Opinions differ on how Washington dog was severely burned

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. -- What caused a mysterious burn that nearly killed a Skagit County woman's dog?

It happened after a local pet emergency hospital treated the dog for an accidental overdose, and now both sides are pointing fingers at each other.

A month and a half later, it's unclear exactly what caused the injuries to Juli Elmore's 2-year old dog, Phyn, but the graphic pictures make it clear that they were very serious.

Today, Phyn, is doing much better. A normally quite active Shiba Inu, Phyn is more laid back and still has a great deal of scarring and scabbing on his belly and legs.

But Elmore's successive veterinarian bills tell the story -- the surgery was necessary because the skin on Phyn's belly had died and was infected.

"I couldn't even count the stitches there were just so many of them," Elmore said.

The whole thing started a week earlier, on May 19, when Phyn accidentally ate some some HTP, which is a natural over-the-counter serotonin supplement. Elmore then took the dog to the Pet Emergency Center in Mount Vernon.

According to the center's patient records, they flushed Phyn's system and they held him overnight for observation. But Elmore says by the next night, May 20, the skin on his testacles and chest was bright red.

"I brushed his belly and this clump of hair came off and that's when I realized that all the tissue underneath-- it looked like a peeled beet," she said.

According to date-stamped photos, by May 22 the skin started turning black, and it got progressively worse. On May 23, Elmore's regular veterinarian gave Phyn a penicillin injection. A day later he prescribed antibiotics, but within a week Phyn had to have emergency surgery to cut away the dead flesh that was full of infection and weeping blood and pus.

Elmore says she asked her vet what could have caused it.

"He said, 'The most likely, the only thing that I can come up with, is that it was a heating pad,' and he said, 'This is why we don't use them here,'" Elmore said.

Elmore says she doesn't even own a heating pad and believes it happened while Phyn was recovering from the overdose at the Pet Emergency Center, though they deny it unequivocally.

Elmore believes it was likely an accident.

"Maybe somebody bumped it on maybe they put him in a kennel and didn't know it was still left on," she said. "I think it was a sheer accident."

But she wishes the Center had been more responsive to her inquiries.

The Pet Emergency Center wouldn't do an on camera interview, but in a phone conversation Hospital Administrator Andy Porter said that they don't use any kind of heating pads in the kennels. He went on to say that any injury to Phyn had to have happened after the dog left the Center.

However, in a post on the Center's Facebook site earlier in the day, they said they do use heating systems -- though none were used on Phyn. Specifically the Center posted, "all heat support that we use in our hospital is engineered and used to be safe for pets. Plug in heat blocks designed for kennel bottoms, warm water circulating pads and Bair huggers, none of which get warm enough to cause burns."