The anxiety of pernicious poisoning - Albuquerque Journal

The anxiety of pernicious poisoning

Third in a series.

There were no Nextdoor or Facebook apps in the late ’70s, but word spread fast. A meeting was organized quickly at the elementary school in Placitas featuring Dr. Firestone, a local pediatrician, plus a young veterinarian with sweaty palms. Ah, that was me.

Being sought out as an expert on a toxin I had only just learned existed was a bit daunting. I spoke with Dr. Claire Hibbs, veterinary pathologist at the newly created New Mexico Veterinary Diagnostic lab. He sent the information he had by U.S. post. (No faxes then, either.)

My first conversation with Claire, a man old enough to be my father, involved another recent poisoning – an accidental event. Being the inveterate instructor, he could not help but ask me that agent’s mechanism of action. When I spat out the answer, I got the sense that he was hoping I’d miss so he could advance my knowledge. Maybe I should have brightened his day by feigning ignorance, but I’ve always hated looking more stupid than necessary.

When I arrived at the big event, my head swimming with toxicology data, I met Dr. Firestone and an astonishing number of Placitas residents just brimming with anxiety and questions. Would dogs and cats who had been loose in the preceding few days start bleeding internally like Big Blue? (Maybe.) Could people get this poison from their pets? (Couldn’t happen.) How long would hidden diphacinone remain active? (Indefinitely.) What at-home remedies would help? (None.)

I had back-up. A cranky, old-school and highly temperamental large animal veterinarian presented himself as the expert. The old-timer pontificated at length on insecticide toxicity (completely unrelated). Suitably ignored, he finally stalked out in a huff. Embarrassing and humorous.

There was actually a reasonable conclusion to the groupthink. I volunteered, at no charge, to perform every necropsy on every pet who succumbed. By extension, this meant that cats and dogs with any symptoms suggestive of poisoning would arrive at my North Fourth Street clinic at all hours. Was I crazy? Well, these folks were desperate.

Next week: Survivors?

• For help with behavior problems, you can sign up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website, drjeffnichol.com.


Dr. Jeff Nichol is a veterinary behaviorist. He gives consultations in person and in groups via Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week, he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.

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