Atlanta

A pet owner’s warning after experiencing dog’s horrific death at home following surgery

ATLANTA — A family is demanding answers after a routine pet surgery ended with a horrific death.

The veterinarian is part of a major national pet store chain that is now in the vet business.

Petco is one of the many big names that have moved in to provide veterinary services. It’s a name the owners of Bella trusted to treat their dog.

“My wife and I are supposed to be going through therapy because this was a lot on us,” said Yanous Willis, who got emotional talking about Bella.

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The sutures from the 3-year-old dog gave way and her intestines spilled out of her body.

“All of a sudden, my wife screaming and howling on the phone. I said ‘My dog’s intestines (are) everywhere.’ My kids had to sit there and watch, watch my dog suffer,” Willis said.

According to Bella’s medical records, she was suffering from pyometra, an infection of the uterus that required the dog to be spayed to save its life.

The first quote Willis received was for $7,000. Petco and their in-house Vetco department charged only $1,500 for the surgery.

“I trusted Petco,” Willis said.

Petco is one of several big businesses now in the vet business, along with Walmart and even the Mars Corporation, the candy people.

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Dr. Judy Morgan was a practicing veterinarian for nearly 40 years who now writes and speaks about keeping pets healthy.

“It’s sort of like when pharmacies went to big chains. We don’t have that connection. We don’t have that one-on-one where you’re part of the family anymore. And I think that’s a huge loss for the pet owner,” Morgan said.

Willis’ wife is a nurse who noticed the sutures did not look right. The staples were coming loose so they took the dog back and Petco charged them another $500 to fix the wound.

It was after the dog was back home from that procedure the tragic injury occurred.

“They say you got 5 minutes to decide what you’re going to do. And that was the hardest decision I ever had to make,” Willis said.

“I would say for it to progress to that point where especially after the second visit where things are falling out of the dog, something was done wrong,” Morgan said.

Morgan told Channel 2 Action News that the dog should have had three layers of sutures.

She looked at Bella’s medical records and said while pyometra surgeries are more complicated than a traditional spay, they have a 98% survival rate.

“I’m a general practitioner. I practiced for 36 years, and I did hundreds of these pyometra surgeries, never had a problem, never had an animal die,” Morgan said.

Petco sent Channel 2 Action News a statement:

“At Petco, the health and wellness of animals is always our top priority, and we take pride in our high standards for animal care and safety. After a thorough review of Bella’s case, we’re confident our veterinary team responded appropriately to her pyometra — a serious and life-threatening uterine infection common in adult female dogs that have not been spayed — and performed their best effort to relieve and resolve an emergent infection, including providing post-surgery care instructions. All of us at Petco are heartbroken by Bella’s untimely passing and, as pet parents ourselves, we understand nothing can make up for the loss of a beloved pet. In an effort to help, we’re offering to cover all of Bella’s veterinary expenses. Our thoughts are with her family during this very difficult time.”

“We got Bella during the pandemic and a lot of anxiety and pain was going on from the pandemic. And she brought joy and love to the whole family,” Willis said. “I just felt like they were just in it for money. They just didn’t care. And they all had looks on their face like it’s just another day on the job.”

Channel 2 consumer investigator Justin Gray checked the license of the vet who performed the surgery. He has been licensed since 2016 and has a clean record.

Morgan said when your pet needs surgery, the most important questions to ask are how much surgical experience does the doctor has, and how many times have they done this specific surgery with this sized dog.

She said many vets now don’t often perform surgery.

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