Dog burned during routine teeth cleaning

Author: Lindsey Sablan
Published: Updated:

FORT MYERS, Fla. – A pet owner said Gulf Coast Humane Society burned her dog, after they used a rice sock during a procedure.

Deborah Benfield took her 6-year-old chihuahua, Marco, to Gulf Coast Humane Society in August for a routine teeth cleaning. Benfield said when she picked Marco up later that day, she was told he had been burned.

“It’s explained that during surgery under anesthesia the body temperature lowers. To prevent them from being cold, they use this sock. It’s microwaved for a few minutes, and then placed on the animal,” Benfield explained. “It was never checked to see how he’s doing, it was left on him for 15 minutes.”

Benfield said over three weeks, she took Marco back to GCHS four times. During one visit, they gave her Silver Sulfadiazine Cream, which is commonly used to treat burns. However, the burn was progressively getting worse and had open wounds, and Benfield was fed up.

“He’s burnt really bad. It’s very upsetting that I have to do this [apply cream] four times a day for him and he cries.”

At one point, Benfield asked GCHS to pay for Marco to see a specialist, but she said they refused. On day 23, Benfield contacted WINK News Call for Action. Reporter Lindsey Sablan contacted the executive director at Gulf Coast Humane Society, Jennifer Galloway. During a phone conversation, Galloway told WINK News they believed Marco had Cushing’s disease and would need to have blood work done.

Benfield did not believe that was the case, and she wanted a second opinion. She took Marco to another veterinarian, not associated with GCHS. The veterinarian told Benfield Marco needed to have the burned skin removed immediately, so it could heal. He also noted, Marco did not appear to have Cushing’s disease.

Immediately after that consultation, WINK News contacted Ms. Galloway again, and once again asked if GCHS would pay for Marco to see a specialist. An hour later, Galloway responded in an email:

“We would be happy to have Marco go to a local specialist-Specialist in Veterinary Medicine (SVS). We will cover the cost of the consult. Our concern is for Marco first and foremost.”

The following day, Marco was admitted at SVS. The veterinarian told his owner he would have to remove the damaged skin and close the incision. A day later, Marco was released, and his surgery was a success.

At that point, WINK News contacted GCHS to ensure they planned to cover the cost of the entire $1,969.20 surgery. Galloway responded in another email stating:

“Of course GCHS will cover the cost and work with SVS to be sure Marco is fully recovered. The use of rice socks is very common in the veterinary world to keep pets warm during procedures, in all my years I have never seen a pet burned by one and we are all sick about it. I wish I had understood from the beginning what happened…[The veterinarian at SVS] gave me suggestions of other warmers to use in the future to ensure this never happens again.”

WINK News sent a follow-up email to GCHS asking why they had told us Marco needed further blood work to determine he had Cushing’s disease, when they had already admitted to Benfield that Marco was burned. Galloway’s response is below.

“We did have the first vet believe it was not a burn as I explained above. I read you his notes. The second set of notes I could barely read…When I questioned [the vet] later she indicated the comment read he ‘might have had an underlying condition, such as Cushing’s that could lead to heat sensitiveness [sic].’ That is where she recommended follow up blood work.”

The email continued:

“We take the situation with Marco extremely seriously, we have had meetings, done research and reviewed training to be sure this never happens again.”

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