularly work on "leave it" and "come" on a walk, call the dog to me, feed a cookie, or tell the dog to "leave it" (at first, I start to train this when they are just sniffing something mildly interesting, rather than trying to eat something awesome like a dead squirrel), then let them go about their business - I think of both these (potentially life-saving) cues as meaning "come see me to get something awesome", and I try to make that true at least 80% of the time, so my dogs learn pretty soon that when I tell them to come or leave it, odds are very good that there is something really good in it for them. One of my dogs has a real penchant for eating discarded chewing gum, and since some sugarless gums contain xylitol, I don't want that, so I have had to work really diligently with her to get a good "leave it", and even so, I have to watch her carefully on walks. Dogs are opportunistic feeders, they eat when there is food available, and "food" can be pretty much anything, the way you use this to your advantage is by replacing the inappropriate food with appropriate food, you can't just use your words and expect that to be good enough, especially if there are delicious chicken bones or roadkill available!

That said, I think you're being a good and responsible owner, and you just happen to live somewhere with lots of junk available to your dog out on walks. The sooner you can get a solid "leave it" trained, the better. You can practice at home with kibble on the floor and something really good (chicken or steak or cheese) in your hand, walk the dog past the kibble on leash, when he goes to eat it, tell him "leave it", gently pull him to you, and feed some of the really good stuff. And then always have some kind of really good treat with you on walks for the next little while (and even then, always have SOMETHING with you, and reinforce your "leave it" and "come" at least 2-3 times on every walk, and at home).
posted by biscotti at 5:29 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sorry to spam, but I just wanted to also say none of my comments are intended as a critique of anything, in case any of them come off that way. It sounds like you are doing a great job.
posted by cairdeas at 5:34 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would say we've had quite a bit, overall, during our 5 years, even though some things I handled myself. Within the first three months we visited the vet a lot because my dog tested borderline for canine leishmaniasis (not uncommon for stray / rescue dogs in the Mediterranean; eventually she tested 0% positive). Within the same period, we had a dark chocolate episode (I induced vomiting myself with hydrogen peroxide), and a cut paw episode (handled it myself because it wasn't that deep) and a viciously persistent urinary tract infection (vet. two vets, actually).

Since then we've had chicken bone scare (street garbage; I waited and watched), more urinary tract infections (they seem to happen once or twice a year with her, but these days we seem to have a handle on treating it); a suspicious lump (vet; caught early, cancerous, removed, all seems okay); a couple of other small growths (vet; are collectively watching and waiting, probably benign), and a rat poison scare, thanks to neighbors putting it out in the common area... even though we don't have rats or mice, and we do have plenty of cats who hang out here (saw her grab it; grappled it out of her jaws and induced vomiting, with alert call to let vet know in case we had to bring her in, but she was okay). We also had a bad explosive diarrhea thing, probably because of stealth nomming of something bad (vet call; we fed her a special diet and it got better so we didn't have to visit).

This is in addition to regular shots (though I'm wary of pet overvaxxing, and so is our vet) and concurrent wellness check-ups, plus a non-emergency teeth cleaning.

Whew! So, tl/dr, I'm kind of right there with you. I would say I was a lot more anxious in the first year, and now I'm a lot more confident about what needs the vet, but I'm pretty proactive about getting her checked when I have doubts. I think you had some bad luck, but it's not excessive, and things will improve as you acquire a bit of a second nature about some things, and your dog calms down more as he becomes more secure. You're doing okay!
posted by taz at 6:34 AM on May 26, 2013

I think you're doing great and obviously care for your incredibly handsome pup so much. I probably wouldn't have worried about most of the incidents you described - just wait and see, like the other posters have said.

My boy is a greyhound so even minor cuts can require stitches (thin skin/virtually no body fat) but even then I will tend to try to treat at home unless it won't stop bleeding. Once when I was out of town he got a cut on his foot and my roommate took him to the vet IMO unnecessarily; the vet put in some stitches but they erred on the side of caution doing so. I didn't get mad even though it was pretty expensive -- he was just doing his best to care for my dog.

Recently my dog decided to obsessively lick the spot where he got that same cut. It was healed but the skin was still new and pink and thin and he licked that damn thing so much that he created two open sores. Rather than go to the vet, I just kept it clean and covered with a nonstick pad and secured with self adhesive wrap (that stuff is amazing, I highly recommend keeping some on hand for pets and humans) for a few weeks. It's now all healed up and fine. Years ago I probably would have taken him to the vet for that, but you just learn what you can handle at home over time.
posted by misskaz at 7:19 AM on May 26, 2013

I think what you're experiencing is very common in the first few months of pet ownership. Eventually your spidey sense about what your dog is about to do gets a little more fine-tuned, and you know - sometimes before dog knows - that he's about to investigate that pile of poop or gross old burrito and you instinctively prevent him from doing so.

I've got 4 dogs and 2 cats, and our trips/phone calls to the emergency vet have dramatically reduced now that they've all been with us several years, partly because they're mostly getting older and more boring and don't care to get off the couch and investigate the garbage anymore, and partly because we're better at reading their body language when they're about to do something naughty.

Also, in case your dog is one of those who never stops trying to eat every damn disgusting thing he finds, consider pet insurance or CareCredit now, before it's a real emergency and you're too frantic to think straight.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:24 AM on May 26, 2013

No Pepto-Bismol for dogs! That is really old school and not generally recommended anymore, there are much safer ways to treat diarrhea, starting with a bland diet.
posted by biscotti at 8:19 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

No Pepto-Bismol for dogs! That is really old school and not generally recommended anymore, there are much safer ways to treat diarrhea, starting with a bland diet.

What is dangerous about it? I am not disagreeing as I'm not an expert, but am truly curious about this p.o.v. because I was told to give it by a 30-something veterinarian who went to a great vet school and works at a respected practice. I'm not criticizing this, just wondering bc I have used this med for my dog for a few years and in fact depend on it -- but would want to reconsider if it is truly unsafe. What do you believe is unsafe about it / side effects specifically? (Is this a derail? I thought it could be helpful for everyone which is why i did not just memail.)
posted by third rail at 8:32 AM on May 26, 2013

third rail, it's for the same reason that people should avoid using pepto or immodium: you want that stuff out of the body, not hanging around. There's very few times that medication-induced constipation is preferable to diarrhea, and dogs almost never have to get on airplanes so there is even less need for them.

It treats inconvenience, it doesn't treat food poisoning.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:53 AM on May 26, 2013

If you can get a cut to stop bleeding, or if your critter will keep the bandage on, it can wait for the regular vet. If it's a small cut, it doesn't need the vet at all; compare to how you would deal with a similar size cut. My dog eats lots of stuff I don't even want to know about, as long as he doesn't eat any more of my shoes. I've taken dogs to the emergency vet clinic for seizures that wouldn't stop, and a cut that needed stitches. My vet is very good about answering questions over the phone, and will advise whether or not to bring hte dog in.

Here are some sites that may help.
posted by theora55 at 8:58 AM on May 26, 2013

(I thought pepto just basically coated the stomach and prevented absorption.,,,)
posted by third rail at 9:03 AM on May 26, 2013

I think as others have mentioned, as you have your dog long longer, you will relax a bit and be more in tune with what is an emergency and what is "oh, gross, Alvy ate something off the street."

I have a beagle that is 100% food driven, we live (and take our daily walks) in a densely populated area, and I take her to dog parks several times a week, and over the course of 4 years we've had only 2 emergencies.

1)- She cut the pad of her paw on something on the sidewalk we had to take her in immediately for some stitches- the cut was quite severe.

2)- She ate something disgusting while rooting around in the bushes at the dog park. Since she is a beagle she is always eating something disgusting, so I didn't bat an eye. Within a day she was vomiting / had uncontrollable diarrhea- this was also over a holiday weekend and was a truly pricey emergency vet clinic visit, complete with IV's , etc. The vet thinks she probably ate a dead, diseased animal. *shudder*

It's much better to be over-concerned as opposed to under-concerned, and I think it's just a matter of time and trusting yourself to handle most things.
posted by aviatrix at 9:48 AM on May 26, 2013

Just to add another opinion on dogs eating weird things, I was walking a friends dog once and she scarfed down an entire dead bird. When I called the vet, they told us to hurry on down so she could barf it up because the little bird bones could obstruct her digestive tract. So future warning, if your dog eats a whole bird, call your vet and be prepared for a visit! After the ordeal, the vet told us that some dogs just loooove the taste of delicious dead birds.
posted by ruhroh at 11:43 AM on May 26, 2013

We had a period like this with my dog a while back - within the span of two months, he'd eaten a styrofoam meat tray (barfed up at home after a call to the vet and home peroxide) and a bar of dark chocolate (barfed up at the vet's when home peroxide didn't work), as well as a big ol' cut on his foot. Three emergency trips to the vet in two months (the vet's verdict was that we probably could have gotten away without coming in each time, but, well...I worry). We joked that the vet was going to call child protective services on us for not taking good care of him, and I felt horribly guilty for being a bad mom - but the incidents stopped after that ridiculous few months, and we haven't had trouble with him since. I guess he was just testing us, or being a teenager, or something. So, good chance it'll get better for you, especially as you fine-tune the training!

Also I'm still working on not being an overprotective dog mom who calls the vet over every small problem; luckily my vet has a 24-hour ER who will always give me a phone consult and tell me to chill out.
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE at 5:30 PM on May 26, 2013

It's not horrifyingly dangerous, but it can be problematic if overdosed. And yes, as Lyn Never said, the diarrhea is often there to serve a useful purpose. We never recommend Pepto for dogs with diarrhea where I work, there are better and safer choices.
posted by biscotti at 9:37 PM on May 26, 2013

Response by poster: So, good news, of a sort.

Alvy vomited up the plastic bag at some point in the wee hours of the morning, in his kennel. (Which made me feel like the most evil dog owner ever, but at least it's out of him.) The vomit was just his dinner and a plastic bag, no blood or bile or anything else scary.

Today he's been clearly feeling icky, but mostly acting like his normal self.

Thanks for all the moral support.
posted by Sara C. at 10:03 PM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Keep a close eye and continue to watch.
posted by bebrave! at 1:04 AM on May 27, 2013

Pepto in small doses and used occasionally is perfectly safe for humans and dogs. The statements to the contrary here are just wrong and ill informed. Go look it up on any reliable site (suggest

Anecdotally, I had a hound dog growing up who ate everything. We gave her pepto bismol sometimes. She lived to a healthy 21.

And they're just dogs. You have a right to consider your own convenience when making a broadly safe medical decision to treat diarrhea rather than clean up afterwards. Even if it isn't perfect for the dog. It's just a dog.
posted by spitbull at 4:52 AM on June 8, 2013

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