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‘A little miracle kid’: West Virginia dog beats the odds, survives poisoning from fungi

Photo courtesy Virginia Tech.

After a West Virginia couple let their dogs out one day in March, their Labrador retriever mix, Chop, was found shaking on the porch about an hour later.

April and Brian Barlow of Princeton knew something was wrong and took Chop to their local veterinarian.

The tremors progressed to seizures, and he was vomiting. The antiseizure medicine wore off in a minute.

The local vet, Michelle Postle at Happy Tails Veterinary Clinic, didn’t give up. She put a call in to Veterinary Teaching Hospital where neurologists advised her on doses and medication.

Chop needed treatment at the Blacksburg teaching hospital, so Chop’s family hopped in their vehicle for the road trip. Chop needed medicine every 30 seconds to keep the seizures away for the 90-minute drive.

“The moment he arrived, he was a combination of anesthetized and comatose,” said Laura Vega, clinical assistant professor of emergency and critical care medicine at Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Blacksburg. “It was all hands on deck. It was fantastic to see multiple services coming together to get everything done so quickly.”

Chop to be intubated. He also received medication to decrease brain swelling and an anticonvulsive medicine. He was given a muscle relaxant to try to control his tremors, and he also has blood sugar issues.

“It was minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour. In many toxicity cases, you’re a little bit in the blind. There’s no specific antidote you’re going for — you’re just trying to keep them alive and roll with the punches,” said Vega.

In addition to activated charcoal to absorb toxins, Chop was given intralipid therapy, a fat emulsion given intravenously to draw the toxins from tissues into the blood.

“It takes a village. We were working together through the night … we worked so, so hard. It was a huge effort,” said Vega.

“It turns out that he’s a little miracle kid,” said Vega. “Neurologically, he was almost back to normal within 24 hours.”

Testing showed that Chop had consumed tremorgenic mycotoxins which grow on moldy food and compost piles.

The next day the Barlows saw Chop on his feet with no tremors or seizures.

“We never dreamed we would be picking him up like this,” said April Barlow. “If it wasn’t for your team and Dr. Postle’s team, our baby wouldn’t be coming home with us.”

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.