Labrador Retriever survives rare serotonin syndrome


Mav, a nine-year-old Labrador Retriever, was diagnosed with serotonin syndrome after ingesting up to 600 dietary sleeping pills.

Mike Axthlem of Minneapolis, Minnesota arrived home one day to find his dog Mav guilty and he defecated in the house, which was unlike him, according to Axthelm. Once Mav started foaming at the mouth and the family discovered an empty bottle of sleeping pills, they immediately took him to the ER.

After Axthelm called the animal hospital ahead of time, Amy Stockton, DVM, instructed him to call the toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline who determined that Mav had ingested a severely toxic volume of 5-HTP. 5-HTP is a compound that helps increase serotonin levels in the brain, and too much of it can cause gastrointestinal signs, CNS stimulation, and serotonin syndrome.

By the time they arrived at the hospital, Mav was blind, unconscious and had been convulsing for 15 minutes. Her pupils were dilated and numb, a foamy froth was coming out of her nostrils, and fetid feces were dripping from her rectum.

Hospital staff learned that Mav had ingested approximately 600 sleep supplements. This led to her vet witnessing her first case of serotonin syndrome, a rare and life-threatening condition.

“This was my first case of serotonin syndrome in 25 years of practice,” Amy Stockton, DVM, explained in an organizational statement. “We started with injectable Keppra, which did absolutely nothing for him, so we gave him an extra dose.”

“Still shaking, he got my whole supply of methocarbamol IV. It didn’t help much, so we crushed some pills and gave [them] rectally. We then gave phenobarbital and crushed his dose of cyproheptadine and gave it rectally,” she continued.

Mav’s temperature when he arrived at the hospital was 105.5°F, which veterinary professionals brought down with cold fluids, and his blood pressure remained normal. Clinicians administered 3 doses of cyproheptadine 4 hours apart to manage serotonin syndrome. His pupils became less dilated and more sensitive to light by 4 hours, and by 8 hours he was conscious and responsive. Twelve hours into the ordeal, he was still weak but able to get out.

With the help of Pet Poison Helpline, Dr. Stockon and his team successfully treated Mav, who made a full recovery.


Probing Pooch treated for serotonin syndrome after eating 600 sleep supplements. Press release. Animals Poison Helpline. January 17, 2022.

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