A Close Call for Chucho
When Queens, New York resident Amalia P. discovered that her three-year-old Pomeranian-mix, Chucho, had found and consumed Vyvanse, a medication used to treat ADHD, she was immediately alarmed.
“My roommate had two pills in a miniature plastic baggie in her purse that was left unattended,” said Amalia (who asked that her real name not be used). “Chucho is very curious and found the baggie and bit holes into it. The amphetamine that is the active ingredient was my main concern.”
Amalia first contacted a veterinary clinic near her apartment, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, they couldn’t see Chucho. Because it was after 5:00 PM, the only other options were emergency vets, which Amalia—a special education tutor—could not afford.
“I started crying because they said, ‘This is very dangerous,’” said Amalia. “I even ran to a local pharmacy for hydrogen peroxide, because they said it could help Chucho throw up, but they were completely sold out. I just didn’t know what to do.”
She contacted ASPCA Community Engagement Coordinator Ana Hernandez, who had assisted her in the past. Ana referred Amalia to Brittany Lindstrom, Manager of Client Services at the ASPCA’s Midwest Office.
The Danger of Amphetamines
Alyssa Jones, an ASPCA Animal Poison Control (APCC) Veterinary Assistant, then conducted a free phone consult for Amalia, who texted photos of the baggie with broken capsules still inside.
Alyssa ultimately determined that Chucho needed immediate follow-up care with a veterinarian. While it appeared he hadn’t ingested much, the level of exposure to the medication was still a concern.
“One capsule was 30 milligrams and another was 70,” said Alyssa. “This medication has a narrow margin of safety—it only takes 4.5 mgs to present problems. I worried that even a small amount of the powder inside one capsule could increase Chucho’s heart rate and blood pressure.”
“Amphetamines stimulate the central nervous and cardiovascular systems,” said Dr. Tina Wismer, Senior Director of the APCC. “If ingested by pets, they can potentially cause hyperactivity, tremors and seizures, fever, abnormal heart rate and rhythm, coma, or even death.”
APCC Client Services Associate, Misael Albarron, arranged for Chucho to be seen at the Veterinary Emergency Referral Group (VERG) in Brooklyn, an ASPCA partner clinic. Chucho’s hospitalization was paid for by the One ASPCA Fund, a program that covers costs of medical conditions with a good prognosis and that require short-term care.
Chucho’s treatment included intravenous IV fluid therapy, blood pressure/EKG monitoring, muscle relaxants for tremors, and supportive care. He remained at VERG overnight until veterinarians determined it was safe for him to go home the following day.
Amalia adopted Chucho in 2019 from a rescue group that needed an urgent foster caregiver.
“He was living just three blocks from me,” Amalia said. “I thought, ‘This is my chance to provide foster care.’ He’s so sweet and adorable that I fell in love with him right away and soon adopted him.”
Amalia’s bond with Chucho only became stronger over time, and they relied on each other through thick and thin. “All my family is in Mexico, and Chucho has been my support through some very tough times,” said Amalia, on the verge of tears. “He makes me want to wake up. Even if I don’t want to get out of bed, I know he needs to be walked. He depends on me for everything.”
Chucho didn’t get much sleep that night at the hospital, and neither did Amalia. But she was thrilled to see him when she picked him up the next morning and was very thankful for how the ASPCA took care of them both.
She also made sure toxic substances were no longer within Chucho’s reach at home.
“I am an anxious mama,” she said. “Chucho is my everything.”