Oct 2, 2015
"I will make a complaint," the dog owner threatened when I said I would not pay for the bills of another vet (Vet 2) who had hospitalised and treated her dog for paraplegia on Sep 30.
On Sep 30, 2015, at around 11 am, I had given a subcutaneous injection of antibiotic and anti-inflammatory above the neck area as the dog had multiple skin lumps. The owner attributed the lumps to a new shampoo. The dog had painful ears and I prescribed an ear ointment to be given at home. The dog was normal on leaving the clinic and at home.
In the afternoon, the owner phoned me to say that her dog was lame in the left hind leg. I advised her to wait and see as she had no time to bring the dog in for an examination. In the evening, the dog was lame in the right hind leg. She phoned and said that it must be my injection hitting a nerve, hence causing the dog to be paralysed. "I don't trust you," she declined my advice to bring the dog for an examination.
I referred to Vet 2. She phoned me again to say that Vet 2 would charge for after-office hours. Then she suggested that I examine the dog. I did not retort that she had shouted that she did not trust me. Now she asked me to examine the dog.
I went to the clinic to examine the dog at 9.30 pm with Dr Daniel. The dog was paralysed in the hind limbs. I palpated the spinal area. There was a pain reaction on the T10-L4 area. The husband could see the reaction. The dog's hind legs had no placing and pain reflexes.
"There must be a traumatic injury to the back," I said. "Some heavy objects had fallen on her back or she had fallen down injuring her back."
The husband recalled that the dog had struggled vigorously when ear drops were applied onto the ears.
"Was the dog on the floor when you applied the ear drops?" I asked.
"Yes," the husband demonstrated how he held the dog around the back of the rib cage area with his hands to apply the ear drops.
He accepted the referral to Vet 2 who took X rays and warded the dog overnight with a drip.
The dog tried to stand on her left hind leg the next day but not on the right hind leg.
The owner then phoned me demanding that I pay for Vet 2's fees. When I said no, as my injection was not the cause of this hind limb lameness, she threatened me legally. She said that the dog was normal before my injection and wanted to show me proof.
"No need to show me the pictures," I replied. "Your dog was normal at the clinic and when leaving the clinic walking to your car. She was normal at home till the late afternoon."
As the owner was insistent that I was the cause of the dog's lameness, it was best for me to shout up and not provoke further anger. I had not given any injections in the hind limbs. The dog had pain in the back spinal area. Vet 2's X-rays did not show any slipped disc and he had told the owners that my injections are commonly given by vets without any injection causing paraplegia.
When an owner said "I don't trust you", I should have asked her to seek a second opinion. I did not charge for the after-hours evening examination when she did not want to consult Vet 2 so as not to pay Vet 2's fees. Now, she threatened to make a complaint. This is one of the sad cases all vets must handle with empathy with the interest of the dog in mind.