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Serious Time

Posted by Sunday on Sep 19, 2008 at 12:36 pm in Daily Space

My intention was – and is – to never use my presence on the internet as a forum for seriousness.  No politics, that kind of thing. I have this fear that I’m going to be seen as one of those PEOPLE WHO USE ALL CAPS!!!!! or someone who uses any forum available to proclaim that heating food in plastic is making kids have Autism – I’m just a dick, I guess.  But just this once, because I like pets more consistently than I like people, I’m gonna break my own rule.

We almost killed a dog last night.


We are dog-sitting two well-behaved, sweet, personable, strange and funny dogs, Macq and Allie.  It’s a long story, but the dogs have been in the care of dog-sitters for I believe three months – another family before us.  The owners will be taking them back in October.  When we got them, we noticed that they were scratching occasionally.  By the second week, they were scratching a lot.  We checked for fleas and found some, but did that sort of negligent thing where we didn’t immediately address it – it’s hard when it’s not your dog (or your house, for that matter, since we are also subletting; the prospect of de-fleaing someone else’s house was really, really daunting).  Should we give them flea medicine or just try to bathe them?  We tried bathing them by putting them in the bathtub.  Both animals voted NO.  Okay.  By the third week Allie started chewing on her butt and back legs, a sign of flea allergy.  We hemmed and hawed and – though I’d never done it before – bought some cheap flea drops, the kind you can get at any grocery store.


The logic was this: they didn’t have a bad flea infestation, and I was (mistakenly) under the impression that you could only get the good stuff at the vet (this was the case in years past, though I now know that you can buy it at most pet stores).  For me, “cheap stuff”= inferior strength.

In the meantime we had to take Allie to the vet because she’d developed what they call a hot spot, or a highly agitated area of skin that dogs get from chewing on an itchy patch until it becomes red, hot and oozing.   I knew she needed at least a shot of cortisone and at worst a humiliation cone, so with the owner’s permission Allie saw her doctor.  While at the vet I mentioned the fleas.  The vet gave Allie a cursory combing and said offhand, “Not very many fleas, I didn’t even get one.”  I told her we’d bought some Sergeant’s Gold flea drops and she shrugged and said that Allie’s hot spot was almost – but not quite – bad enough to be shaved and have her fitted with the humiliation cone.  We felt like we’d done the right thing.  Allie was far more disturbed by getting her earwax checked than by getting her cortisone shot.  We went home.

The following morning we gave Macq 3/4 of a recommended dose of Sergeant’s Gold, and Allie the other 1/4, reasoning that since Allie wasn’t feeling 100% we didn’t want to give her too many chemicals.  I re-read the box and followed the instructions to a T.

At about 5pm, approximately 9 hours after the dose of Sergeant’s Gold, I heard Macq making a strange noise.  It sounded like very wet smacking.  I turned around to see him lying on the floor biting at an area a full 6 or 8 inches from where the medication had gone, and saliva literally pouring out of his mouth.  My first reaction was a memory of a friend who’d had a cat given flea drops by the vet, which the cat later managed to twist improbably around and lick off.  The cat had then gone totally batshit bonkers, racing around the house and salivating like a monster.  In the end, the cat was taken back to the vet, given IV liquids and was just fine.  My exact thought was, “If that cat could eat it all off and be okay, then I shouldn’t panic.”

Within an hour I began to panic.  Macq was not doing well.  He was visibly uncomfortable, pacing nervously and rubbing at his face, all the while saliva spattered from his mouth like a faucet.  I tried to flush his mouth out with water.  I wondered: had he gotten into something else, something other than the flea medication?  I looked online and found that excessive salivating in dogs is almost certainly a sign of some kind of poisoning.   Mike was due back from work soon, and I waited, nervously.  I tried to feed Macq after reading that eating might dilute the effect of the poison.  He didn’t want to eat.

Mike entered the house just in time for Macq to start voming great gouts of liquid.  Literally cups of ingested saliva.  I grabbed Mike, ready to rush Macq to an emergency vet, asking Mike to watch Macq while I quickly checked online to make sure there wasn’t something we couldn’t do immediately, at home, to help Macq.  I Googled Sergeant’s Gold and gasped.

Page after page of warnings.  Whole websites.   Thousands of personal accounts: blinded dogs, dogs with weeping abcesses, dead dogs.  Not one of them was an accidental overdose or accidental oral consumption: all of them had applied the product correctly.

And Macq was fading fast, lying down in strange positions and beginning to pant.

Following others’ recommendations we began to frantically scrub them down with dishsoapy water, rubbing furiously at the area of application.  Macq didn’t even care at this point – whereas the prospect of a bath had made him a madman before, now he just stood, still, even sitting down at one point.  Allie, who was only lightly lethargic at this stage but had no other symptoms (could the cortisone have protected her?) endured her own bath.  We poured bucket after bucket of hot water over them both.  Macq retched a few more times.  Mike and I, covered in soapy water and saliva, literally begged Macq to be okay.

Within an hour both animals were disgruntled and unhappy, but better.  We offered Macq his dinner a second time and he gobbled it down.  He drank as much water as we felt safe giving him.  He chased after Allie in a burst of energy, but then quickly lay down and bit at his feet for an hour (other people cited foot-chewing as a side-effect).

I want anyone reading this to understand: this product is toxic in recommended doses.  It is a neurotoxin to all living creatures, not just fleas.  Do not use it.

I’m trying not to be the hysterical cat lady or something here, but for fuck’s sake I cannot believe it is legal to sell this garbage.  We are angry and ashamed of ourselves for using “the cheap stuff.”  What kind of shitty dog-lovers are we?   What if the reaction had happened earlier in the day when we were gone?

Hours later when we finally ate our own late dinner, I re-read the box for the millionth time.  Nothing indicating serious side-effects.  No warnings, other than to not squirt it directly into your eyes.  Sure, the “Call your solid waste agency for disposal instructions” line was ominous.   I wrote a complaint to the EPA Office of Pesticides and Insecticides along the lines of: approving this product for use on mammals is dumb.  It was a terrible few hours I don’t want anyone else with pets to experience.  The thought of this happening to my dad’s dog makes me literally sick, so I must express my outrage.

Thanks for listening,


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September 19th, 2008 | Daily Space

3 Responses to “Serious Time”

  1. quagmire Says:

    Fucking Krikeys! Thanks for the post Subspace. I know first-hand how much you and Hal love animals. It was only two weeks ago that you and I took a seagull with a broken leg to Animal Services after six people walked by it, hurrying into Subway for lunch (I hope their sammies sucked!).
    How can we disseminate widely to the public, the information here. I sincerely want the world to know about this poison that SERGEANT’s is selling for use on people’s loved pets!
    Maybe just a lot of emails to the EPA and other government entities will help, even just a little, to get someone of authority’s attention.
    I, personally, am starting my own campaign … TODAY!
    I’ll keep you posted on what I decide to do, for those interested.

  2. Sunday Says:

    No joke: there are tons of pages, tons of websites. News organizations have picked up the stories, but never to any end (such as this one). It’s disgusting.

  3. CmdrSue Says:

    Thanks for the heads up. I hadn’t heard about this product and could have easily fallen into the trap.

    By the way, I just have to say that this is an awesome pic:

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