OAKLEY -- At least two cases of suspected dog poisoning in Oakley have prompted a flurry of activity on social media accounts.
Over the past two weeks, as of Feb. 14, two people in the Vintage Parkway area have posted reports on Facebook that their dogs suddenly fell ill, exhibiting symptoms that could result from ingesting a toxic substance.
Fetzer Lane resident Kelly Van Norsdall raised the first alarm Feb. 5 after one of her three dogs didn't respond when she called them inside from the back yard.
Usually it's her 7-month-old Yorkshire terrier that's first to appear at the door yapping away, Van Norsdall said, but that evening the puppy was a no-show.
Her daughter found the dog in the yard behaving like "a really bad drunk," she said, noting that it was unsteady on its feet, couldn't hold its head up and was having trouble breathing.
She headed straight to an emergency clinic where a veterinarian thought the Yorkie's behavior was consistent with poisoning and induced vomiting as well as administered a form of charcoal to reduce the level of chemicals absorbed by the dog's digestive system, Van Norsdall said.
Two days later, Chandon Court resident Erin Piña also rushed her dog to an animal hospital after her 2-year-old English bulldog developed diarrhea, lost her appetite, and began wobbling as she walked.
The veterinarian concluded that the symptoms suggested a reaction to some poison, the same opinion that Piña says a second veterinarian also had.
While she awaits the results of a toxicology report, her bulldog remains on four medications.
Pet owners always should report a suspected poisoning, said Lt. Jane Andreotti of the Contra Costa County Animal Services Department.
Such cases are relatively rare -- she estimates that her agency gets a handful in the course of a year.
"We want to be involved in what crimes we need to be involved in," Andreotti said, noting that state law requires the agency to investigate every case where the inhumane treatment of an animal is suspected even if the reporting party isn't pointing fingers.
Although a veterinarian can determine conclusively whether a pet has ingested poison, an animal services officer also will try to gather evidence of wrongdoing by speaking to the owner, neighbors and anyone else who might have seen or heard something, Andreotti said.
She noted that even if an officer finds that someone did talk about poisoning a neighbor's pet that doesn't mean he or she actually acted on the threat.
Authorities also might search properties for common poisons such as antifreeze or rat and snail bait, but finding them doesn't mean the case is closed, Andreotti said.
A poisoning could be accidental and even if it isn't, "it's very hard to prove (a crime has been committed) because a lot of these things are poisons are typically kept in any home," she said. "You can show (poisoning) occurred but you can't necessarily show who's responsible."
Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.