A Muffin related scare

I’m a little bleary today, having stayed up half the night with a bizarrely sick animal. I’ll try to reconstruct the timeline and what I knew when.

2100 hours - before the storm

We did things around camp then went on a decent walk and returned before sundown. I stayed up to make a wood pellet fire in the gasifying mini stove. 1

Muffin likes to go to bed when it gets dark so I let her in and she jumped into the bunk. I stayed outside for about an hour.

2200 hours - snack and first symptoms

I came in and made a PB&J sandwich for a snack but got some jelly on the plate. I let Muffin do cleanup, but she seemed disoriented. She also had some whole-body jerking/convulsive movements that I interpreted as nearly sneezing but then not sneezing.

I watched for a bit then noticed that when my headlamp beam or hands went near her face her physical response was 100/100 instead of maybe 5/100. What would have been a tiny movement was exaggerated into a huge uncontrolled lurch. She seemed distressed.

While I thought about this I got a couple pieces of kibble to see how she would react. She had trouble snuffling out the kibble from my palm and dropped both pieces while trying to get them. That’s a Very Bad Sign, as Muffin is uniquely qualified to vaccuum up food in all circumstances.

I tried to pull her closer and she staggered to her feet, lurched, and fell a few times. I picked her up in my arms to take her outside in case she needed to a potty break and felt urine on my arms. Another Very Bad Sign, as this dog has a bladder of iron.

Took her out and held her up so she could pee. Came back in and placed her on the bed where she lurched and fell over.

I started thinking about stroke, seizure, etc. Much googling was done.

2300 hours - coma dog

She fell into extreme torpor and laid motionless for this hour; normally both she and I are pretty wiggly in bed, repositioning, straightening legs, etc. She normally lays with her head on my arm or shoulder and tonight it was much more “dead weight”. Her breathing was so slow and shallow I couldn’t tell if she was alive without listening for her heartbeat. Body temp was noticeably lower than normal. Heart rate slower than normal.

I placed her bottom half on a towel as bladder control was still not functioning. All the usual causes I was reading about had supportive rather than active treatments at this point so I just kept watch, talked to her, and tried to regulate her body temp toward normal. More than once I thought about where I bury her near this campsite.

I double-checked her vax records and as I remembered she had her boosters for rabies, distemper, bordatella, etc, in October. Both distemper and rabies can cause seizure/convulsive movements.

There are poisonous toads in this region, but that usually presents with foaming and tremors, neither of which she had.

0000 hours - a diagnosis?

Muffin continued her coma and lack of bladder control. I kept changing out the bedding for comfort and also to gauge the amount of leaked pee.

I kept reading and watching videos. I finally found marijuana toxicity which absolutely nailed her symptoms. She moved exactly like the dogs in the videos, especially the wild reactions to things near her face.

More than one vet said something to the effect of “if the dog presents with ataxia2 and dribbling urine it’s assumed to be marijuana until proved otherwise.” Note that we are not talking about “haha my dog has a contact high from the black sheep at the family reuninon”; this is “my dog ingested a massive dose for his species, can’t walk, can have seizures and die, can aspirate vomitus and die”.

Apparently dogs are highly affected by cannabinoids, much more strongly than humans. I assume she found some on our walk before bed, or perhaps in the campsite. I do not use or store any such items.3

The good news is that if it doesn’t kill them they should be fine after 24-72 hours. Since she has so little body fat to store the active ingredients I assumed it would be a shorter-duration event.

0100 hours - signs of improvement

I changed her padding and no more urine. She was starting to breathe strongly enough I could see her ribs move again, and she started making her normal light snoring sounds.

She had a short period of REM sleep and had normal (not overreactive/convulsive) twitchy feet. She woke briefly and attempted, with her normal lack of coordination, to scratch her ear with a back leg.

I began to have hope she might not die after all.

0200 hours - definite improvement

Bladder control is good.

Around 2am she stood up without stumbling, turned 180 degrees and laid back down. Normally she makes 2-3 full rotations but I’ll take the half-turn under the circumstances

0700 - 90%

This morning I lifted her out of bed but she was able to walk for a potty break on her own. She was a bit wobbly/odd at times but massive improvement. Ate breakfast and drank water with gusto.


I took her on a moderate walk today and she seemed normal, maybe not fully energetic. Now as I write this she is woo woo wooing at the shooters down the hill, which is a very good sign indeed. Good job, Muffin. You’re a good girl.


twitter comment thread for this post

  1. will be described in a future post 

  2. difficulty standing and walking 

  3. I am a small-L libertarian and do not care what chemicals adults use in their own bodies as long as I personally or we as a society don’t have to fund any negative outcomes. Please store your recreational substances away from animals, children, and anyone else who cannot consent.