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For a variety of reasons, this amphetamine-class “club drug” isn’t as common as it once was. It is, however, still ubiquitous on South Beach. In fact, at a popular concert I attended last month, sellers were brazenly roving the audience.
What’s even more telling is that one of my patients was recently exposed. Though her owner denied it, few drugs affect mammalian electrolytes in the same way.
Unfortunately, there’s no quick test for it yet. All we can do in these cases is read the signs, eliminate other possibilities and provide supportive care.
Dilated pupils, agitation and elevated body temperature are common and may lead to death. Fortunately, for ecstasy, and for other drugs in the amphetamine class, there’s an over-the-counter test for its presence in urine.
You don’t have to watch Breaking Bad or Justified to know our country is currently experiencing a major meltdown in the meth department. Hyperactivity, dilated pupils, tremors, rapid heart rhythms, seizures and severe elevation in body temperature are common reactions in cats and dogs.
Staying up late on South Beach apparently isn’t as much fun without some pharmacological assistance from other types of amphetamines.
In particular, the increasingly popular use (and abuse) of amphetamines in the form of prescription drugs like Ritalin, Adderall or Concerta (used legally to treat ADHD) means that pets are more likely to be exposed.
Signs similar to those for crystal meth and ecstasy are typical.
Hallucinogens (especially in the form of mushrooms but also as LSD and mescaline) are still popular, especially among certain counterculture crowds. Disorientation, depression, a stumbling gait, vocalization and dilated pupils are typical signs that pets are suffering from the confusion of a drug-altered mentation.
Though pets only rarely die, signs may persist for eight hours or more, so supportive veterinary care and close monitoring are strongly recommended.
Increasingly, pets are being exposed to large amounts of prescription medications that originate in the so-called pill mills that punctuate our South Florida “pain clinic” landscape.
Heroin is another drug of this class that we occasionally see in my neck of the woods. Sadly, it’s sometimes found inside dogs used to smuggle large amounts of it into the United States from overseas.
Respiratory depression is the hallmark of this class of drugs’ most deadly effects.
Thankfully, not only is there a test to determine whether a pet has been exposed or not, there’s also a drug we can use as an antidote. Rapid treatment is essential, however, since pets can quickly succumb because of the potency of these drugs.
In all cases where drug exposure is possible, a pet poison hotline is strongly recommended to help owners and veterinarians deliver the most appropriate treatment. The following two organizations, my primary sources for the above information, are the most popular:
Pet Poison Helpline
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
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