Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tasty Treat Turned Dog Poison

Leaving our shoes and socks exposed again has been fairly liberating. Our silly but immensely loveable Australian Labradoodle has moved beyond the phase of life where he gratuitously ingests articles of clothing and fluffy toys (see October 21st 2015 blog, "Celebrating the Bear Facts"). Friday, however, our dear dog took things to another level when he ingested a box of raisins we had left on the kitchen counter. It seems counter theft has become his new thing and we are adjusting as a consequence.

Although they may smell intensely enticing, raisins are terribly toxic to a dog. They can shut down the animal’s kidneys and block the production of urine. Dogs have been known to die after ingesting raisins. It depends on the dog.

It was early in the morning when we found the empty raisin box on his bed. We had no hydrogen peroxide in the house, which means we could not induce the vomiting that was recommended. The pharmacies were closed and Internet sites emphasized vomiting should be induced within two hours of ingestion to minimize the absorption of toxins. I went to local depanneurs. They had no hydrogen peroxide. Firefighters at a nearby fire station explained they didn’t keep hydrogen peroxide in their first aid kits. Finally, I went to a local hospital where the emergency room staff very kindly filled two small containers with the liquid.

We mixed it in ice cream and within minutes, Bear vomited, bringing up some raisins. We repeated the procedure in hopes of thoroughly emptying his stomach. We contacted our vet, who insisted we bring him in for 48 hours of intravenous treatment. They used activated charcoal to help absorb any toxins remaining in Bear’s gastrointestinal tract.

Bear had never been away from us and had never been caged in his life. At some point, we learned the vet decided to a give him a mild sedative to ease his anxiety so that he would rest a little bit. We left him at the vet Friday morning and picked him up as soon as it opened Sunday morning. We went Friday night to drop off home-scented blankets but decided not to see him because it would make him frantic, tangling up and yanking out the IV line and, after getting him calm, we would only leave all over again.

We were disappointed to learn he had been given a sedative without our permission and wanted to make sure for ourselves the level of sedation was not exaggerated. So we went to check on him Saturday and with the help of a vet technician, watched him from a distance as the technician interacted with him. He had a cone around his neck to keep him from chewing the IV line. He was given a blood test Sunday morning to make sure no toxins appeared in his system. The results were normal.

We found the whole experience heart-wrenching and we believe that, for Bear, it was probably far more traumatic. He’s been home for a while now and, on the surface, seems fine, for which we are thankful. We also want to thank the staff at our veterinary hospital. On the other hand, where our pet insurance company is concerned, we have no thanks to extend.

My wife had been paying premiums for pet insurance for exactly this sort of incident. While Bear was being cared for, she filed the paperwork in hopes part of the cost would be covered by Trupanion. They left us a phone message saying because our dog had ingested a sock and fluffy toy in the past, we were disqualified from any coverage. I might understand if those incidents had happened while we were with Trupanion, but they had happened well before that. In fact, those incidents were the reason we signed up with Trupanion, and now, ironically, Trupanion was using them as the reason for our disqualification. I might also understand we were disqualified from coverage had Trupanion explained when we initially signed up, that based on Bear’s history, he might be disqualified in certain future cases. That’s not how Trupanion works. They take your money first and disqualify you later.

I get the feeling from the insincerely apologetic voice message Trupanion would have disqualified us no matter what the circumstance. I’m convinced Trupanion is nothing more than a scam. They are not about the welfare of the animal or the financial well-being of pet owners, they are all about our money.

The website says pet owners are covered 90% for hospital stays and diagnostic tests. Not quite. It also states pet owners are responsible for pre-existing conditions. I would argue eating a sock and fluffy toy do not constitute a "pre-existing condition". He doesn’t live with some hidden medical condition and, moreover, the two cases are drastically different. In one case, Bear swallowed relatively innocuous items, in the other, he ingested a poison that could have led to kidney failure and death. There is no history of him ingesting poisons while in our care. As far as I’m concerned, the urge to chew and eat things is not a pre-existing condition in a dog. That’s like telling a pet owner the broken leg sustained by their dog while running is not covered because the urge to run is a pre-existing condition! I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that ludricous reasoning is stated Trupanion policy. 

My wife wants to continue giving Trupanion money in hopes they will eventually come through for us. I’m certain we’re barking up the wrong tree.