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Pet Emergency Abroad: What We Did Right and What We Did Wrong

We were at the end of a great three week trip to Guatemala. Getting there had gone smoothly, the dogs had been on some amazing adventures, and we were having loads of fun.

Three days before our return home, the unthinkable happened. Both dogs got into our vitamins, a mixture of Fish Oil capsules and Vitamin D pills. We discovered it rather quickly, but it was too late – they had downed all but two pills. There was no telling who ate what, or how many of each, just that 15-20 pills were gone and both dogs looked guilty.

Fish Oil is not too bad for dogs (it can cause the runs and some foul burps), but Vitamin D can be toxic. It was a pet emergency! We rushed them to the vet and they spent the night.

All was ok in the end, but it was definitely a learning experience and a preventable accident. Here’s a breakdown of what we did right, and what we definitely did wrong.

Guilty dogs at the vet.


We Had a List of Local Vets: 

Before arriving to Guatemala, we made a list of the top rated local vets in the neighborhood we were staying in. The list included names, addresses, hours, and contact information.

This is a list we hoped we wouldn’t need, but we were so happy to have in an emergency. It was time-saving and reassuring, and helped us stay calm. There was no need to look up a good vet; we knew exactly where one was, and had even dropped by a few days earlier to check them out when walking by. It saved us from fumbling through our phones and searching for places, and thus a lot of time and stress. Phew!

We Moved Fast and Stayed Calm: 

Dogs can read your energy. If you panic, they’ll panic.

We were nervous, but we made sure to stay calm throughout the ordeal. We also moved fast, with each person grabbing a dog and heading to the vet immediately.

We were able to reassure our dogs, and keep the stress to a minimum for everyone.

We Could Communicate: 

When the incident occurred, only one of us was home. I panicked, and immediately called Sam. He rushed home, and we handled the emergency together.

Although we were abroad, we each bought a local sim card and kept credit on our phones. It’s an easy way to stay in touch, no matter where you are. You never know what calls you’ll have to make, or information you’ll have to look up in an emergency.

Resting post vet visit.


Never Leave Edibles in Easy to Break Containers: 

Our vitamins were kept in a zip lock bag that was super easy for our dogs to rip open. This was a huge mistake. All edible items, especially harmful ones, should be kept in child proof containers. 

One Minute Makes a Difference: 

Our ziplock bag of vitamins was left on the dining room table, where we’d unpacked our bags after a mini getaway. The dogs had access to the table by jumping on chairs and nearby furniture, but I was only planning to be out of the room for five minutes or so.

I left the room to use the bathroom, figuring that the unpacking could wait a few minutes and nothing would happen.

I was wrong.

Every minute counts with dogs.

Next time, I’ll make sure important things are out of reach before leaving the room, even if only for a minute or two.

Have Hydrogen Peroxide on Hand: 

If your pet ingests something toxic, like certain chemicals or food, they’ll have to throw up right away. Call your vet, and see if you should administer hydrogen peroxide at home to induce vomiting. 

The rule of thumb is to give 1 teaspoon (5 ml) for every 10 pounds of body weight. This can be repeated once if your dog doesn’t vomit within 15 minutes.

Had I had some hydrogen peroxide on hand while traveling, it could have saved me a trip to the vet.

A small bottle of hydrogen peroxide takes up very little space in a toiletry kit and can be a real lifesaver.

Two dogs in front of La Merced Church in Guatemala.
Happier times.


Learn a bit of the local language and have access to a translator: 

We were lucky that I speak Spanish, which helped the situation immensely since I could communicate with the vet and his staff.

If you’re in a country where you don’t know the language, always learn a few helpful phrases beforehand. It’s not only helpful, but polite.

Be sure to look up vets who speak your language. Have a list of them available.

Keep a small dictionary on you or a translator on your phone for emergency situations.

Not being able to communicate is frustrating and when in an emergency, you’ll want to be as clear as possible. 

We’ve learned many lessons while on the road! Click here to learn from others who have traveled with their pets. 

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On a trip abroad, we experienced a pet emergency when our two dogs swallowed some harmful vitamins. Here’s a breakdown of what we did right, and what we definitely did wrong.

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  1. Oh wow, so glad the dogs are okay. And thank you for sharing your experience, this will help others.

  2. I’m not sure that my comment posted so sending again. This is great info for anyone to be prepared. So glad your dogs are fine!

  3. 17 countries under our belt and yet to have a trip to the vet … but always ready to do so. SO glad you had the list!! It’s my #1 tip for emergencies. If language might be a problem I have found I can locate a vet that speaks one of the 3 languages I speak in advance. I’ve been known to email them and let them know when we would be in the area to establish a rapport in advance should it be needed. One vet invited us to dinner!! Glad everyone is ok!

    1. 17 countries! Amazing! So true about the language, luckily I speak fluent Spanish, and English is common. The vet was so nice, and we’re lucky the emergency was only a fraction of the cost it would have been in NYC haha. Our two aspire to be as well traveled as Monte Cristo! Thanks for reading.

  4. What a scary experience, yet also a learning/teaching experience. Having the local vet info on hand was so smart! I’m glad all turned out okay.

  5. I can’t even imagine the panic! It’s hard enough when you are home but to be in another country. Wow. Thank goodness you were so well prepared. I always keep hydrogen peroxide in my kitchen after a chocolate stealing incident a few years ago. Great advice!

    1. Yes it was definitely a bad situation, but at least we learned something! Good idea with the hydrogen peroxide – we have some at home but have never traveled with it. Now we will!

  6. I’m glad everythin’ worked out and everyone was okay. You must have been so very scared when you realized your babies had gotten into those vitamins. Peep #1 can’t imagine bein’ in that situation in a foreign country. It’s hard enough when bad things happen at home! purrs

    1. So true! I was super scared. I’m glad everything worked out and fingers crossed for that being the first and last time!

  7. Good advice. I always tell myself I should look up Vets in advance of a trip but rarely do. Too dependent on Google, maybe.

  8. Oh wow, that would have to be so scary; having such an emergency in a foreign country. Glad all worked out well.

  9. Great advice and THANK YOU for admitting your mistake. We can LEARN from the mistakes of each other and no one is perfect even when we do our best.

    1. No problem! It was a bad situation, but lesson learned! Happy to pass it on so others can avoid this situation with their furbabies.

      1. Indeed and I am so glad you could communicate! I could never travel anywhere without knowing the language. That would be scary even without pets! So glad your babies were okay!

  10. Fantastic tips thanks for sharing. Good to remember what to do when travelling with your pet to keep them safe and yes I agree doing homework beforehand does make it easier,

  11. Wow, great thinking and reactions. I had to use hydrogen peroxide on my Buffy a few weeks ago when I accidentlly gave her too much of a pain medication. It is a lifesaver. She barfed in a few minutes and it saved a lot of time going to the vet in the middle of the night. I’m glad you knew some of the local language. I’ve had language issues when I have gone to Germany. There’s only so much you can do with pointing and gestering.

  12. So glad everything worked out…we never know when our dogs will become opportunists behind our back…cute little rascals, aren’t they…lol

  13. I’m glad everyone is OK! I’ll have to add some hydrogen peroxide to Mr. N’s first aid kit just in case.

  14. It only takes a second of not supervizing the pet and they can get themselves into a big trouble. Glad everything worked out fine!

  15. OH, my gosh, we have a pug too! Did your dogs stay up in the cabin? Morty, is 27 pounds, so I am worried about our move to Ecuador this year.
    Such a great blog!

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