Four years ago this week, my dog Connor was released from a Baltimore-area veterinary orthopedic and …

Four years ago this week, my dog Connor was released from a Baltimore-area veterinary orthopedic and sports medicine hospital after THREE failed TLPO surgeries and multiple significant infections, which created the beginning of Connor’s end. The reminders of this are coming up daily in my Facebook “Memories” feed, which is why I’m currently wrestling with taking action four years after the fact. Connor completely tore his CCL and the ortho surgeon sold me–HARD–on TPLO for him. This same practice and surgeon had successfully repaired a torn CCL for another of my dogs, Tessa, when she was five and a half years old. Connor was 13, and the surgeon was all but guaranteeing success, citing examples of 12-year-old Great Dane patients who regained great quality of life and movement. Connor fell off a ramp getting out of our car and three of the six screws broke after the first TPLO surgery. The surgeon did a second TPLO surgery, after which Connor went NOWHERE and did NOTHING, and the screws failed again. Plus, the second time, he developed an infection so bad I mistook the stench for a sewer problem I was having in my house. When the vet intern cut off his splint and dressing, what was inside was bright green and smelled horrendous. I’d been mistaking Connor’s crying and balking as stubborness, not recognizing he was in PAIN. The staff whisked Connor away to the back and kept him for more than a week. MONTHS later, one of the vet techs told me they weren’t sure he was going to make it that first weekend (our appointment was Saturday; while they were typically closed on Sunday, they had this staffer with him around-the-clock, doing regular debriding they didn’t tell me about). The third surgery involved an external fixator I was cleaning multiple times a day. When they found out I was doing this, I was yelled at and told to only clean it once a day. I followed the directions–and another significant infection developed. There were multiple instances of their applying splints in ways that hurt my dog, and I ultimately had to move him to another veterinary ortho practice because the surgeon who performed the surgery, the vet who owned the practice and finally the office manager (who had been the final person who would even respond to my calls and letters) stopped responding. Second and third opinions were that Connor developed a bone infection so severe he might not recover–because a fragment of screw had been left behind from one of the first two surgeries. He ruptured a disk in his back trying to manage the awkward splints the first ortho vet used. The second ortho vet did an MRI–discovering the TWO ruptured disks (one was several years old and had been misdiagnosed by the original vet ortho and sports medicine practice as a “congenital defect”). I went ahead with the spine surgery–within three hours in recovery, Connor pushed the baby-gated pen he was in around a corner. The second surgeon was amazed, and said to me, “Younger dogs who recover perfectly well from this surgery can’t even stand at this point–Connor is rearranging the furniture. I can’t imagine how much better he must feel right now to be doing that.” But the leg wasn’t healing due to the infection, and I finally conceded that, despite my best intentions to give him back his mobility and his life, the decision for TPLO actually made his last year of life miserable and then forced me to put him down. (And I can’t even tell you about the in-home “euthanasia” service–it was so horrible I still weep thinking about what happened there, more than three years later.) With this brief (really!) background, would it be unreasonable of me to file a complaint with the state veterinary licensing board? It’s only now that I realize THEY made mistake after mistake, didn’t fully advise me of the situation and options, and caused me to put my dog through pain and misery that wasn’t going to help him improve. I’ve been really fired up about this complaint this week, but then I read your blog about euthanasia and how clients can be unreasonably cruel, and I need to know if you think there would be anything gained from the practice having to answer for their decisions (which include blaming me and refusing to talk to me or treat my dog until I fully paid them ongoing bills that were supposed to have been covered under the “guarantee” they provided in writing.) I really appreciate your taking the time to read this long post and offer your advice.

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Krista Magnifico
2 years ago

Hello, I am so sorry for you and your dog. I’m sorry that you both had to go through this and I’m also sorry that they made a terrible situation worse. My blog wasn’t intended to be about cruelty, although yes I do mention it happens, but tether my difficultly in knowing what’s best and how to serve my patients first and foremost. I don’t know what kind of advice to give you. I will tell you that we created the storylines section (the tab for it is above) so that anyone and everyone can share their pets experiences so… Read more »