Labrador saved by emergency vets who gave him medication to control his racing heart after being poisoned by asthma inhaler

A mischievous Labrador puppy is lucky to be alive – after chewing on his owner’s asthma inhaler.

Nine-month old Barkley loves to steal things from around the house, including plates and cutlery, and hoard them in his basket.

But the naughty puppy got more than he bargained for when he swiped owner Shirley Hancock’s inhaler.

While he was biting on the plastic gadget he inadvertently swallowed the salbutamol inside it.

But the medicine, which is used to open the airways of asthma sufferers, entered his bloodstream making him seriously ill.

Emergency vets at Vets Now in Chippenham, who saved Barkley, are now warning other dog owners with the condition to be on their guard so the same thing doesn’t happen to them.

Image of Barkley the dog for Vets Now article on inhalers
Barkley was left seriously ill after chewing on his owner's asthma inhaler

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Shirley, who runs a farm near the Wiltshire town with husband David, has had dogs all her life.

But she reckons Barkley is the naughtiest she’s ever come across.

“I’ve always had Labradors and they tend to stay like puppies all their life, but Barkley is the most mischievous,” she said.

“He takes anything he can – plates, cutlery, you name it – because he knows we will chase him to get it. It’s all a big game to him.”

Knowing how mischievous he can be, Shirley said she did all she could to keep her inhaler away from Barkley.

“I have the inhaler because I have a bit of asthma brought on by the hay and animals on the farm.

“It was pushed to the back of the worktop and should have been well out of his reach, but he is such a big dog and stands on his front legs and pulls things towards him.”

Initially Shirley didn’t realise Barkley had stolen the inhaler.

She explained: “I had gone out to feed my ponies – I have a couple of rescue ponies and a donkey – and when I came back Barkley was rather tired.

“I thought the walk we’d had that morning had taken it out of him.

“A little later he didn’t look right and then he was sick all over our brand new carpet.

“I thought he’d recover after getting rid of whatever was making him ill, but he didn’t buck up and when he started to tremble I rang Vets Now and they told me to come in as quickly as possible.”

While Shirley was tending to Barkley she spotted the inhaler in his basket, punctured by his bites.

The staff at Vets Now in Chippenham explained that he’d been poisoned by the small amount of salbutamol he’d ingested.

“There can’t have been much because it was an old inhaler and virtually empty, but just that small amount nearly killed him,” Shirley added.

Shirley praised the Vets Now staff for saving Barkley.

She continued: “The vet put him on a drip during the night and then when his heart began to race they gave they him some medication to bring it back down.”

Image of asthma inhaler for Vets Now article on dog almost killed after swallowing inhaler
Asthma inhalers like this one contain salbutamol which is poisonous to dogs

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Principal vet Elizabeth Sharples said she was pleased to hear Barkley had returned to his happy and alert self.

She added: “When Barkley was admitted he was lethargic, tremoring and depressed.

“His heart was also racing at more than 200 beats per minute so we gave him medication to control the heart rate and monitored him with an ECG.

“Thankfully, he stabilised overnight with his heart rate steadily returning to normal.

“Barkley’s case is a reminder that inhalers and all other medicines should be kept well out of the way of dogs – particularly when you have super curious puppies like Barkley around.”

Shirley is happy to have Barkley back home, but plans to keep an even closer eye on the Lab.

“He’s a handful, but such a good looking dog. He will take anything that he can get his paws on. I bought new china bowls and he carried them around the house until he dropped and smashed them.

“I also recently left a Victoria sponge on table, dusted it with icing sugar and put a food cover over it only to find Barkley had eaten it.

“He even likes oranges and apples, although we keep grapes away because they are dangerous. You really need eyes in the back of your head – it’s worse than having a toddler.”

Vets Now is open through the night, seven-days-a-week, and day and night on weekends and bank holidays, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur.

Its clinic in Chippenham opened in March and operates out of the Hale veterinary hospital on Langley Road.