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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

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Hard drugs blamed for dogs’ overdoses in Carlisle

Dogs have been left dangerously ill with suspected overdoses after swallowing hard drugs discarded by a river in Carlisle.

Sue James photo
Sue James

Sue James, 52, rushed her Rottweiler cross Sharna to the vets after it was overcome by uncontrollable muscle tremors.

At the Ashlea Veterinary Centre on Port Road, Sharna was put on a drip and after further treatment thankfully made a full recovery.

Vets at the centre have confirmed that Sue’s dog was one of three which were struck down by similar symptoms after walking along a footpath between Willowholme and the Sheepmount on the edge of the River Eden near Bitts Park.

They suspect the dogs had inadvertently eaten discarded drugs – either amphetamine or an ecstasy-like drug.

Sue, from Caldewgate, Carlisle, said that Sharna began displaying distressing symptoms within 10 minutes of finishing the walk last Friday morning, though her second dog Scooby, a Labrador cross, was not affected.

“The whole of Sharna’s back end was shaking,” she said.

“I took her straight to the vets. My initial though was to wonder whether she was going to pull through. But the vets at Ashlea are superstars.

“Fortunately, Sharna is a strong dog but if it had been an older dog, or a puppy, it may not have been such a good outcome.

“It may be that somebody dropped some ecstasy tablets or that somebody who had been dealing them panicked and discarded them.”

Ashlea Veterinary Centre has treated two of the affected dogs – both Sharna and a labrador. All are thought to have recovered without any lasting effects.

The centre’s vets, Chris and Kirsty Barker, say dog walkers should be on their guard if they visit the area.

Mrs Barker used the centre’s Facebook page to give a graphic account of Sharna’s experience.

She said the dog developed muscle tremors, panting and quickly became very agitated.

“We immediately sedated her and put her on intravenous fluids, and fortunately within five hours she was returning back to her normal happy self,” said Mrs Barker.

On the same day, she treated the second dog, the labrador, which was brought in with similar symptoms.

Mrs Barker added: “Both of these dogs had been walked through Willowholme to the Sheepmount. Their clinical signs are highly suggestive of amphetamine toxicity (drugs like ecstasy).”

Mr Barker said: “We had a couple of cases where the dogs were walking in the same area and we were contacted by another vet about a third with similar symptoms.

“We have no definitive tests to prove what was responsible and the worrying thing was that the symptoms did not follow the standard pattern of a poison such as slug pellets or anything like that.

“The symptoms were suggestive of something like amphetamine or ecstasy.”

As the symptoms wore off the two dogs treated by Mrs Barker appeared to be drunk, though have now made a full recovery.

He added that they wanted to warn dog walkers about what happened.

A Cumbria police spokeswoman urged anybody who saw anything suspicious to call police.

Pc Stuart Woodward, a dog handler in north Cumbria, is investigating the incident.

He said: "We want to put dog owners' minds at ease that this sort of incident is very rare. This is not an intentional act by someone to harm dogs.

“Dogs in their nature are very inquisitive and unfortunately in these two cases it is believed that some hidden controlled drugs may have been found by the dogs and as such have been eaten.

"Patrols have been conducted in the area and will continue to do so in order to prevent further incidents of this nature."

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