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Keeping a medication that one uses as an aid for sleeping difficulties at the bedside is common. However, if there are pets in the home this can lead to a dangerous situation. Canines have curious personalities and also love to chew. A bottle of medication left within their reach can be an open invitation for them to ingest a large amount of pills, leading to a toxic reaction. Case studies are, unfortunately, great in number. Symptoms recorded have ranged from mild sedation to abnormally rapid heart rate (tachycardia). The effects on dogs will vary depending on the current health and age of the pet, in addition to the amount consumed and the size of the dog. Dogs who have a pre-existing liver or kidney condition may suffer a more severe reaction to sleeps aids overdose due to the strain on the organs as the drug is being eliminated. Symptoms can emerge in as little as 10 minutes after ingestion. Immediate medical care is required and with quick intervention, canines can recover from an overdose of this medication.
The overdose of sleep aids can adversely affect the central nervous system of canines. Designed to aid humans who are suffering from insomnia or other related issues, sleep aids can have the opposite effect on dogs rendering them full of agitation and disorientation. Lack of coordination and sedation can also occur.
You may see varying signs of sleep aids poisoning in your dog. His age, current state of health, weight, and the amount consumed will have bearing on the effects. Signs that could be seen are many; if your pet has eaten sleeping pills from your nightstand or a countertop in your home, seek veterinary advice immediately.
Sleep aids typically have a relatively short duration of action but this can still mean effects that last for longer than is safe for your dog. Symptoms of toxicity are seen within 10 minutes to one hour of ingestion, and the effects will last from 12 to 24 hours. An example of a benzodiazepine sleep aid is alprazolam (Xanax). A nonbenzodiazepine sleep aid (of the imidazopyridine class) is zolpidem (Ambien).
If you witness your pet ingesting a quantity of your sleeping medication, or return home to find a chewed, empty bottle by your nightstand, seek veterinary help immediately. Bring your dog to the clinic whether he is symptomatic or not. Symptoms can result very quickly and reversal of the effects will be managed more easily with timely care. If possible, bring the empty container with you to the clinic as this will help the veterinarian to decide on the best course of action.
The steps to the examination and diagnosis may be contingent on the condition of your pet when he arrives at the hospital. If he is exhibiting signs of sleep aid poisoning, the veterinary team will need to stabilize your dog right away. Symptoms like a racing heart rate or respiratory disturbance can escalate quickly, necessitating the need for immediate care. If your dog has an underlying liver or kidney problem, it could be exacerbated by the sleep aids poisoning, and this will mean additional therapy over and above the typical protocol.
If your pet is asymptomatic upon arrival, the veterinary team may take a few minutes to check vital signs such as pulse, heart rate, steadiness of gait, and body temperature. There is no specific test for sleep aid poisoning, but the veterinarian may order blood tests to evaluate the blood markers and check if they are within normal ranges. This information can be helpful to the medical team as your pet is in treatment as well.
If your pet is asymptomatic and you are able to provide the time that has elapsed since your pet consumed the sleep aid, vomiting may be induced. Dogs who are experiencing depression of the central nervous system will not be encouraged to vomit. Canines can react differently to the same medication (excitement or depression) and therefore, each case is treated as symptoms allow.
The use of active charcoal or gastric lavage will be determined by the type of medication that was ingested and the specific symptoms that your dog is presenting. Your dog may be given medication for CNS depression. If the result of the ingestion is agitation, a different medication will be administered to counteract this effect. Intravenous fluids are often used when necessary to help the body eliminate the drug more quickly. During the therapy, your pet’s body temperature and respiration will be monitored carefully as well.
Fortunately, the effects of sleep aids wear off within 24 hours. If your pet ingested a very large amount of your sleeping aid pills, he may need to be hospitalized so the veterinary team can monitor him until all effects are gone and his behavior and physical state are confirmed back to normal. Once your dog is released from the hospital, you will need to provide a quiet, safe, restful environment for him to recover in. There should be no residual effects, though be certain to call the clinic if your pet’s condition changes or his behavior concerns you in any way. Make sure medications of any kind are stored safely out of your pet’s reach, and make it a rule to not give your canine companion any type of medication or over-the-counter drug without the direction of your veterinarian.
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