Scout’s Story

Scout was semi-comatose in the back of the SUV when I went out to check on him. Murray had rung earlier to say Scout was ill after eating compost some hours before.

“I’ve seen many dogs ill from eating compost but never comatose”, I commented. “But compost can contain any number of nasty fungal or bacterial toxins that can damage liver, kidney and brain”

“My wife loves making compost”, Murray said.

“But what green stuff does she put in it”, I jested.

We carried Scout inside to the treatment area by the ICU and the team got to work sorting oxygen and IV fluids. Normally we have to sedate patients for gastric lavage but Scout was so out of it that he let us pass a large diameter tube. We need to use the largest diameter tube possible since chunky or fibrous material easily blocks smaller bore tubes. We got a couple of litres of thick dark green fluid out, rinsed and then made Scout comfy in our ICU. With no idea what toxin might be involved I couldn’t give Murray a clear prognosis. Scout was only slightly better when I left some hours later at 7.30pm so I was immensely relieved to find him quite alert when I checked on him at 10pm. He was keen to try a little canned food. An excellent sign.

Scout seemed fully recovered by the morning and has had no ongoing consequences. I’ve wondered whether the finely chopped green material was fermenting and Scout was just extremely drunk!

Other Garden Hazards

We have also seen dogs severely unwell after eating blood and bone fertiliser which many dogs find extremely palatable. Most dogs have eaten directly from the bag so keeping bags inaccessible to dogs is important. Cover any blood and bone with a layer of soil when spreading it in the garden.

There are such a lot of potentially poisonous plants in the garden that it is surprising we don’t see more cases of poisoned pets. Avocados, grapes and onions have all caused poisoning in dogs at doses of 10-20g/kg body weight.

The bulbs of daffodils, tulips and grape hyacinths and the tubers of cyclamen are all poisonous.

Cats seem to be much more discriminating about what they eat than dogs .. Particularly dangerous plants for cats are lilies. Every part of the plant of all members of the Lillium species is toxic to cats, though not dogs. The unknown toxin causes severe and often fatal kidney failure.  Inquisitive and perhaps bored young cats restricted to indoor living will chew on the leaves or petals of lilies brought in as cut flowers. Even licking off pollen that has brushed onto their fur can poison cats.

Vomiting is an early sign as it is with so many different causes of poisoning. A sudden onset of vomiting, especially with other signs like drooling, lethargy and loss of appetite, is a reason to seek urgent veterinary care. If plant material can be identified in the vomit then bring a sample along too.

Hans Andersen