March 19, 2022
It really isn’t what you might think. NO bears were involved–I promise. But, the risk of death was still so very real. If you plan to take a dog to the Appalachians it is important for you to know how our dog nearly died in The Great Smoky Mountains.
FIRST VACATION WITH OUR DOG TO THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS
In the late winter of 2022, we decided to take an RV trip to The Great Smoky Mountains for my youngest sons spring break vacation. This was our very first vacation with our Australian Shepherd dog, Maxwell (Max, for short). I had considered boarding him and flying to a tropical destination, but I had never left him anywhere before and was worried that I was expecting too much too soon. So, I planned a vacation around having him with us.
I THOUGHT THAT I DID THE RESEARCH
I tried to read up on traveling with a dog; hiking with a dog; RV’ing with a dog. One thing that I did read was that it was a good idea to pack a doggie first-aid kit just as you would a human first-aid kit.
Unfortunately, I read this piece of advice too late in the days prior to our trip. So, I did not shop for any of the items recommended to go in a doggie first-aid kit. However, I did have quite a lot of children’s Benadryl tablets, which were on the list of items that could be included. So, I threw those in a bag with my medicine and vitamins, just in case, honestly never even considering that I may need them.
(If interested in putting together your own first-aid kit, this DIY post has some good ideas: DIY Make Your Own Canine First Aid Kit)
EVERYTHING STARTED OUT FINE.
The beginning of our trip started more downtown Pigeon Forge. So, our dog wasn’t really anywhere that would or could cause him much danger, but our second campground was nestled like an island in a loop of The Little Pigeon River near Gatlingburg, Tennessee.
I thought that this was amazing; the location was stunning; the sounds of the water tossing over the boulders was relaxing; and, our dog loves to play in the water and lick rocks! You can see in the image below our dog Max licking a rock that he had turned over. He loves it!
Never did I think that he could nearly die from a fun trip to the stream.
COLD WATER IS NOT GOOD FOR DOGS
I do want to interject here that I had read that you should never put ice cubes in your dogs water bowl. I read that it was not good for them and would actually make them vomit.
So, with that information catalogued in my brain, when our dog started to vomit–A LOT–I assumed that he had just ingested too much cold water (and that river water was frigid).
But, that didn’t explain the fact that his eyes were getting very cloudy and swelling, he was quickly becoming very lethargic, he was drooling very badly, and he was unable to walk.
Too, he kept wanting to crawl under the RV, which was frightening me, on it’s own.
It didn’t seem like it could be from cold water, but I didn’t know what else it could be.
So, we brought him back to our RV, got his blanket and I told the boys to start a fire so that we could warm him up.
CALL TO THE VET HOSPITAL
Luckily, my older son thought to call an emergency Vet number that he found when he Googled vets in the area. He described Max’s symptoms to them and told them that he had been in the cold river licking rocks. Based on the information that we gave them they felt that he probably had been licking toxic algae off of the bottom of the rocks.
Their advice was to get him to an ER Veterinarian Hospital, immediately.
I had heard horror stories about pet ER visits. So, I called back to see how much money I would have to pay to have Max seen and to find out if there was a more reasonable alternative; which, was good that I called because she notified me that the closest Veterinarian ER was more than 1.5 hours away from us.
***I know that money should never be an issue when saving the life of your family pet–and, if I had no alternative, it wouldn’t have been. Being on this Earth 48 years and being the mom of five boys, I know that there are usually always cheaper alternatives that offer the same results. People on the other end of the phone do not typically offer those without specifically asking for them. I have just learned that from a lot of experience, unfortunately.
Based on my internet research, if our dog was going to die from toxic algae poisoning, it was going to happen within an hour of ingestion. We did not have time to get him anywhere to be seen and saved, even if we wanted to and jumped in the RV and started to drive that moment. Whatever was going to be done to save him was going to have be done by us–and as quickly as possible!
ALWAYS PACK A PET FIRST-AID KIT
Then, I remembered those Children’s Benadryl tablets that I had packed for Max, in lieu of last minute shopping for a pet first-aid kit.
That single sheet of tablets was going to be our saving Grace!
I jumped up with excitement as I remembered that we had them, grabbed them out of my bag, and then Googled the dosage for a dog Max’s size. He was able to take three chewable tablets.
To see how he was going to manage holding the tablets and a little cheese down, I started with just two tablets. Within thirty minutes his eyes began to clear up and he was able to lift onto his front paws. So, I gave him the third tablet with a little more cheese, which he more eagerly licked and swallowed.
After another ten or fifteen minutes, he was able to stand on all four paws and move around slowly. So, we brought him inside the RV and placed his bed in front of the heater vent, where he laid and slept for the remainder of the evening and night.
The following day, he woke up with his normal energy ready to go on our morning walk!
Boy was I glad to go on that walk.
NOT WHAT YOU PLAN FOR
You go into the Great Smoky Mountains planning to be on alert for Bears; You are most definitely not thinking about algae on the backs of river rock (unless you’ve already had a run in). Never let your dog swim in water that has a film of green or blue on the surface of the water. If your dog happens to jump in it, make sure to wash their coat thoroughly so that they do not lick themselves and inadvertently ingest algae.
And, if you see that your dog is super keen on licking rocks be careful to help him or her avoid doing so–and, carry your doggie first-aid kit in the event that they do!
I hope that HOW OUR DOG NEARLY DIED IN THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS has made you aware of something that you would not have known otherwise so that you can enjoy the mountains and their beautiful streams without any dangers to you or your pet.
If you would like to read about OUR RV TRIP TO THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS, click on the post title and enjoy!