Medication Overdose in Dogs: Trusting Your Instincts May Save Your Dog’s Life—Brandy’s Story

Thank you, Carol Bryant, for sharing Brandy’s story of serious medication overdose.

I feel a connection to Jana Rade and her dog, Jasmine, although we’re yet formally meet. Dogs often bring people together, and that is certainly the case for me: Most of my friends and connections are “dog people.”

A fan of Jana’s Facebook group and her blog, I also find that our dogs have something in common. Until they found the right veterinarian, things were really screwed up.

Medication Overdose in Dogs: Trusting Your Instincts May Save Your Dog’s Life—Brandy's Story

Brandy’s story

This is a story of two “tails:”

  1. Find the right veterinarian and never give up until you do;
  2. Always trust your instincts – your dog relies on them;

“A dog lover of the highest order” is what Gayle King called me when my dog, Dexter, and I appeared on Oprah Radio. Never before had I been bestowed such a compliment. Something in me “changed” at the moment Gayle uttered those words into the studio microphone.

This is my calling, working for and with dogs, and doing something to make a difference. 

Pet bloggers/writers have the power to make a difference, but the same holds true for pet parents in general.

If we know more, we can do more and do better at that.

It took me about a month to muster up the courage to write this piece. It has been ages since something caused such a mental roadblock in me. But here I sit, tears streaming but attempting to impart my experience to save another.

The injury

On May 22, 1998, my Cocker Spaniel, Brandy Noel, jumped from the bed to chase a tennis ball and upon landing, developed an extreme hobbling. 

I did what any diligent pet parent would do: Called the emergency veterinary clinic in the area, alerted them we were coming and drove my wailing dog to the clinic in the wee hours of the morning.

Veterinary ER

Emergency rooms for both people and pets are much akin to a line from Forrest Gump, “you never know what you’re gonna’ get.” 

After an examination, series of x-rays and probable diagnosis of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, my dog was given an injection of a “pain medicine,” a take-home prescription, and orders to have our regular veterinarian check her for further care.

Something’s wrong

We brought her home and the madness ensued. 

She developed rapid breathing, had an insatiable thirst, and was very fidgety. I stayed awake all night, soothing my little girl to the best of my ability. In my gut, I knew something was not right.

Two hours later, I called the emergency clinic and found out she was administered a steroid for any inflammation, which I was told causes these side effects.

All from one steroid shot?

The side effects did not subside. I saw our regular vet locally, and he was perplexed but attributed the symptoms to steroids. He told me “not to worry” about the leg until the side effects subsided. Like any good pet parent, I did what the vet told me, but that gut “twinge” would not go away.

Cutting to the chase: We took Brandy to a university animal hospital out of the area where indeed the leg was of concern, but secondary to the symptoms that would not subside close to a week later.

Only after repeated phone calls to the original emergency clinic did I find out the veterinarian on call had never worked there before, worked in aviary medicine, and he injected Brandy with a steroid dosage suitable for a dog 4 times her weight!

The university told me I had a very sick girl on my hands.

After IV treatment, two nights of intensive monitoring and watching her closely at the university, the symptoms began to digress. I was never so grateful in my entire life to see that little nubbie wagging when she saw me. The leg injury ended up being a patellar luxation and surgery was required since it was so severe. I slept on a mattress in the living room for 6 weeks while my dog recovered and to prevent her from jumping from the bed again. I look back and it seems like a lifetime ago. Some wounds run deep.

Getting to the bottom of it

In the months that followed, I pursued what had happened. 

Dogs are property, I learned—the same as if someone damaged my kitchen table, someone had “damaged” my dog.

I asked the clinic to take responsibility for their actions—they declined. 

So I did what any diligent dog mom would do: I got a pro bono dog-loving lawyer to take the case and sue for damaged property. They would not admit they gave her too much medicine and almost killed her.
The case was taken to magistrate’s court, and I received $1,000 towards the damages to my “property.” Brandy received some vindication.

Taking responsibility?

Most regrettably, I was informed, in court, by the clinic manager that if I were a good pet owner, my dog would not have been at the clinic after midnight!?!

Boiling mad would be an understatement. Coupled with his ignorance and my proof, the case was closed.
I just wanted this clinic and the veterinarian who nearly killed her to know it is unacceptable to lie about the dosage of any medications administered.

The dosage was written on the records, yet was denied by the veterinarian on call. 

Had I not requested records of the dosage dispensed, I may have never known.

Fast Forward: I lost Brandy to complications of irritable bowel syndrome on October 11, 2008, a week before her 15th birthday. With her, she took a huge piece of my heart. We have since found a new veterinarian who is located close to two hours from my home, but whom we adore. We have an emergency clinic in the area but I hesitate to use it unless life and death depend upon it.

Like any good dog mom, I would do whatever it takes for my dog.

The moral of my story is two-fold: Always go with your gut and always ask questions. Your dog’s life may depend on it.

by Carol Bryant

Related articles:
The Function of Cortisol: What Happens In A Dog’s Body When It Goes Awry?

Further reading:
Steroid Treatment – Effects in Dogs
Vet Confessions: I Lied When a Pet Died

Categories: ConditionsDiagnosesDog health advocacyMisdiagnosesReal-life StoriesSecond opinionsWorking with Veterinarians

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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