Filed Under: Dogs, Practice Stories

Bailey, a three year-old Shih tzu, was ordinarily a bundle of energy. This day, however, he was far from acting himself. We could only get a half-hearted wagging of the tail from him, and that took some coxing. We could tell simply from the expression on his face that he was not feeling at all well.

Bailey had been dropped off by the owner’s son because the normally energetic little guy was not eating and vomited what little he took in. The son reported that Bailey was itching madly after being walked the previous evening, and his elderly mother couldn’t stand his scratching and licking any longer. In desperation she reached for the Gold Bond Powder® for relief.

Over the years Bailey had discolored various areas of his body with saliva. Due to his chronic itching and licking the insides of all four legs, his thighs, and in between his toes, his once bright white coat had been turned to a rust-colored brown. A similar discoloration was present around his mouth and perineal area. These discolored areas are a dead giveaway of an allergy problem, or as it is commonly referred to in veterinary circles as “atopy.”

Upon physical examination Bailey moped around: in fact, he barely moved at all. Normally we would have had trouble getting him to sit still. The spark in those dark brown eyes was missing and he appeared uncomfortable. There was loose stool plastered under his tail and his temperature was slightly elevated. His hydration appeared to be normal in spite of all of his vomiting but we knew that it would not last too much longer unless we determined the cause of the vomiting and were able to treat it effectively.

Poor Bailey had probably gotten into something that he was extremely allergic to, and in an effort to help, the owner had only complicated the situation. When using topical medications, the dog may not appreciate the help and will often try to remove the offending substance--especially when it is accompanied by a strange odor. In this process, Bailey must have ingested a substance in the powder that had secondarily irritated his gastrointestinal tract along the way. Now my problem lied in determining exactly what was in Gold Bond Powder® that could cause gastrointestinal irritation and what other problems it could cause. Thankfully, Bailey’s owner had dropped off the Gold Bond Powder® with him.

Not having used the product myself, I was surprised at the rather long list of ingredients. My next move was to head for the phone and see how helpful the 1-800 number given on the bottle of the product could be.

The 1-800 number proved to be a total waste of time. As it turned out, the 1-800 number was just a recording that referred you to your physician for help with accidental ingestion. Since I was the physician and I had never dealt with a Gold Bond® overdose before, that phone call was of no help what-so-ever. The powder manufacturer should have just placed a statement on the bottle with directions to see your physician in the case of accidental ingestion rather than make me listen to a long recorded sales message.

Poison control was the next number on my list to speed dial. The staffer at poison control was more than willing to help me with any information she had concerning possible toxicities with children, but she had absolutely no information concerning animal poisoning. Together we narrowed our list to three of the major ingredients: salicylic acid or aspirin, menthol, or eucalyptol. The toxicities concerning aspirin are well-known in pets. Aspirin was one toxicity I was well-familiar with, while menthol and eucalypts oil were rather unusual potential toxic-ingredients in the southern United States. The symptoms we were seeing did not really relate back to aspirin toxicity so we moved down our list of possible ingredients.

The poison control staffer explained that a toxic dose for a child with eucalyptus oil was an entire teaspoon, and therefore she thought we would have few problems with toxicity. I had to disagree. Bailey was the size of a newborn and therefore could possibly have received a toxic dose.

The only animal I had ever heard of that actually survives on eucalyptus is the koala bear. Unfortunately for Bailey he did not resemble a koala bear in the slightest. Eucalyptus leaves are low in protein, high in indigestible substances and as I was about to find out high in phenolic and terpene compounds that are toxic to most species. The koala bear utilizes specific enzyme pathways that will deactivate these toxic compounds. Unfortunately dogs, Bailey included, are not good at metabolizing leaves let alone a group of phenolic toxins and formylated phloroglucinol compounds.

Eucalyptus has antibacterial, antifungal, insecticidal, and anticaries effects on the skin. When taken internally eucalyptus oil will cause nausea, vomiting, a burning epigastric pain, inflammation of the esophagus and diarrhea. The symptoms surely fit. We had our offending toxin! Checking my herbal medicine references, I found that damage to the liver can also occur.

No wonder Bailey was feeling under the weather. Hopefully we would have him feeling more like himself in no time.

Since the offending powder was ingested over 48 previously, using activated charcoal to prevent absorption was not going to be much help. My references advised that the induction of vomiting would also cause more irritation to the esophagus. Since ingestion occurred so long ago I doubted that to induce vomiting now would be of any assistance anyway. Instead Bailey received pepsid and sucralfate orally, as well as injections to prevent vomiting and an antibiotic.

Although Bailey had been vomiting his hydration still appeared normal, but if continued I decided an IV catheter and intravenous fluids would be in order. Blood was drawn for evaluation of the liver. I wanted to make sure that no permanent damage occured.

Bailey’s concerned mother called. She had lost her husband only last year and was concerned about losing Bailey as well. I mentioned to her that I thought we could turn the little kid around. I told her not to use Gold Bond® again for topical products often end up being ingested by a dog intent on its removal. The only topical products I use in practice topically are quick to dry or are used in locations that a pet is not likely to reach. Otherwise most pets will not tolerate them unless you put up physical barriers such as an Elizabethan collar. An Elizabethan collar resembles a large pizza pie plate that you place around the pet’s neck where they then are able to broadcast 3 radio and 2 TV stations. Just kidding! All joking aside, for some pets that is not of enough of a physical barrier to sutures or topical medications. One dog that I fondly remember is a cattle dog that twice ripped out his sutures. The second occurring before he was even out of anesthesia. Stories like Buster are wonderful to remember but are impossible to live through. Somehow owners never believe that their angel of a pet would do such a thing. Instead it is the veterinarian that is at fault for not placing the offending sutures correctly.

Bailey continued to improve throughout that afternoon and evening. His liver enzyme levels had come back to normal, thereby indicating that we had no permanent damage. In fact, that evening Bailey had started eating. Thankfully he was not giving anything back that he ate either. With that in mind he went home to a grateful owner later that evening.

Now I know exactly how to handle Bailey should he ever decide to take another trip to the Australian Bush country. In the southeastern U.S., I figure this diagnosis will be a rare occurrence.

Topics: allergies, eucalyptus, shih tzus

Symptoms: itching, loss of appetite, scratching, vomiting

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