CLINTON -- An independent necropsy performed on Athena, a 13-month-old English mastiff who bled out and died after an April 9 spay procedure, revealed the death was likely due to a blood coagulation problem, says a Clinton veterinarian who assisted in the operation.
Kathleen Ford on Friday shared information contained in a report generated by Advanced Veterinary Care in Salt Lake City.
Ford requested dog owner Summer Thatcher, of Salt Lake City, release her from her doctor/patient confidentiality privileges after the Quail Pointe Veterinary Hospital came under the attack of a social media post as a result of Thatcher calling for justice after her dog died shortly after being in the care of the Clinton hospital.
Thatcher later Friday dismissed Ford's explanation. "There is no proof that my dog had a clotting disorder or blood disorder," Thatcher told the Standard-Examiner.
And so the back-and-forth between the veterinarian and dog owner continues.
"The necropsy report verifies that all tie and ligatures were intact," Ford said. "Nothing from the ligatures or ties that we had done showed bleeding. It was a coagulation problem. The dog was not able to clot properly."
Because of the cost to the dog owner for such blood testing, no blood test was performed on the dog before the spay, making it difficult for veterinarians to determine whether the blood coagulation problem was inherent in the animal, Ford said.
"We normally check the liver and kidneys, but the clotting function is not part of a pre-surgical workup, so we had no advanced knowledge that this would have been a problem. Had we known, we would have not done the surgery," Ford said.
But Thatcher said it was hospital staff who canceled the pre-procedure blood test after she had specifically ordered it.
Although Ford suggested there was some form of hemophilia in Athena, she did not preserve the spleen or conduct postmortem blood tests to confirm her supposition, said Paul Lydolph III, a Salt Lake City attorney who is representing Thatcher.
Other facts were that Athena was in heat, making the procedure dangerous, Lydolph said. Quail Pointe could have waited until the heat cycle passed to conduct the procedure.
Another concern is that Athena was closed back up without clearly identifying, or stopping, the primary bleeding source, Lydolph said. "The cause of death according to the necropsy was internal bleeding," he said.
Ford, the veterinarian in charge, also left for the day between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., while Athena was dying in the care of Quail Pointe, he said.
Athena was held, still bleeding internally, by Quail Pointe while the parties argued about the bill for services. When the owner was finally able to remove Athena, almost 2 1/2 hours later, the dog was all but gone, Lydolph said.
Ford said there was no delay in discussing the vet bill when Thatcher opted to move her dog to Advanced Veterinary Care in Salt Lake City. The move was something her staff was fully aware would have to happen at that time because the Clinton hospital is not a 24-hour facility, she said.
In a Facebook post, Thatcher said she dropped Athena off April 9 at the Clinton hospital at 8:30 a.m. and went home. About two hours later, she got a call from Ford saying she needed to take Athena's spleen out due to bleeding in the abdominal cavity. Some hours later, she said, her pet died.
"My whole reason for bringing this whole story out was so that no one would have to go through what I have had to go through," Thatcher said in an earlier interview with the Standard-Examiner.
It was after completing the spay, Ford said, that she and her staff noticed Athena was bleeding.
She said they were unable to identify the source where all the ties had held and that blood was found pooling under the animal's spleen.
It was then they called Thatcher requesting to remove the animal's spleen, Ford said.
Despite the spleen removal, Ford said, the dog continued to seep blood.
"We couldn't figure out a source for the bleeding. The ties were intact. There was no mistake on our part. We had not nicked other organs (during the spay)," she said.
Thatcher then moved her dog to the veterinary hospital in Salt Lake City, Ford said.
Records show Athena was received there at 5:45 p.m. that same day, where CPR methods were performed without success, Ford said.
"I'm not sure if the dog died there or on the way there," she said.
In recalling the incident over the phone to the Standard-Examiner, Ford's voice choked with emotion.
"Anytime we lose a beautiful young animal like this, it is heart-wrenching," she said. "In my heart, I know we did everything we could.
"I have never lost a pet before from bleeding from a spay in my 26 years," said Ford, who referred to the ordeal as tragic.
The Clinton hospital has reached out to Thatcher, sending her a sympathy card and flowers, Ford said.
Thatcher said the only contact the hospital has had with her has been its effort to collect on her $1,100 vet bill, which has been settled.