Every now and again, the sleuthing I do to diagnose what is ailing my patient ends up revealing some unexpected and sometimes embarrassing information about my client. Consider the case of Layla, an effervescent, adorable, five-year-old French Bulldog. This little girl had experienced two neurological episodes during which she appeared depressed, minimally responsive, and unable to walk. The first episode lasted approximately six hours; the second was shorter in duration with milder symptoms. Dribbling of urine was noted throughout both episodes. Layla was reported to be completely normal otherwise, and normal is exactly how she appeared when I examined her.

I discussed the potential causes for Layla’s neurological events with her caregivers, a lovely couple in their forties. The possibilities included epilepsy, infectious or inflammatory brain disease, exposure to a toxin (none identified in the history), and a tumor or other structural abnormality within the brain. The next diagnostic steps would include an MRI scan of Layla’s brain and collection and analysis of cerebrospinal fluid. In addition to being pricey, these procedures would require general anesthesia.

After discussing all of the above information, I opted to ask one more question, and it went something like this: “I need to ask you a rather sensitive question. Dribbling of urine during a neurological event is rather unusual. However, the combination of urine dribbling and neurological symptoms is typical of marijuana toxicity in dogs. Any chance that Layla has had access to eating marijuana?” My two clients appeared stunned, looking at one another while shaking their heads in unequivocal denial. This prompted yet another question, “Does anyone else live with you and Layla?” And their response, “We have a 15-year-old son and Layla does, in fact spend most of her time in his room, but he would never……”

Hmm, I wondered just how far should I press this issue. I remembered how naïve I was with my oldest child. I also remembered discovering the brewery in our basement when my middle child was a junior in high school! Heck, these days, if marijuana is the worst thing a fifteen year old kid is doing, things are likely not all that bad! I tactfully attempted to share my parental wisdom with my clients and gently encouraged them to think about the things they did as teenagers. They both remained speechless, with expressions on their faces revealing that their minds were churning furiously.

I wrapped up the conversation by asking my clients if they preferred to proceed with the tests for which Layla was referred, or postpone such testing pending the results of a candid conversation on the home front. They opted for the latter. When I called them a week or so later to ask how Layla was doing and determine the next step I was told, “That MRI scan won’t be necessary.” I did not feel the need to pursue any further questioning.

Have you ever been busted by one of your pets? We’d love to hear all about it!

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.




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6 Comments on “Busted!

  1. Thanks for the info, Dr. Kay! I distinctly remembertreating a ‘pot dog’ when I was in intern. We had the dog hospitalized for observation and fluids in ICU. One of the technicians ordered pizza that night and when it was delivered, the dog was at the front of the cage, drooling and trying to squeeze through the cage door to get at the delicious munchies!

  2. Whoops! Great sleuthing, Doc. We got a kitten as a child that came from a house that smelled like a rock concert, my only frame of reference at the time. That kitten was the least intelligent cat I have ever met. She’d get stuck in odd places, couldn’t quite follow the path of the fishing pole toy, etc. We were convinced she suffered brain damage as a baby from all of the marijuana smoke.

  3. So glad the dog is okay. Then I had to chuckle. We’ve all been there. It is good you asked the right questions, tactfully. Thanks for sharing the story.

  4. Some years ago I had a client who used to take his Poodle on regular, three-times-a-week walks. After a while, the wife noticed that after each of these walks, the Poodle smelled of a perfume she never used.

    Having confronted the husband, after much discussion and argument, he admitted that he had a girlfriend on the side, used the Poodle walks as an excuse to visit her regularly, and that she loved the dog and hugged him a lot. Ergo, the “unknown” scent.

    Oh, yes – this was apparently the last straw and the wife divorced him.. She took the Poodle whom she loved even more for “busting” the unfaithful spouse.

    I would never have believed it had it not been my client. I swear this is true.

  5. No, I’ve never been busted by one of my pets ~ but I must say that I certainly am impressed with your diagnostic skills in this particular case! Thanks for sharing this wonderful (and important) story!

  6. My mom’s dog had mysterious seizures for years until mom caught my step-dad giving the dog half-eating chocolates. Apparently my step-dad would bite into a chocolate, and if it wasn’t the kind he liked, he’d give the rest to the dog. He didn’t know that chocolate was toxic to dogs, and he hid his habit from mom so she wouldn’t know he wasted fancy chocolates. Mom caught him in the act one day, explained about chocolate & dogs, and the seizures magically stopped.