July 12, 2018 3:49 pm
Updated: July 16, 2018 8:19 am

Service dog in emergency veterinarian care following stay at PetSmart hotel in Etobicoke

WATCH ABOVE: Service dog put down after falling ill during pet hotel stay


Corey Dixon was going up to a cottage in early July and worried his service dog would get sick or injured by a wild animal while there, so he decided to board the black lab at a PetSmart pet’s hotel instead.

But when he came to pick Aspen up after the week was over on Sunday, he found the dog weak, ill and in need of urgent care.

Dixon brought her to a veterinarian to check her out and Apsen has been in its care ever since. After initially seeing some improvement, the lab’s lungs began to show signs of swelling on Wednesday.

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On Thursday, Aspen had to be transferred to an emergency vet where she was intubated to help her breathe.

“Every day we had called PetSmart for updates and they said that she was doing entirely fine,” Dixon told Global News on Wednesday.

But when he and his friend Tessa Box picked up the dog, they said she was covered in her own vomit and was shaking. Box said when she phoned the day before, staff told her the dog had vomited, but said it wasn’t an issue.

Dixon said the emergency vet told him the dog had lost nearly 10 pounds and they were concerned Aspen had an intestinal blockage.

Dixon discovered the dog bed Aspen had used during the week had been chewed on and Dixon wondered why PetSmart staff hadn’t removed it from where the lab was sleeping.

PetSmart offers a 24-hour on-call vet as part of its boarding package. It’s not known if staff had a vet look at the dog, but Dixon said they should have recognized his dog needed help.

Aspen’s bed

Corey Dixon

For Dixon, Aspen is much more than a pet. The cardiac service alert dog is trained to spring into action if his heart condition ever causes him to lose consciousness.

“The second I usually drop to the floor, she’ll be on top of me,” Dixon said. “She’ll either start to bark or paw at me and try to get me awake.”

Failing that, Aspen will lie next to him until her yellow vest attracts the attention of someone passing by.

After complaining about Aspen’s treatment, Dixon said PetSmart reimbursed him for the boarding fee and offered to cover the veterinarian’s bills.

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson with PetSmart said an investigation is underway. But it said early findings show staff followed the company’s policies and procedures. It said it has also asked for medical records to understand the cause of Aspen’s illness.

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Dixon is hoping the dog he relies on will recover and while he waits, he said he hopes no one else has to experience what he has.

“I hope this never happens to anyone” he said.

“It’s heart crushing to see any animal like this.”

The emergency vet’s diagnosis of Aspen.

Corey Dixon

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