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Devastated Aberdeen dog owner wants to take legal action after pug suffers severe reaction to flea treatment prescribed by vet

Sharren Rutherford with Keira.
Sharren Rutherford with Keira.

An Aberdeen dog owner is considering legal action after her dog took an extreme reaction to a flea treatment.

Sharren Rutherford gave two-year-old Keira her regular flea treatment last month, but within 48 hours an open wound started growing on the pug’s neck and her face started to swell.

Keira was eventually operated on – with part-time care home worker Ms Rutherford asked to sign a form in case she did not pull through.

With vet bills mounting up, Ms Rutherford has been forced to make the decision to give up her home in Aberdeen.

She is now considering asking for compensation from Town and Country Veterinary Group, claiming: “I shouldn’t have to pay for anything, if I had never got that stuff from the vet, she wouldn’t have been in the situation where she had to go through a life-threatening operation.”

Ms Rutherford also says she asked if the medication could be taken off the market as a result of what happened to Keira, but claims she was told that it was only one dog and therefore not enough to make a difference.

A spokeswoman from the vet said that they have looked into the situation and discussed it with the manufacturers, but have no intentions of removing the treatment from sale.

Warning to other dog owners

Ms Rutherford – who described Keira as her “little baby” – has used Stronghold 60mg for Small Dogs several times previously without incident.

But she alleges that after giving it to her beloved pet one Thursday last month, it was completely different – with a “red fleshy wound” appearing on the back of her neck by the Saturday.

Keira before getting unwell.

Ms Rutherford, who admits she became “hysterical” with worry as the night wore on, said: “She’s like my little baby.”

“It started with a red fleshy wound, like pure blood on the back of her neck, but as the evening went on it seemed like every half hour it kept growing bigger.”

By this time, the dog’s face had also begun to swell.

Unsure what to do, she phoned the out-of-hours vet who, upon seeing pictures of the wound and swelling, advised Ms Rutherford to put Keira in a cold shower and call her own vet on the Monday morning.

She did so, and took Keira to the Rubislaw branch of Town and Country Veterinary Group.

There she was given tablets for the wound, but as the week went on it only worsened and Keira was back at the vets within days.

Because her usual vet was busy, this time she was sent to the Millburn branch.

Keira’s face swelling.

‘It broke my heart’

The team there very quickly told Ms Rutherford it would take more than tablets and creams to help Keira, and warned she might not even make it through the night.

She said: “They came out and said ‘we’ve had to give her a painkiller by injection and we’ll have to shave the hair off’ but I never thought it would be to the extent that it was.

“When they shaved her hair off it was horrendous, they basically said it was such an open wound that there was dead flesh and that they had to operate.

“I had to sign a form, it broke my heart, in case she didn’t pull through.”

Luckily, the operation went well, but Keira is still recovering from her reaction to the treatment, not eating properly and acting “traumatised.”

Ms Rutherford is worried that, if nothing is done, this could happen to other animals taking the same flea medication.

She said: “I don’t want this to happen to any other animal. I want people to know what has happened to my dog and I want the product off the market.”

Keira after surgery.

Costs adding up

The bill for Keira’s tablets, procedure and vet visits came to around £700, forcing Ms Rutherford to make the decision to give up her house.

She said: “I’ve had to give up my house, it’s a lot of stress between having to pay vet bills and trying to pay my bills at the house.

“The vets have said I can do a payment plan. I’ve payed over half the bill which was £412 and I’m going back all the time.”

Ms Rutherford is now looking for legal aid as she realises how close she came to losing Keira.

She said: “They’re taking no liability for what’s happened. As soon as we found out she was going to have to have an operation I said we were going to take it further because I could have lost my dog.

“I saw another vet in Millburn and he said to me ‘if I were you I’d get compensation for what’s happened.’

“In his exact words, ‘it was a chemical burn that came back from the lab.'”

A spokeswoman from Town and Country Veterinary Group said: “We have contacted the manufacturers of the product, which we have used for many years without any previous issues. They are a long standing and reputable veterinary pharmaceutical company who make a large range of products which are licensed for use in animals.

“They have said that it appears to have been an isolated case and there are no grounds for them to remove the product from sale.”