Snuggles the mouse was comatose after accidentally eating heroin but now she's back on her tiny feet, thanks to some innovative treatment by Vancouver overdose prevention workers.
Working at the Maple Overdose Prevention Site in Vancouver's gritty Downtown Eastside neighborhood, Melissa Patton had thought she'd seen it all... and maybe now she has, thanks to a pet mouse named Snuggles. The cute black & white rodent was brought to MOPS by an area woman, seemingly comatose after eating some heroin residue left on a tabletop.
“It had pretty much passed out and wasn't really breathing," explained Patton to Karin Larsen of CBC News. “We weren't sure what to do, so I gave it some Narcan orally. Because it was so tiny, I didn't want to puncture anything by giving it an injection.”
Narcan (also known as naloxone) reverses the effects of opioid drugs but as there are no standardized protocols for treating a mouse, Patton was forced to wing it. “I just put drops on its nose,” stated Patton, who is a year away from earning her degree in pharmaceutical sciences. “I know with animals, if you put it on their nose, they brush it off with their paws and lick their paws to clean themselves, so we did that a few times.”
Snuggles' treatment also included oxygen to help her breathe and some good old-fashioned TLC. “With babies, when they're struggling, skin-to-skin contact is really important so I had it up on my neck for most of the night and for most of my shift and then I brought it home.” During the night, Patton fed diluted protein powder to Snuggles using a syringe. By the time morning rolled around, Snuggles appeared much more perky and well on the way to recovery.
The news keeps getting better for Snuggles: Patton has adopted Snuggles (temporarily, at least) while her owner seeks help for her own addiction issues. “She told me she was going into detox today and asked if I'd be willing to take it on,” said Patton. “How could I not?”
As odd as Snuggles' case may be, safe injection site workers like Patton do come across instances where pets have accidentally overdosed on their owners' drugs. “When drugs and paraphernalia are about, there's a risk of children and pets getting into them,” confirms Patton. “A lot of people don't think about that. The idea is that you can use Narcan in so many different situations. The fact that this user thought to bring (the mouse) to the safe injection site – that's what we're in the business of.” (images via Macleans, FOX25Boston, and CBC News British Columbia)