Owner: Therapy dog permanently disabled after spinal tap

Meredith Smith contemplating suing animal hospital

SAN DIEGO - A local woman says her therapy dog is now permanently disabled after a nightmare trip to the animal hospital.

According to Meredith Smith, the incident took place during a series of diagnostic tests.

"It was heartbreaking," said Smith.

In October, after noticing Toby was sleeping a lot and had slight tremors in his paw, Smith took the 8-month-old Staffordshire bull terrier to the Veterinary Specialty Hospital in Sorrento Valley for an MRI and a spinal tap.

Some eight hours later, Smith said she was told by the neurologist that the spinal tap didn't go well.

"She missed multiple times and got blood instead of spinal fluid," said Smith.

Smith said within hours, Toby was paralyzed from the waist down, unable to control his bowels.

The paralysis lasted several weeks, and the incontinence is believed to be permanent.

Smith, who has a disabling heart condition, bought Toby for $1,800 as a therapy dog. He's able to detect body changes and alert her when she needs rest.

Because of the incontinence, she can no longer use him as a therapy dog.

"Prior to this, he had been my caretaker. It was hard for him not to be able to take care of me," said Smith.

Weakness in his hind legs now prevents him from simple actions like standing on his hind legs and using his leg to scratch himself.

When the dog is lying down, there are constant muscle spasms.

Smith said she asked for a partial refund of the $1,800 vet bill, but was told no. She said Toby received only three free follow-up visits.

"It make me feel sad for Toby and frustrated," said Smith.

Smith is now contemplating legal action.

Attorney Spencer Busby said any emotional damages might limited because pets are usually viewed as property, but that's changing.

"In some cases, they are being awarded. I have had a case myself where they awarded $3,500 for a cat that was accidentally put down," said Busby.

"He doesn't have a voice, so it's my job to advocate for him," said Smith.

Smith said Toby's initial symptoms for the spinal tap cleared up quickly and a cause was never found.

In a statement to 10News, the hospital said, "The Veterinary Specialty Hospital's greatest concern is the wellbeing of our patients and their families. The proper medical care was provided, but we cannot comment further at this time."

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