Exposure Following Euthanasia

Not the first, but a rare case at AECFV. Thankfully, due to her owner’s quick actions, Macy Gray made a full recovery.

Macy Gray, a healthy 9 year old, spayed female Blue Heeler, was outside with her owner one morning doing farm chores as usual. Her owner noticed that Macy Gray was wobbly when she came inside. Within half an hour, Macy Gray became less and less responsive at which time her owner rushed her down to our hospital. Within a few minutes of her arrival, Macy Gray became limp, unable to stand, minimally responsive, appeared blind and had nystagmus (abnormal involuntary eye movements).

An IV catheter was immediately placed, IV fluids started and some basic lab work was performed including a urine drug test. Bloodwork was unremarkable but the urine drug test was positive for BARBITURATES. Upon further questioning, the owner noted that she had a horse euthanized on the farm the day before and although there was no access to the actual euthanasia drugs themselves, there was a small amount of blood from the procedure that the owner attempted to clean up.

With that information, an ASPCA Poison Control Consult was advised to help guide treatment and determine prognosis. Macy Gray was treated in our intensive care unit with intravenous fluids, including a special intralipid emulsion fluid to help bind the toxin in the blood stream. She made a full recovery and was released from the hospital the following day.

Although rare, this is not the first case of a dog with secondary barbiturate (pentobarbital) toxicity resulting from exposure to a horse and/or blood following euthanasia that we have treated at our hospital. Thanks to her owner’s quick actions in seeking veterinary care, Macy Gray is back to helping around the farm!