Bella – Veterinary Malpractice Victim Number…

Veterinary Malpractice Victim - 3 month old Bella (Old English Bulldog)

Meet Bella – an Old English Bulldog puppy whose life was cut tragically short due to veterinary malpractice. As Jacksonville pet sitters, you can imagine the horror stories we hear.

We have also been victims of veterinary malpractice ourselves, so this story hit particularly close to home. This tragic tale was shared by a friend of mine, Nikki…I warn you, it’s a tear-jerker!

How The Day Began

Bella was in need of a normal, preventative visit to the vet for shots. Nikki & Ben, took her to a local veterinary clinic here in Jacksonville.  The clinic (on the southside of Jacksonville inside PetSmart) was not their first choice, but the location was very convenient and they assumed that simple shots could be administered by any veterinary professional without jeopardizing Bella’s health or well-being, not to mention her life. Had they been able to foresee what was to come, they’d have waited for the next available appointment with their regular vet.

Bella received a total of five shots during her visit, which seemed excessive to both Nikki & Ben. With no reason to believe otherwise, they trusted the judgment of the supposed professional and assumed he understood the potential negative impact of giving such a young, notoriously sensitive breed puppy so many shots as once.

Later That Afternoon

Upon returning home from the clinic, Bella started playing with, Geisha – her American Bulldog best friend and playmate. Bella and Geisha had NEVER shown any aggression toward one another – ever. In fact, Geisha is notoriously mild-mannered – not even fighting back when being aggressively pursued and engaged by another dog (as happened with an aggressive Akita in the neighborhood some time ago).

That said, Geisha bit Bella’s face while they were playing, causing a one inch gash on her lip that was large enough to cause concern. It didn’t bleed much, but you could see a tiny bit of pink flesh peeking through. Nikki’s first inclination was to simply care for the wound at home, but thought a call to the vet was probably the “better safe than sorry” approach to the injury. After an immediate emergency call to their regular vet and also to the clinic where Bella’s shots were administered, Nikki & Ben decided it might be best for Bella to have it checked out by a professional.

Now What Should We Do?

As it was a Sunday afternoon and this certainly wasn’t a life-threatening injury that warranted an emergency visit to their normal vet, they elected to take Bella back to the clinic that administered her shots to have the cut checked out, as suggested. While the cut was fairly minor, there was some concern of infection…and what harm could come from having it checked? Right? Had they known then what they know now, they’d have cleaned the injury with saline, applied some antiseptic and super glued it closed at home. No one could have foreseen what would happen in the coming hours.

Upon their return to the clinic, Nikki made it very clear what she felt Bella’s best treatment option was – to glue the injury. The vet disagreed adamantly and aggressively insisted that Bella be placed under general anesthetic to have the cut stitched. His aggressive insistence upon placing Bella under general anesthetic finally led them to state that not only did they not agree with his “treatment plan”, but that they could not afford such an expense – hoping that would be enough for him to back off on the idea.

When Pet Parents Know More Than The Vet

Both Nikki & Ben are experienced bulldog owners – very aware of the potential risks of general anesthesia. Due to Bella’s notoriously sensitive breed, young age and the fact that she’d had five shots just hours before, they demanded other options. After Nikki & Ben absolutely refused to have Bella put under general anesthetic, the discussion continued as to how to treat the wound. Much discussion and an absolute refusal of the initial plan to place Bella under general anesthetic later, they all came to an agreement – Bella would be given a mild sedative via injection, as well as a local anesthetic and the cut would be stitched. There was absolutely no mention of shaving Bella’s leg or introducing an IV. None.

About 20 minutes after their departure, Nikki received a call from a female technician at the clinic informing her that Bella had passed away. Beside herself, she dropped the phone. Ben immediately picked up the phone asking how stitching up a one inch cut using a local anesthetic turns into a phone call that your precious puppy is no longer alive. The clinic had very few answers. Of course, they rushed back to the clinic to find out exactly what happened. They were utterly shocked to find evidence of an IV…since Bella’s leg had been shaved, there was no way to miss it. Neither Nikki nor Ben ever consented to Bella having an IV and that was never discussed as a part final, agreed upon treatment plan.

They Were Simple Instructions – No IV Anesthetic

The vet explained that the IV was used to administer the “sedative” they had discussed. As it turns out, the vet appears to have absolutely disregarded both Nikki’s & Ben’s wishes, opting to put Bella under general anesthetic without their consent. When they realized Bella was given general anesthetic via IV (contrary to their wishes and the agreed upon treatment plan), they naturally asked why she wasn’t intubated. At that point the vet became more defensive – stating that they had refused intubation initially. Funny…they refused general anesthetic, too…and that then begs the question: “Why was my dog placed under general anesthetic in the first place – as that is CLEARLY something we were adamantly against from the outset…”.

Upon further investigation into the negligence and veterinary malpractice that clearly resulted in Bella’s death, Nikki & Ben discovered that three of the five shots administered to Bella during her first visit to the clinic that day were actually shots she had already received. Documentation of all of her shots and vaccinations was provided to the staff at the clinic before any shots were given, as to prevent Bella from receiving unnecessary vaccinations. Again, Nikki & Ben are clearly aware of the precautions owners of sensitive breed dogs should take in order to prevent any harm from coming to them. This clinic – not so much, apparently.

Willful Neglect, At Best

While administering duplicate shots and/or vaccinations alone doesn’t constitute malicious intent, when combined with what transpired later that day, it is clear evidence that this clinic’s primary function is to generate incoming revenue – NOT to provide professional, quality and uncompromising care with the animal’s health, well-being and safety in mind. There is absolutely no question that the actions of this vet were motivated by greed. He willingly and purposely put Bella in grave danger and her death was ultimately caused by his blatant negligence. Anyone who questions that is absolutely naive and/or far more willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt than I.

I mentioned earlier that Nikki & Ben finally resorted to claiming they could not afford to have Bella put under general anesthetic, and while that claim was untrue and simply an attempt to remove that treatment option from the table, after Bella’s death the clinic’s office manager (with the clinic’s vet sitting just to her side) had this to say, “Well, it sounds like we did you a favor…you said you couldn’t afford her anyway.”

I thought I’d never hear a veterinary malpractice horror story that rivaled what we experienced a few years ago. I WAS WRONG! This is the single most ridiculous, outrageous, asinine and blatant case of veterinary malpractice and negligence I have personally come across. There is no question this vet should be considered unfit to practice veterinary medicine. I only hope that his greed and blatant negligence doesn’t cost any other precious animals their lives.

Don’t Let This Happen To Your Dog!

If nothing else, I hope reading this gives you the strength to walk out of a vet’s office without treatment should the need arise. Nikki & Ben did EXACTLY what they should have done – making their feelings known and refusing (or so they thought) to allow Bella to be placed under general anesthetic. They had no way of knowing that their wishes would be completely disregarded and that their greatest fears would soon be realized.

The bottom line is this: if your intuition is telling you “something isn’t right here…”, then SOMETHING ISN’T RIGHT! If there ever comes a time when you disagree with a vet’s proposed treatment plan or don’t like the manner in which he/she answers your questions, you are well within your right to walk out. Period. You wouldn’t let a pediatrician bully you into putting your child under general anesthetic to stitch a small cut (at least I HOPE YOU WOULDN’T)…and you shouldn’t be willing to let a vet do it either!

This article was written by Alysson Fergison of Welcome Home Pet Sitting Jacksonville, FL — please feel free to share this story with others by bookmarking it and submitting it to various social media outlets by using the “bookmark” link from Social Marker below!
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  1. Thank you for bringing attention to this very serious, very real problem. Bella’s Story is heartbreaking. For another devastating account, read Suki’s Story at my website,
    Suki was my beautiful seal point Siamese, almost 20 years old, when this happened to her.

  2. One more thing – you are absolutely on target when you recommend listening to your intuition regarding a vet. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t hesitate to walk out and/or get a second opinion. I wrote an article entitled “Going to the Vet? Ten Ways to Protect Your Best Friend.” I hope it will save even ONE animal from going through what so many vet victims do.
    Thank you, and keep up the good work. You have a beautiful site.

  3. I wish I had done the exact same thing—“walk out” and never return. But aren’t you supposed to be able to trust an educated and licensed professional? I think you are. Sadly, you or your pet’s care may not be in their interest at all. My Scottie “Pocket” was victimized by two clinics, and several Vets—visit or search “Pocket’s Story from New Hampshire”

    Thank you for the courage to speak out and raise public awareness

  4. Correction to the URL for the “…Ten Ways to Protect Your Best Friend” story in the second comment from “VetVictim” above:

    Thanks for the update!

  5. What a horrible tradgedy! I would like to point out that general anesthetic can ONLY be given as an inhalant. General anesthesia requires intubation (tube placed in the windpipe) and connection to a gas anesthetic system. “Sedatives” are not a safer alternative! A sedative can be any number of different things and can be given orally, intramuscularly, or intravenously. There really is no such thing as a completely safe sedative. I have no idea what was done in this case and whether it was handled appropriately or not, but saying the dog was given general anesthetic because it had an IV is not correct.

  6. I’m beginning to think there are no good vets left. After the vet I’d gone to for nearly 20 years nearly killed my dog, I started shopping for a new one. I thought i’d found a good one. He gets great reviews, is very personable, and seemed to know what he was doing. A month and a half ago, two of my dogs picked up a bug at the park and developed a clostrial overgrowth. The other two did not develop the same problem. Since I typically walk the two that got this together, the vet I first saw (there are 3 at this clinic) said they must have eaten something that caused it. The older of the two dogs is almost 12. He was diagnosed with IBD when he was 4 years old and has been on a special diet since that time. I reminded the vet that he has a sensitive stomach, but as I learned later, she simply followed the standard protocol for the administration of antibiotics (metronidizole). The drug upset the stomachs of both of them, but especially the older boy. Both refused to eat, so I fixed boiled hamburger and rice and they ate that. But the older boy soon stopped eating that as well. Because of his sensitive stomach, I wasn’t about to give him antibiotics on an empty stomach. So administration of the drug was spotty. When he refused to eat for several days, I called the clinic and asked if they could give him something to settle his stomach. They told me he was “just being picky” and it was my fault because I had cooked the hamburger and rice so now he was “playing me” to see how far he could push it. They also said I had spoiled him. After another day went back without him eating, I took him back to the clinic and demanded that they give him something to help his stomach, remindiing them once again of the IBD. They changed his antibiotic to amoxicillin. That worked okay for a couple of days, and then the same thing again. He stopped eating. So back to the vet’s we went. This time, the vet gave him clindimycin and said that it was “gentler” on the stomach. He had even more trouble tolerating that. When I took him back to the clinic yet again, the other woman vet saw us and told me that the clindimycin was actually much harsher on the stomach. She gave him a B12 shot that also had a painkiller and a dose of penicillin it. She drew blood and sent it out. The next morning, she called me and said that my dog’s white blood cell count was a little elevated, so she wanted to start him again on amoxicillin and give him Baytril once a day with it for the pain. I only got the combo down him at the same time once. Even after taking all precautions, giving him a Pepcid AC, making sure he had a full tummy before administering the pills, by the next morning, he was miserable again. That night, when I got home from work, he was lying by the door coming in from the garage, obviously in distress and waiting for me. He wanted to go out immediately even though he had pooped in the hall behind him. He was quivering and when I took him out, he stopped all of a sudden and started retching. Nothing came up, but it was obvious he was really in bad shape. At that, I decided to take him to the ER since it was after hours. After looking at him, the first thing the attending vet said to me was that we were “dangerously close to cultivating an antibiotic resistent bug” with all of these antibiotics being administered in such a short time period. I had expressed concerns about that exact thing to my regular vet a couple of weeks before and they had just laughed at me. The ER kept him overnight on a drip that had a lower dose of amoxicillin in it along with a drug to help his stomach. He still wouldn’t eat though. The next morning, they told me to take him to my regular vet. That’s when things really started getting dicey. First, for the things he did right. (Remember, he hadn’t treated my dog through all of this — his associates had.) Rather the “thing” he did right — and that was to give my dog prednesone, which helped his inflammed stomach and stimulated his appetite. Now for the things he did wrong: First, he told me on the phone that he agreed with the overnight ER vet that we should stop all antibiotics. After he had been hospitalized at my vet’s, I called in the afternoon to see how he was doing. They told me that he still wasn’t eating so they gave him amoxicilin. I went ballistic, but the regular vet convinced me that he did it for good reason — he just hadn’t thought to tell me. Then he let it slip that he was angry about the ER vets telling me that using all of those different antibiotics was a bad thing and that’s when he started on his defensive mode. He told me that despite the other dog having exaclty the same symptoms bring both of them to the clinic, despite finding a high level of clostridia in his stool, this vet now said that he didn’t think my dog’s problem was a clostridial overgrown at all, but rather, that he had cancer. To support his thoughts, he cited the cancer that had found in this dog’s spleen the year before when he’d had surgery to remove part of his thyroid due to a cyst in it. I reminded him that was a B-cell lymphoma that had been caught in the early stages and the oncologist had said that he was cured and that this type of cancer was not likely to have spread, especially since they’d found it so early. He didn’t listen. Then he started getting more creative, saying that I’d been bringing this dog into his clinic every few weeks with diarrhea (the last time Kop had this problem was when he was 3 years old and there had been an extreme cold snap. The vets up there were filled with dogs with clostridial overgrowths at that time. They called it weather stress.) He also said that Kop vomiting so much made him suspicious (Kop retched but did not vomit and I can’t even remember when he last vomited, but I know that it hasn’t been for many, many years.) Talking to him had no effect. He had made up his mind. What he didn’t tell me at the time was that he had already contacted a vet with a mobile sonogram machine to come to his clinic the next day and do a sonogram of his abdomen, plus that he planned to go a series of x-rays. I found out about all of that when I went to pick up my dog that afternoon. The vet told me that he and the other vet had looked everywhere and couldn’t find any masses. They did see, however, that his stomach lining was thickened, indicating inflammation (which obviously is the reason his white blood cell count had risen 10000 to 30000). Obviously the strong dose of amoxicillin combined with the Baytril (which I’ve had problems with before) were too much for his already stressed stomach. I told this vet that it was worth the price of the sonogram for them to see how those antibiotics were affecting his stomach and would you believe–he STILL refuses to accept responsibility for putting my dog and me through hell. Instead, he wants to create more. When I said that about them seeing how inflammed the antibiotics were making his stomach,he said that he still thought Kop had cancer. I reminded him that neither he nor the other vet saw any masses. To that, he said it must be an intestinal cancer and that he had to be honest with me and tell me the prognosis isn’t good. He said that in a week or two, after Kop had recovered from this harrowing experience, I was to take him to a specialist for an endoscopy and a colonoscopy, and then, because those procedures had limited views, he was going to open my dog up surgically and go on a hunt for the tumor(s) he “knows” are there. Meanwhile, other than the upset tummy from the antibiotics on an IBD tummy, my dog has not been losing weight, isn’t having any problems defecating, there’s no blood in his urine, he’s not in pain. In short, he shows no signs of having intestinal or any other kind of cancer and the vet’s reasons for “suspecting” cancer are all completely inaccurate. I decided not to argue with him, though, because I know this vet doesn’t have a good system for following up on things. So I figured I’d bring my dog home and he’d forget all about this nonsense by the time I had to take my dog to see him again. No such luck. He called me on Monday to see how my dog was doing. When I told him fine, he reminded me that he wanted to have the endoscopy/colonscopy done asap and then follow it up with the surgery. After I got off the phone, I called the oncologist who checked him out when he had his spleen removed for that small mass there. I originally wanted to verify that I had understood her correctly and made an appointment to see her next Monday. I asked if they wanted me to bring his records and they said not to worry about it, that they would call my vet and have him send over my dog’s records. They called his office and asked for the records yesterday (Tuesday). Last night, after the cliniic was closed, this vet called me. I missed the call because I was at the park with my dogs, but he had no reason to call me — unless it was to get on my case for making an appointment with the oncologist. I think this guy is on a crusade now because his clinic made some pretty bad mistakes with my dog and insulted me by saying it was my fault for spoiling him so that he wouldn’t take his meds. I think that when I took my dog to the ER and the vets there saw the smorgasboard of drugs his associates had been throwing at my dog over the past month, I think it embarrassed him and caught him with his pants down, so now, he’s determined to find some reason other than their malpratice for my dog’s pain and condition. I get the feeling that it’s all about ego with him and though I never noticed him having an ego problem before, the thought has crossed my mind that he could be a classic narcissist (I was married to one — they read people and make themselves very appealing to them while all the while, they are seething inside.) Frankly, he’s scaring me and there’s no way I would let him put my dog under nor would I ever leave my dog unsupervised in his care. If I were to go to him again, which I won’t be doing, I wouldn’t even let him take any of my dogs into the back room to treat them while leaving me in the exam room. I think this one is not only incompetent, but crazy as well.

  7. Jaquie Joseph says


    The AHVMA has a list of holistic veterinarians that are using safer alternatives for our pets. These vets have certification beyond regular vet school.

    Think about what it does to an animal to undergo surgery and harsh medications. They have no idea why they are being tortured. Please consider saying No for their sake and try some natural remedies.

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