What you need to know for your first pet emergency.

Puppy Diaries, Entry #5: Our First Pup Emergency (20-24 weeks)

Dear Diary,
In my last entry, I chronicled Sommer’s “firsts.” Much like a toddler taking her first steps, once those “firsts” were achieved, there was no looking back! Why crawl when you can walk, and once you’ve figured out what a squirrel is, why not chase it? But recently, we experienced a first that I fervently hoped would also be a “last.”

One recent evening, I was standing over the stove, making my family a stir fry for dinner. I had a self-satisfied sense of accomplishment, which should have been a red flag because we moms know that as soon as you feel self-satisfied, the universe will find a way to bring you back to Earth! I had tidied up the house, and finished unpacking the remnants of our spring break trip. But underneath the self-satisfaction was a strange feeling of unease, and I chalked it up to a low-pressure system, as Minnesota was awaiting the unwelcome arrival a late-season snowstorm. Did I mention it was also the day before my spring birthday? Spring birthdays in the Midwest are often accompanied by unpredictable weather, but anticipating two feet of snow after an already long winter would make anyone uneasy, if not downright grumpy.

“Jingle, jingle!” Sommer swatted at the bells that hung on the front door knob, which is her way of asking to go outside. My son opened the door and walked outside with her, only to return with a concerned look. He said that Sommer had walked outside and vomited on our front walk. I went outside and took a look (I have no idea why, because how would I assess dog vomit?). Recalling that our vet had once said to me, “puppies throw up all the time, and for all sorts of random reasons,” I repeated this to my son and decided to take a wait-and-see approach.

We had dinner and to my relief, Sommer was acting like her normal energetic puppy self. But in walking past Sommer’s dog bed, something unusual caught my eye. I squatted down to examine it. It was a chewed-up bottle, with the lid removed. A sickening feeling washed over me, as I recognized it as a travel-sized bottle of Advil that I’d set on the stairs with a pile of other items that I had planned to carry up to our bedroom. The realization dawned: Sommer had vomited, and the empty container of Advil must have been the cause.

Panicked, we called our vet, but they were closed for the night, and we were referred to an emergency animal hospital. The hospital confirmed that ibuprofen, the active ingredient in Advil, is toxic for dogs, and given that our 17-pound dog had eaten somewhere between six and ten Advil if the hospital didn’t take quick action, the huge dose of ibuprofen would result in her kidneys shutting down, and death. I was terrified and overwrought and furious with myself. How could I have done something so stupid? My husband reassured me, then grabbed Sommer and rushed to the hospital.

Over the next two days, Sommer underwent treatment to flush the ibuprofen from her system. Fortunately, she responded well, her bloodwork remained normal during her stay, and the outlook for her recovery was always positive. Still, it was stressful as we worried about her day and night, and we missed her terribly. On the day she was able to be released, the promised snowstorm barreled into town, bringing with it 18 inches of snow. We wanted Sommer home, and we wanted to avoid another several hundred dollars in hospital charges. Thankfully, a friend with a pickup truck that could make it through snowdrifts and unplowed parking lots volunteered to help.

The hospital bill totaled $1,500, but Sommer was back home again and thank goodness, no worse for wear. As I sat on the sofa with my pup safely in my lap, I reflected on how our family had become a walking advertisement for pet insurance. The policy we bought had already paid for itself several times over, and Sommer wasn’t even a year old. Despite my fears that we were disastrously inept pet parents, my vet assured me that visits like this were far from uncommon for puppy owners. I can’t imagine pup parenthood without the safety net that pet insurance provides. It provided peace of mind in at least the financial aspect of a very stressful episode in Sommer’s puppyhood.

Next entry from Puppy Diaries: To Spay Or Not To Spay

Pup Tips: Live Easier and Smarter

What I Learned (The Hard Way)
Do not, under any circumstances, leave medications anywhere except a closed cabinet. Even a countertop that you think your pup could never, ever reach is not safe. Just this morning, and despite the fact that Sommer is not allowed in our bedroom, I moved a pill bottle that was on a bedside table and put it into a medicine cabinet. You never know when your pup might sneak into a room where they are not allowed and find the exact thing you want them never to touch! Pups are unpredictable, and a bottle anywhere on a countertop could be easy pickings for a pup, and land your pup in an emergency hospital.

Lessons Learned from My Vet
Medication isn’t the only potentially toxic substance in your home that you must keep out of your pup’s reach: here’s a list of toxic substances your dog might eat. On the flip side, here’s a list of nontoxic items commonly eaten by dogs. (I’m fervently hoping that the next thing Sommer eats is on this list!).

I was surprised to learn that there are numerous human over-the-counter medicines that are safe for dogs, and that Advil is among them — but of course, not in the quantity that Sommer ingested! From Claritin to Dramamine, many commonly used over-the-counter medications are sometimes used to help our canine friends. Check out Dr. Debra Primovic’s recent article on 15 of these drugs.

My Favorite Articles
When we were awaiting Sommer’s arrival, our breeder provided us with weekly updates on the litter, including “to-do” lists, so we’d be properly prepared for our pup’s arrival. One week, she recommended that we research and purchase pet insurance. Am I glad we took her advice to heart! Here’s an article to get you started: What Is Pet Insurance?

Puppy Diary Series: Sit, Stay, Play

Join our resident Pup Mom on her puppy parenthood journey in our Puppy Diaries Series.

Puppy Age: 0-8 Weeks
Puppy Diaries #1: Deciding To Get A New Puppy (0-8 weeks)
Puppy Age: 8-12 Weeks
Puppy Diaries #2: Picking Up Our New Pup and Bringing Her Home (8-12 weeks)
Puppy Age: 12-16 Weeks
Puppy Diaries #3: Caring For And Training our New Pup (12-16 Weeks)
Puppy Age: 16-20 Weeks
Puppy Diaries #4: Memorable Firsts With Our New Pup (16-20 weeks)
Puppy Age: 20-24 Weeks
Puppy Diaries #5: Our First Pup Emergency (20-24 weeks)

About Puppy Diaries

Puppy Diaries is an ongoing series that explores the journey of pet parenthood, from making the decision to get a puppy, to bringing a puppy home, to the joys and struggles of training, and beyond. Laura Tiebert, our resident Pup Mom, is an experienced nonfiction writer and first-time puppy parent who lives in Minnesota with her husband, two sons and a new puppy.