When a client tells you a pet is rolling over and acting really out of it, they get priority in the queue. That is how I found myself in the exam room with a small, middle aged grey terrier and a small, middle aged bespectacled owner.
“When did this start?” I asked her.
“This afternoon,” she said quietly. “Georgie just started listing to one side and kind of stumbling.”
The list of differentials start running through my head as I instruct the owner to place Georgie on the exam table, and I begin to formulate my questions as I perform the physical examination.
Georgie sits quietly on the table, peering at me through glassy eyes. His pupils have a normal response to light, albeit a slightly sluggish one. I lift his gums to take a peek at his oral cavity and it hits me- poor old Georgie smells like a distillery. Like my Uncle Bob two hours into any family event. The poor pup isn’t suffering from a brain lesion- he’s three sheets to the wind.
I finish the rest of my exam while the owner tells her story. Thankfully, he does appear to be in good health aside from his intoxicated state. The owner sits across from me in her neat button-down cardigan, clutching her sensible purse on her lap. “We’re so worried,” she concludes.
I take a breath and decide how to relay my findings. It’s not that uncommon, unfortunately, for people to bring in pets under the influence of some substance or another- you name it, someone has given it to their pet. Getting the owner to admit exactly what they administered so you may initiate appropriate treatment is usually half the battle. In this case, though, it seemed very unlikely that the owner had any clue what had befallen Georgie.
“I think he’s going to be just fine with a little supportive care,” I tell the owner, who releases her breath in a sigh of relief. I decide to just blurt it out. “He’s drunk.”
Her brow furrows in confusion. “I don’t give Georgie alcohol!” she said. “I barely drink myself!”
I tilt my head. “Anyone else in the house? Any kids?”
She shakes her head. “I have a son,” she said, realization giving way to denial, “but he would never do anything like that.” I nod agreeably, stroking my chin like Sherlock Holmes. “Does he, um, have any friends?”
She takes the bait. “Yes!” she says emphatically. “I never liked those boys. Troublemakers.” She leaned in. “I can’t believe they did that did to poor Georgie right under my son’s nose.”
I shook my head. Me neither.
Fortunately for Georgie, after a night of IV fluids and rest, he was back to normal. As for the kids, I have no idea how the owner’s son or his friends fared once Georgie’s mom got a hold of them. I hope she really gave it to them- the idea of people purposefully intoxicating their pets is just awful, and as those of you in the field surely know, people do it all the time, and often with things far worse than alcohol.