About 6 months ago on a lazy Saturday afternoon, we received a phone call from a pet store that we frequently visit. It was the owner of the store, and she asked if there was a way we could stop by. Well, we had nothing better to do, so we went. When we got there, she explained that someone had found this little guy, and proceeded to introduce us to an adorable little puppy. He was brown with a little bit of black‚Ä¶ he had the markings of a German shepherd. Also, he had some purple on his tongue and really fuzzy fur, so perhaps he had some chow in him. Either way, he needed a good home, and we were happy to oblige. He was a sweetheart, so we took the little fuzz-butt home and named him Scooter.
Not knowing much about him except that he was sweet and furry, we figured we’d better get him to the vet for a check up and to start him on vaccinations. His first few check-ups went fine; nothing was wrong with him other than fleas and intestinal parasites, (which wasn’t a big surprise since he’d obviously been on his own for a while). We got that taken care of pretty easily. The vet said that she thought he was about 8 weeks old, and that he was definitely some sort of shepherd mix, perhaps with chow and maybe some basset hound in him somewhere down the line. He was an odd-looking little fella, with his short, stubby legs and his long body and curly tail. It did not take long for it to feel like he was part of the family.
Well, one day, I noticed him getting a bald spot on his forehead. It didn’t look too bad, and he had a booster appointment coming up, so I decided just to watch it and take him to his scheduled appointment if it didn’t get any worse. Things seemed ok, so we just kept his appointment. I asked the vet about his little bald spot, and she said she’d have to scrape up a bit of skin and look at it under a microscope to determine exactly what it was. Well, Scooter took the skin scraping like a little man, even though it made him bleed some. After about ten minutes, we knew what was going on – he had demodectic mange, which basically meant that he had mites. The vet said it was not a big deal; lots of puppies have mites, but not all have skin irritation from it. So she gave us a prescription, showed me how to give it to him, and sent us on our way.
That evening, I gave him his medication right before bed; he took it without a fuss, because he’s a good boy like that. Things seemed fine – until I checked on him in the morning. It was the most horrid sight‚Ä¶ he, (along with the entire bathroom) were covered in a layer of vomit, and he couldn’t walk. I stood there, shocked at what I was seeing, and murmured “Oh Scoot-Scoot”. He pitifully tried to push himself over to me, and I burst into tears. Immediately, I called the vet and described his symptoms, and they said he was probably just nauseated. They told me to wait a few hours and try to feed him, and that if he wasn’t any better by noon, I should bring him in. I waited as long as I could, but I was scared to death. His body was trembling, he couldn’t walk, wouldn’t eat or drink, and stopped responding to me at all. It was time to go.
When we got to the vet, I needed help getting him out of the car‚Ä¶ he’d bitten me twice trying to get him in there, and I was kind of afraid to touch him again. I rushed into the office and asked for help; a lady who worked there appeared shortly. When she saw him in the car, she picked him up and headed straight for the door. Just inside the building, she shouts, “I think we have an emergency!” and takes him back to be looked at. Promptly, I lose my composure. A nice lady in a pink jacket comes over and hugs me, and tells me that he’s in good hands. The consolation was nice, but I was still very afraid of losing him.
After probably the longest 20 minutes of my life, a nurse came out to talk to me. She told me that he was having an allergic reaction to his medication, and that they didn’t know if he was going to make it. They’d sedated him (the trembling I’d described turned out to be seizures), and put him on an IV. They said that was the most they could do; the medication would have to make its way out of his system, which would take about a week. We’d just have to hope he could hold on that long.
My, what a terrible week that was; I cried constantly. We went to see him every day, often without any news of improvement. It was disheartening, at best, to see him lying in the kennel sedated day after day because the seizures had not yet subsided. He would always be in such awkward positions, with his tongue hanging out and drooling, eyes half open and dilated, legs folded and splayed at the same time. He looked, and smelled (because he had no control over his bodily functions) quite awful. Finally, nearing the end of a week’s time, he began moving some on his own. When we’d go to see him, he’d respond when we would pet him and talk to him, usually by twitching around in a failed attempt to move. That was good; it was improvement, right? At least he knew we were there.
Well, during the course of the week he was in the hospital, I decided to do some research on his prescription to see how likely it was that he was allergic. I’d given him Ivermectin; so I started by doing a search on that. As it turns out, Ivermectin is commonly used as an anti-parasitic drug to get rid of intestinal parasites, lice, and mites. Ok‚Ä¶ that sounds right so far. Then I read that generally, side effects are not a concern when low dosages used for internal parasites are given; it’s when larger doses are given – such as those used against mites – that problems occur.
I continued my search, and as it turns out, certain breeds of dog have more of a chance of being sensitive to Ivermectin than others‚Ä¶ collies, shepherds, and sheepdogs being the main ones, though it can show up in any breed. They have a mutant gene that (long story short) fails to keep medications like Ivermectin out of the central nervous system, which is called Toxicosis. Symptoms of Toxicosis include: dilated pupils, depression, coma, tremors, stupor, loss of coordination, vomiting, drooling, in rare cases seizures, and death.
I’m no vet, but I’m no stupid girl either, and I’m certain that’s what happened to my pup; however, the vet would only say that he’d had an allergic reaction that no one could have predicted (probably only to remove themselves from liability for almost killing my dog – who, by the way, IS alive and well; it took a lot of time and patience to get him back to normal, though). I wish I’d known this sooner, but there are test kits available (in the form of an oral swab) from Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine that can determine if your dog has the mutant gene that allows toxicosis to happen.
So if you really love your dog, it is advisable to provide him or her with all the necessary things to keep him or her happy. If you want to train your dog, there are available tools that you can use to make it more effective such as barx buddy.
In closing, I wrote this to alert people to the dangers of Ivermectin. I almost lost a real sweetheart to this drug because of someone’s (a veterinarian, no less) ignorance to the effects it could have on him. What’s scarier still is that the drug is available in some magazines and over the Internet under the name “Ivermec” or “Ivomec”- no prescription necessary. Also, Ivermectin is an ingredient in the widely used parasite-control product HeartGard, so caution should be taken if you suspect your dog may be sensitive. In any case, I would recommend having a test done if you’re faced with the possibility of needing to use this sometimes-fatal drug.