Intravenous lipid emulsion (ILE) is a preparation of microscopic drops of oil that are infused into a patient’s bloodstream.
It can work as an antidote to some fat-soluble poisons.
The first time I came across this therapy was way back in 2012. At that time, it was a new idea with pending safety studies. Often, though, new ideas come and go as they turn out being impractical, ineffective, or unsafe.
Fast-forward to 2020.
Veterinarians use ivermectin to treat various parasitic infections as well as in some heartworm prevention medications.
As a preventive, used in low doses, ivermectin has a good safety record. Higher doses used in the treatment of mange, or other parasitic infections, come with increased risk of side effects.
It can be potentially dangerous when used for dogs with active heartworm infection which is why your veterinarian will want to test your dog before prescribing the preventive.
Further information: The Safety and Side Effects of Ivermectin in Dogs
Dogs with MDR1 genetic mutation
White feet, do not treat.Dr. Lorie Huston, DVM
The story is quite different in breeds with multi-drug resistance (MDR1) genetic mutation such as Collies, Sheepdogs, Australian Shepherds, and other herding breeds. In these dogs, ivermectin can lead to neurotoxicity which can be life-threatening.
There is, though, testing available now to find out whether your dog does have this mutation or not.
There is no antidote to treat ivermectin toxicity. Or is there?
When I was reconsidering parasite preventives for my dog, I researched some of the newer multi-purpose or long-lasting preventives. One shot of preventive medication that lasts for six months sounds good, doesn’t it?
After our negative experience with Canine Advantix, though, I asked whether there is an antidote—what if things don’t go well? And the answer was no. Can you guess what was my final decision?
Jack—let’s call him that—is an 11-months-old Pit Bull cross. He was suffering from demodectic mange, and his veterinarian prescribed ivermectin treatment. Over two weeks, Jack gradually came up to full dose.
At first, Jack seemed to have been doing well. His parent did notice some mild tremors but they would go away with activity.
With the increased dose, however, adverse effects became worse. Jack was progressively more lethargic, lost interest in food, and his tremors got worse.
At the emergency clinic
When Jack arrived to the emergency hospital, he was stable but could barely walk and suffering from tremors. Based on Jack’s history, the attending veterinarian immediately suspected ivermectin toxicity.
Jack was mostly a Pit Bull but it was possible that he had the mutation from one of the other breeds in the mix. There is a test for the MDR1 mutation but Jack’s parent declined. On top of that, Jack’s treatment came is a squeeze bottle—how big is one squeeze? It was impossible to determine how much of the medication Jack was really getting.
Lipid Emulsion (ILE) to the rescue
Based on Jack’s signs and history, ivermectin toxicity remained the suspect. Fortunately, IV lipid emulsion can be used off-label as an antidote. It can bind fat-soluble substances such as ivermectin, cholecalciferol, bromethalin, and others.
Half an hour from his treatment, Jack started looking better. However, every time the veterinarian stopped the treatment, Jack’s signs returned, and he needed further medication to control his tremors.
Jack did make it through the ordeal and survived. Lipid emulsion can be a life-saving treatment for fat-soluble toxins.
I am glad I checked on the fate of this treatment. It can save lives.
Dog Poisoning: Don’t Panic. Don’t Panic … Too Late—Our Call To Pet Poison Helpline
Barbiturate Poisoning in a Dog: Yogi’s Sudden Collapse
Antifreeze Poisoning in Dogs: What Happens in the Dog’s Body with Antifreeze Poisoning?
Ivermectin Toxicosis in a Dog