Family dog walk ends in devastation and debt
Emergency veterinarian Danielle Huston did not think the labrador would make it.
"I think I held breath for three days for Ollie. He was teetering on the edge for a good couple of days," she said.
The 8-year-old dog and 6-year-old fellow black lab, Indie, had been on a family walk in Beerwah when they suddenly gobbled something up from a strawberry farm.
Those few moments turned into an unexpected race to save the lives of the dogs and an $18,000 emergency vet bill for owners Hayley and Sam Major.
Now, the Major's, who have had to start a GoFundMe account to help pay for the bill, want to warn others to be more vigilant about watching what their dogs try to eat while on walks.
Mrs Major, 29, said Sam had been walking the dogs with their 1-year-old son, Cohen, through their semirural neighbourhood on a Thursday afternoon.
They were going past a neighbour's unfenced property when the dogs started sniffing around the end of one of the strawberry runners.
"They were sniffing at the end of one the strawberry runs. Sam thought they were scabbing some strawberries, so he stopped them from eating them," Mrs Major said.
On Saturday, Ollie developed a cough but by Sunday had vomited up blood.
He was rushed to the Animal Emergency Service (AES) in Tanawha where it was determined the dog had eaten rat bait.
Dr Huston, 33, said X-rays showed Ollie's trachea, or windpipe, was severely narrow as a result of the poison.
"His x-ray was horrible. It's one of the worst ones I've ever seen," she said.
"The biggest thing with Ollie was how narrow his trachea was. It should be bigger than a 50 cent piece and it was smaller than my little finger, so it was a quarter of size it should have been, so he was struggling to breathe.
"With rat bait, the animal eats it, then it takes three days for it to do anything," she said.
"The rat bait wipes out your body's stores of vitamin K, which is really important to have to form proteins to help form a blood clot."
Dr Huston said rat bait often caused fatal bleeding, though it could present differently in each animal.
In Ollie's case, he had blood within and around his lungs, she said.
"The problem we were faced with to treat Ollie is that he needed vitamin K to replace the stuff the rat bait wiped out, but the body takes between 18 to 24 hours to remake the proteins from that, so it was likely he would still bleed for up to 24 hours and with a narrowed airway," she said.
"To bridge that time gap, we did a plasma transfusion, as the plasma contains our clotting proteins."
Indie was also taken to the AES, where tests proved she had also consumed some of the bait.
Dr Huston said both dogs had to have plasma transfusions.
"Both dogs needed more and more," she said.
"We used our entire stock of plasma in one night, over one litre.
"We normally might use that in a month."
Mrs Major said while the dogs were at the vet, the couple returned to the strawberry runners and immediately found some small pink rat bait cylinders lying in the dirt, confirming the vet's diagnosis.
She said there were no signs around indicating any bait had been laid on the farm.
"This could have happened to anybody," she said.
"And it might not have been a dog, it could have been a child."
Dr Huston said if anyone suspected their pets had eaten any type of bait, they should be rushed to the vet, as the sooner the chance of treatment, the better the chance of survival.
"The best-case scenario is if owners find their pet chewing on something … if they come down straight away we can make them vomit and get most of it up," she said.
She said pets could also get secondary poisoning, if they ate a rat or a bird that had first eaten the bait.
Mrs Major, who does not have pet insurance, said they were grateful their dogs survived, but were now left with a massive, unexpected bill.
They have started a GoFundMe titled 'Animal baiting - saving our two Labradors' to help pay for the lifesaving treatments.
Originally published as Family dog walk ends in devastation and debt