Pet Emergency: What We Learned

One month ago this very second, we were checking Charlie in at Urgent Pet Care. Why? He ate a bottle of strawberry-flavored melatonin—from Costco.

And thus began the longest, most nerve-racking 48 hours of my life.

Fortunately (and shockingly), we came out unscathed. But on the few occasions I’ve looked back on it all, I’ve realized the whole thing was pretty life-changing for everyone involved.

Now, behold! The Six Things We Learned Thanks to Our Dog’s Hormone Overdose

Clearly very aware of how serious the situation was.

1. Xylitol is terrible.

You’re probably asking yourself, “Why would melatonin send a dog to urgent care?” You may have missed the strawberry-flavored detail.

When Drew called to tell me Charlie had gotten a hold of that bottle, I immediately turned to Google. The first result? “It’s only an issue if it contains xylitol.”

XYLITOL is a sugar alcohol (artificial sweetener) that is slowly making its way into everything, including melatonin, toothpaste, chewing gum—even some peanut butters.

XYLITOL is also incredibly toxic for dogs.

XYLITOL was the first ingredient listed on the bottle in question.

So of course Charlie ingested approximately 150 quick dissolve tabs! Puking twice didn’t stop his blood sugar from plummeting. He started seizing and it was off to urgent care we went.

2. I wish I could speak Dog.

This thought was one of the million I had as his little body went through hell, but it was the only thing I could think about as we got ready to leave him overnight.

I would have given ANYTHING for the ability to tell him directly that everything would be okay, that we’d be back the next morning, that the people he was staying with were very kind and doing everything they could to make him feel better—and that he absolutely needed to pull through.


But because dogs don’t understand our words, we opted for a full five minutes of hugs and kisses and sobbing but also smiling and speaking in that high-pitched “It’s okay!” voice that every dog owner (and probably parent?) knows all too well.

Verbal cues are everything in times of crisis.

3. “Corporate” isn’t always cold.

When we picked him up the next morning, we took him straight to our usual vet. She is amazing and we wouldn’t trade her for the world, but his liver was in serious danger of failing and she didn’t have the meds to protect it.

Our only other option was admitting him to the nearest VCA animal hospital.

The Veterinary Centers of America is a national organization. Obviously very trustworthy, but we worried they wouldn’t be the most personable—seeing hundreds of sick and injured dogs a day would do a number on anyone. You couldn’t blame a person for seeming detached.

Lucky for us, that was never the case.

The doctors were wonderful and the techs blew us away with their kindness! Sending regular updates (with pictures), fielding my crazy phone calls, and being the most upbeat of any staff we’d seen thus far.

I absolutely judged that book by its cover and apologize for doing so. I’d recommend VCA Midwest to anyone, anytime.

4. Liver damage takes its time.

Seeing as Charlie had just ingested a crap ton of sugar, hypoglycemia was an obvious concern. In fact, his first “discharge” turned out to be a false alarm. Just a couple of hours after coming home, he’d started jerking (almost like he had the hiccups) due to low blood sugar. So back to VCA we went.

But that was an easy fix. Rub a little honey on his gums and he’d be good as new.

What wasn’t so “minor”—or obvious—was the damage to his liver. If he was going to die, that would be the cause.

And even though he was home for good within 48 hours of the incident, liver failure could take another 2-3 days to kick in.

Needless to say, I’ve had better weekends.

We never took our eyes off of him. EVER. If he so much as snored funny, we’d poke him awake to make sure he wasn’t dying in his sleep.

Was he annoyed? Yes. Did we care? Absolutely not.

Those few days went off without a hitch, but we couldn’t fully exhale until the visit to our usual vet later that week.

And wouldn’t you know it, the nerd had a CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH. I’m now convinced dogs have just as many lives as cats.

5. My future children are screwed.

Did you catch that part about me calling to check on him? Or sobbing as we left him overnight? Or waking him up to make sure his dreams weren’t actually seizures?

I am one with the helicopter parent.


If I had to guess, they swiped our credit card at least seven times in those 48 hours.

Not once did we think twice about handing it over.

Charlie and Maggie are our family. They’re our children. OUR BABIES. And when something happens to either one of them, we’re responsible for making it better—no questions asked.

With each invoice we got and every grand total they gave, I couldn’t help but think of this meme because IT’S SO TRUE. They honestly look at you as though you’d say, “No thanks, that’s too much. You can keep him.”

In their dreams.

Charlie is ours. And thanks to those same doctors and vet techs, he always will be. He is beyond lucky to be back to his normal self, inside and out. And we’re beyond grateful to report it.

But holy smokes, you guys. Keep your dogs the hell away from xylitol.


Sorry, I have to.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s