When Pets are Under the Influence
by Randall Haveman, DVM, MS
Sunnyside Veterinary Hospital, PC
16416 SE Sunnyside Rd
Happy Valley, OR 97015
I remember my Father telling a story from his rural childhood. They “put up” corn silage in a silo with a dirt floored bottom for cattle feed. The chopped corn fermented and the fluid flowed into the ground. Their “free range” pigs smelled this delightful liquid and burrowed under the silo to drink heavily in their many tunnels. The result were six or seven very drunk pigs. They were happy drunks, but were dangerous and belligerent hung over pigs.Now a story from Australia tells of hundreds of seemingly drunk parrots falling out of trees and the sky in a northern Australian town, mystifying veterinary surgeons who are struggling to care for them. They sit on the floor of the cage and rest their heads on the side, or they curl up in the corner and hide under the paper and block the rest of the world out.
The brightly colored lorikeets are showing classic signs of drunkenness by losing all coordination and passing out, and then cowering in cages as they recover from their “hangovers.”
They fall out of trees… and they’re not so coordinated as they would normally be. They go to jump and they miss the next perch. Nobody was sure what was causing the symptoms, although it may be a plant they are eating. Other theories include an outbreak of a mystery virus.
The birds are given sweetened porridge and fresh fruit — the avian version of hangover food. It’s probably the human equivalent of ice-cream and cans of coke. Many are arriving daily to replace those released to the wild. Birds can die if not cared for.
I’ve had several Labs and one Golden Retriever that liked a sip of my wine, beer, or bourbon in a self-serve, “excuse me” manner; but I’ve only seen one drunk dog in my practice after 31 years. Now, we occasionally see or hear of pets that get drugs from teenagers who are afraid to buck peer pressure and afraid to take drugs from those peers, so they give it to the pet. These can be tough diagnostic cases and have dangerous results.