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Ridgefield Park-Hasbrouck Heights Daily Voice serves Hasbrouck Heights, Little Ferry, Moonachie, Ridgefield Park & Wood-Ridge

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GRAPHIC: Third Dog Burned By Ridgefield Park Vet Could Be Worst Case Yet

Stella, a 12-year-old Australian shepherd, went into the Ridgefield Park Animal Hospital with usual puppy-like behavior and left like a grandma, her owner said. Photo Credit: Shawna Early
This photo was taken approximately two weeks after surgery at the Ridgefield Park Animal Hospital. Photo Credit: Shawna Early
The heating table where Stella was allegedly burned at RPAH. Photo Credit: Contributed
Stella's owner Shawna Early thought the dog had flesh-eating bacteria. It turned out to be a burn from the Ridgefield Park Animal Hospital's heating pad. Photo Credit: Contributed
Photo taken on Tuesday, April 10. Early prays that her dog's fur grows back. If it doesn't, Stella will require skin grafts. She has been through months of hydrotherapy, hospitalizations and medications -- turning her life upside down. Photo Credit: Shawna Early

A report of a third dog being burned by at the Ridgefield Park Animal Hospital could be the worst case yet.

This time, the vet says 12-year-old Stella was burned by a heating table that had lost its sensors -- not a heating pad -- according to emails obtained by Daily Voice.

The miniature Australian shepherd was burned so badly during a dental procedure on December 1, 2017 that her coat might not ever grow back, owner Shawna Early said.

"The dental table that Stella acquired injury from was inspected and the manufacturer found out that the sensors had fallen off," RPAH vets Paul Kim and Claire Park said in the email.

"We informed them about Stella's injury and forwarded all the information with pictures. Under the product liability law, a legal action was taken and they accepted the responsibility."

Early, however, is still is taking her dog to a new vet once a month for treatment and prays her coat will grow back.

If it doesn't, the dog will require skin grafts.

Although RPAH agreed to pay for Stella's treatment, Early says nothing can undo the emotional damage this has caused her.

"I've been a total wreck," Early told Daily Voice.

"Stella is such a good dog, she's so sweet, and just to have this happen to her is extra hurtful for me because I feel like I'm supposed to protect her, but I put her in this position."

Early learned this month through articles published on Daily Voice that two other dogs after Stella were burned by a different heating pad at the same vet.

In addition to the pain that comes with worrying about her dog, Early is riddled with guilt and feels that if she spoke up sooner about Stella, the vet might have been more vigilant with the other dogs on the heating pad.

Early says she didn't come forward because she didn't want to ruin the vets' practice, "especially since they seemed so apologetic and contrite," she said. "I'm upset with myself because at least two more pups that we know of were injured. That makes me said."

The RPAH declined further comment to Daily Voice.

Below is a timeline of Stella's story, according to Early:

  • October 2017: Early brought Stella to the RPAH for digestive issues. After approximately six weeks of treatment with no improvement, vets suggested having Stella's teeth cleaned and maybe some removed.
  • Dec. 1, 2017: Stella has dental procedure done at RPAH. Early says her dog went into the vet that day like the puppy she has always been and left as a grandma -- slow-moving, unable to walk and urinating on herself.
  • Dec. 13: Early, concerned about her dog's strange behavior, brings Stella to RPAH, where the vets told Early Stella was fine.
  • Vets took an X-ray and told Early the dog had a bad disc.

"They showed it to me on the film and, although I'm not a doctor, I couldn't see anything," Early told Daily Voice. "But I trusted them and agreed to a bogus acupuncture procedure."

  • Dec. 14: Early was petting Stella when she felt a clump in her coat.  In trying to brush it out, the fur ripped off from Stella's skin, leaving a tiny area of exposed skin.
  • Dec. 15: Early woke up at 4 a.m. to feed and pet her dog, as usual. That's when she noticed a gash on the left side of her dog and immediately took her to an emergency vet -- not RPAH.

"To my untrained eye it looked like she had some flesh eating bacteria issue," Early said.

"I had to leave her there because I was hysterical. They asked me if anything had been going on with her and I explained the situation."

  • Later that day, the vets called Early to ask if a heating pad was used. She said no, but the vets were still going to try to figure out what was going in.

"In hindsight I think they knew but wanted to discuss with Dr. Park at the RPAH," Early said.

  • Dec. 17: The new vet explained to Early that she believed Stella was suffering from third degree burns. Stella stayed at the hospital to have skin removed and infections controlled.
  • Dec. 24: Stella returned home. What ensued were months of hospitalizations, hydrotherapy treatments and tons of medication.
  • Dec. 27: Early noticed Stella was having problems walking and standing, and had lost control of her bodily functions.
  • Stella returned to the new vet the first week of January for a two-day stay.

The following month, Stella went for hydrotherapy and skin removal almost every day.

When she wasn't at the hospital, Early was required to continue performing hydrotherapy and apply burn cream twice daily.

  • February began the process of waiting for Stella's skin to close. Vet appointments lessened to once a week, and then once every other, Early said.
  • March 24: Early realizes that Stella's coat might never grow back.

It's been more than four months since Stella was burned, and Early prays her dog will not require skin grafts. Although she still feels guilty for everything she put her dog through, she knows Stella has forgiven her.

"She totally runs the house now," Early said. "I'm just happy she's around."

ALSO SEE: Investigators Eye Dogs Burned At RAPH.

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