That was a question I had to ask my good client John last week after his little white poodle Bobby came in sick and pale with unexplained anemia.
Bobby had his teeth cleaned at Rivertown on a Friday morning. He had been thoroughly examined, had blood work completed, and was a healthy little five-year-old, six-pound poodle. Bobby’s stay in the hospital went smoothly and he left with clean and shiny teeth. The following Monday, John called and said Bobby wasn’t feeling well. He came to the hospital and had another blood test done. This time his red blood cells were not normal and he was extremely anemic. It was a puzzle. Bobby’s dental had gone off without a hitch and we had no explanation for the anemia. Bobby was initially treated for a possible allergic or autoimmune reaction. After three or four days his anemia was worsening. More blood was sent off to the lab and I asked the clinical pathologist to help me figure out why Bobby was anemic. John’s beloved little dog was sick and I had to find out why. The report came back. Bobby’s blood cells had oxidative damage – possibly caused by onion toxicity (Heinz Body Anemia).
I called John – a big, soft-hearted guy – and asked him, “John, have you been feeding Bobby onions?” John’s reply surprised and delighted me because now I knew why Bobby was ill. “Of course I have! He loves onions!” John, raised on hamburger hot dish loaded with onions, loved to share his favorite dish with his little dog Bobby. Over the weekend he had several bowls of the favorite comfort food. On the Thursday before his dental procedure, John took Bobby for a special treat to White Castle. The usually plain burger this time came with onions. They both shared the tasty snack.
After finding out that the onions were making Bobby sick, I told John I was sure Bobby would be better within a week if he stopped feeding him onions. John felt badly that his giving Bobby what he thought was a good treat had caused his little dog great harm, but was relieved to learn that a simple change in diet would solve the problem.
A happy ending, thanks to perseverance and some exceptional lab work! And a good reminder that not all the foods we eat are safe for our pets.