Animal control officer investigates dog death after owner suspects poisoning

Animal control officer investigates dog death after owner suspects poisoning »Play Video

VANCOUVER, Wash. – An animal control officer at the Clark County Sheriff’s office is investigating whether poison played a role in the death of a Siberian Husky, Meka, who fell violently ill last week and died.

Meka’s owner, Nikki Elmore, believes a mysterious piece of meat she found in her backyard could have been laced with poison.

Officer Patrick Higbie, with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, told the On Your Side Investigators Wednesday that he wasn’t ruling anything out in Meka’s death and planned to send one of Meka’s stool samples, as well as a piece of the mysterious meat, to a lab at Washington State University to be tested for toxins.

Higbie also said one veterinarian believed the primary diagnosis for Meka’s death was a chronic diabetic condition but said that same vet also suspected, based on the dog’s liver failure and lack of blood clotting, that it was possible Meka could have been poisoned.

Higbie would not comment further pending the ongoing investigation.

Elmore said it was obvious when her 8-year-old Husky got sick last week. The dog was lethargic, vomiting, had diarrhea, and was drinking more water than normal.

“(At first) I just thought she got into something and just didn't feel good,” Elmore said.

But when she followed Meka outside her home, Elmore said that’s when she spotted the meat along the fence line.

"It looked like a thin piece of pork chop," Elmore said. “It hadn't come from us."

The meat wasn’t something her family cooked, she said, and Meka didn’t have access to the trash.

“So I kind of put two and two together because she could not stop drinking enough water and she kept throwing up, constantly,” Elmore said.

Elmore took Meka for an emergency examination at the Columbia River Veterinary Specialists clinic in Vancouver on June 17. According to a discharge summary, which Elmore provided to KATU, the clinic couldn’t pinpoint a singular reason for Meka’s illness.

The summary stated, “There are several possible causes to Meka’s signs, including dietary indiscretion, pancreatitis, renal or liver disease, or a cancerous process. We recommend that Meka have blood work and radiographs done to evaluate for underlying causes.”

The clinic gave Meka anti-nausea and antacid medications, according to discharge papers.

Once home, Elmore said Meka’s conditions improved. However, a day later, Meka fell ill again.

"She was laying in the front room, and she had some blood coming out of her nose and out of her mouth and she was just crying,” Elmore said.

Elmore then took Meka to DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital in Portland on June 18. According to an invoice, Elmore paid for more than $700 worth of care including an emergency exam, IV catheter, fluid therapy, IV fluid bags, a blood count test and several other tests.

Meka was euthanized at DoveLewis that day.

After the On Your Side Investigators contacted DoveLewis for details, the clinic released the following statement:

“On June 18, 2014, DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital admitted Meka Elmore, an eight-year-old female Husky. Initial diagnostics and a physical exam revealed elevated blood glucose, elevated liver enzymes, electrolyte derangements and extreme dehydration, confirming the severity of her state.

"At that point, Meka’s family made the difficult decision to euthanize Meka and to not pursue further diagnostic tests. Possible causes of Meka’s condition include: a diabetic crisis, a coagulation disorder (secondary to toxicity, dietary indiscretion or other cause), neoplasia/cancer, or an inflammatory or infectious disease.”

According to one veterinarian, Elmore did not pursue further testing due to financial concerns. Between the two vet hospitals, she spent more than $1,000.

Elmore did not request an animal autopsy, known as a necropsy.

Despite several requests for clarification, a DoveLewis spokeswoman said the veterinarians were not available to provide more details Wednesday.

Dr. Megan Seekins, the critical care specialist at Columbia River Veterinary Specialists, believed it’s more likely Meka died of an underlying illness that her owner simply wasn’t aware of until it was too late.

“Her symptoms are not typically what we see with toxicity,” Seekins said.

For instance, Seekins said, Meka had an alarmingly high blood sugar levels. She said a normal dog tests between 80 and 120 mg per deciliter (mg/dL). She said Meka’s levels were above 600. It’s why she believes Meka could have died from a diabetic crisis, which was named in DoveLewis’ statement.

Seekins described a coagulation disorder, also mentioned in DoveLewis’ statement, as inflammation in the dog that could lead to the blood not properly clotting in the dog’s body.

Anticoagulants can be a common symptom of poison but Seekins said, in cases where animals are poisoned, it’s more common to find internal bleeding in larger cavities of the animal rather than discharge from the nose or mouth.

All that said, Seekins said poison couldn’t be ruled out since there was no necropsy performed on Meka.

On Wednesday the On Your Side Investigators also brought one of Meka’s stool samples and a piece of the meat in question to Oregon State University to be tested for toxins.

Officials at OSU did not provide a specific time line for when to expect test results back from the lab but, from what KATU understands, it could take several days.

Oregon State University officials will ship the samples, as is often the case, to the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health (DCPAH) at Michigan State University.

Back at Elmore’s home, she has her theories about who may have poisoned her dog, but still wonders why someone would want to harm Meka.

"She is one of the kindest dogs we have ever owned,” Elmore said.

Elmore buried Meka last week and held a candlelight vigil, with her family, in her honor.

If you suspect your pet is sick, Seekins said to contact a veterinary hospital immediately.