Of Beaches, Spring Break, and Animal Emergencies

Today’s blog post is really just my elaborate excuse for why I haven’t blogged in about a week… with some science and health lessons tied in!

First up… last week I was warmly invited on a trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama for spring break with my beau’s family! I saved and closed a working document of my mass communications theory paper on the concept of framing in the media (due in a couple of weeks) and packed up for the beach. Swimsuit, sunscreen (SPF 70 broadband… no skin cancer for me, thank you), extra towels, dog food, and yes, our furry black boxer Mojo!

I’m telling you… dogs LOVE the beach. I think Mojo was in dog heaven… just to see him in the sand was hilarious (first time I’ve ever seen him dig… and boy, was that dog trying to dig to China or what!). He chased tiny white crabs as we took an evening walk on the beach – and caught a few to boot. He bit at the frothy waves like his life depended upon it. And I was amazed at how fast he could run in the sand!

But owning a pet is not all fun and games. Let me start off by saying I was prepared for my dog’s first trip to the beach.

I brought along some fancy blue perfumed doggy bags – because nobody likes dog mess on the beach, not to mention it’s a hook worm hazard. The hook worm is an intestinal parasite with which Mojo is unfortunately familiar (see Mojo’s first vet visit post) and which can burrow into the human foot upon direct contact.

I had eye drops in case sand got into Mojo’s droopy eyes. Sand can be a significant irritant if left lodged in your dog’s paws or left in his eyes.

I brought along a first aid kit – bandages and ointment in the case Mojo, or one of us for that matter, ran into some stinging jellies or broken glass.

773px-Staphylococcus_aureus_01.jpg I brought along Mojo’s cephalexin antibiotic pills, which the vet had prescribed to him the week before for a pimply rash that had broken out in his armpits and on his stomach. That rash had turned out to be a staph infection – a common ailment in young dogs, the vet told me, perhaps due to hormonal or immune factors in the young dog. The infection, caused by the bacteria staphylococcus intermedius, a normal resident on a dog’s skin and coat, might have resulted from my puppy’s food and/or environmental allergies. He did lay all day long in wet, freshly cut grass over a recent weekend at the river.

So the trip was wonderful. Sure, Mojo ate some sand, drank some salt water, and had some rather loose doggy mess (hope I didn’t ruin your dinner!). But we rollicked in the sun, caught some rays, and kayaked out to a close sand bar. We had a leisurely car ride back, and Mojo had his head in my lap the entire time… he was in doggy heaven.


That is, until about 2am the night we returned from the beach. I feared that Mojo hadn’t had much water to drink that day as we were driving back, but I had offered him plenty of water and had given him his antibiotics that night. At 2am, I woke up to Mojo barking. I stumbled across our living room (can’t see without my contacts) let him out downstairs in our tiny fenced-in yard. When he came back up, he was acting funny about going back into his cage. I flipped on the lights – sure enough, vomit everywhere.

So, being the good owner that I am, I cleaned up his vomit at 2am, gave him new blankets, and went back to sleep. But not for long. I woke up to the unpleasant sound of him vomiting again… 3 times. That is when things started getting really scary. I let him out downstairs, where he practically fell down the stairs, acted confused, and collapsed onto the ground in a corner of the yard. When I went to get him, I had to basically drag him back up the stairs. Getting him back into the light of the kitchen, I could that his eyes were swelling shut.

I freaked out. There is a first time for everything, and this last Friday night was my first time in the ‘emergency room’ at the animal hospital at Louisiana State University. They pumped Mojo with fluids, claiming that he was dehydrated, gave him anti-vomiting medicine, and sent him home. Great.

I woke up to a boxer (who already has enormous lips) with lips, nose, and eyes swollen almost beyond recognition. I fed him two Benadryl capsules (yes, you can give a dog Benadryl, which is a simple antihistamine against allergens) given his history with allergies.

What the heck was wrong with my dog! It sure wasn’t simple dehydration, and according to my regular vet it wasn’t likely a reaction to the cephalexin antibiotic as the emergency room vets had claimed. But we stayed off the antibiotic for a few days, and Mojo enjoyed a diet of soft canned gastrointestinal ID food.

You can imagine my dismay when the SAME thing happened to Mojo last night – vomiting, confusion, difficulty moving, trembling. I quickly gave my boxer two Benadryl and stayed up trying to comfort him. And no, he had NOT received his antibiotic that night.

So, like a good investigative journalist, I got on the internet (kids, don’t do this at home!). I started to suspect that Mojo had been poisoned… both fateful nights I had let him into our downstairs backyard to go to the bathroom before bed. And I should probably mention that Mojo LOVES to eat plants… we call the dog part cow! I started looking for plants that are poisonous to dogs…

clematis.jpg What I found out scares me. In our backyard, we have ivy and we have this beautiful purple flowing climbing plant called Clematis, or Leather Flower. As it turns out, ivy is toxic to dogs, and the Clematis is VERY POISONOUS to dogs. The Clematis plant, of the buttercup family, produces a toxin called Protoanemonin, a low molecular weight lactone that acts as an antibacterial agent… and a strong irritant. Some of the symptoms of ingestion of Clematis include mouth irritation, swelling, nausea, vomiting, and confusion.

All I know is that tonight, I didn’t let Mojo out downstairs without a leach… and he has NOT vomited tonight, even with his normal dose of cephalexin. I think some toxic plant or allergic reaction to an environmental factor might have been the culprit after all!

So, at least for now, the case of the sick Mojo is partially solved… and we will be more careful now than before of letting Mojo eat mysterious plants. A long night at the animal hospital and $300 later, all the prevention that was needed was keeping Mojo on a leach! Bummer…

Let this be a lesson to all dog lovers… beware the unassuming toxic plants in your backyard.