It’s the time of year when the veil between the earthly and spiritual world is thin and spirits roam the lands freely. You might get a visit from serene ethereal beings, or ghoulish apparitions that can’t find their peace in the other world until justice is done.
Pet-loving Halloweeners enjoy a warm story of pet ghosts coming back to say goodbye to their owners or guard them one last time from the world beyond. But, there are other times when the vengeful ghosts of tortured animals return to haunt and punish humans for their evil deeds.
Yet, sometimes reality makes far more shocking tales that will keep you awake at night wondering how those things could happen. And vets know best what it’s like to wake up screaming from a nightmare.
We asked vets to share the most distressing and heartbreaking vet horror stories that they have witnessed in their careers. Prepare for disturbing real-life stories that will haunt you long after the witch hour.
1. Dr. Amanda Takiguchi, an animal dermatology specialist and founder of Trending Breeds
Q: What is the saddest moment in your career as a vet?
The saddest scene I have ever seen happened when I was still a vet student. The clinic received a request to euthanize two dogs, and the vet made the mistake of putting down the first dog in front of the second one.
The second dog recognized that its pal was dead and clearly realized that it was next. It was terrified, yelping and panicking. I can never forget the sheer horror in its eyes knowing that something terrible is going to happen to it too.
In the second saddest event I was the client, and I had to take a kitten to be euthanized because of a severe case of scoliosis. She was tiny, only about 8 weeks old, so the vet opted for injecting the euthanasia directly into the kidney. It caused the kitten a lot of pain.
She died in my hands with her baby teeth firmly sunk into my thumb and I didn’t begrudge her that. I wish I had stopped the vet and insisted on using a strong sedative instead. I should have done something to save her from the agony.
Q: What can we learn from these events?
Science has proven that a wide range of animals are sentient beings with the capacity to perceive and feel things, as all pet owners are very much aware of. They are capable of feeling pleasure, joy, pain and distress, which has to be taken into account when dealing with them.
Humane treatment of animals does not only mean safety from physical pain, but mental health should be considered as well. This is especially important for vets who are responsible for the wellbeing of the animals left in their care.
Performing euthanasia means taking the pet through its final moments in this world, so vets have the responsibility to show compassion and treat them with dignity.
Q: How can we teach pet parents to avoid this in the future?
Pet owners should feel free to voice any concerns they have about the treatment of their pets at a vet clinic. They should always try to choose the least painful or invasive option to save their furry friends from additional discomfort.
So, make sure the vet is providing humane euthanasia and if you feel that something is wrong, react instantly. Say or do something that can save both you and your pet a lot of physical and emotional pain.
2. Melissa, a board-certified house-call veterinarian from Madison, and author at Pango Pets.
Q: Do you have any grisly vet stories you would like to share with us?
The most memorable horror story from my experience as a vet was when I worked at the local animal shelter. The shelter was located in a small town, so it was rare for us to get any new animals in.
One day, however, we received a call about a dog that had been abandoned on the side of the road. I went out to see what we could do for it and found a beautiful Labrador mix that had clearly been beaten up pretty badly.
It was limping on its back right leg and had several large cuts on its body. It also seemed very scared of people. I could tell that whoever left it didn’t take care of it because it had fleas and smelled terrible. I felt so sorry for this poor dog!
After giving him some food and water and having him checked by our vet, we decided to keep him at the shelter until we could find his owner, or, hopefully, find someone else who would give him a home.
It took months before anyone came forward claiming ownership of this poor pup, but eventually, he got adopted by a nice couple who lived nearby. It’s always hard seeing animals suffer like that, but knowing how happy he is now making all the effort worth it.
Q: What can we learn from this?
We don’t know how this dog ended up alone. It might have been lost and got injured later, or he had an abusive owner who decided to get rid of him for whatever reason.
The fact that it was scared of people confirms that it has likely been mistreated by its owners and the flea infestation was a sign of neglect. Many dogs continue to live with such owners for a long time before being thrown out of a car in heavy traffic or worse.
If you witness cruelty or neglect to animals, call your local animal control agency, or simply call 911. They are required to investigate any suspected cases of animal abuse.
Q: How can we avoid such cases in the future?
People should be taught responsible ownership. Keeping a pet comes with a number of responsibilities – quality food, regular shots, and tick/flea prevention, training and socialization are the basic needs for a healthy dog.
If owners can’t provide that, they should surrender the dog to a shelter or a rescue instead of dropping them off by the side of a busy road. This way, the dog will have a chance to find a family that can give them the best life possible.
3. Iram Sharma, a veterinarian and writer at pupvine.com
Q: What is the most horrific case you can remember seeing in your career as a vet?
As a vet, I am used to seeing a lot of cases that are considered horror stories. But, this one stuck with me for a while. A female Boxer dog named Roxie was hit by a car after which she was administered to the clinic.
Roxie was two and a half years old, which is still considered young in the Boxer dog world. Her hind leg was severely damaged and she was bleeding very badly. Roxie was in great pain and she required immediate surgery. With a lot of effort, we were able to help her.
However, we couldn’t help but notice that these injuries were not the ones we usually see in dogs that get hit by a car. We found out that Roxie had never been in an accident but was a victim of abuse by the owners who brought her to us.
I cannot begin to describe the sadness I felt for this pup. The number of injuries inflicted by a human that was supposed to care for her was the most terrifying and horrendous sight to be seen in the clinic.
Q: What is the lesson to be learned from this case?
While Roxie the Boxer is now a happy dog that lives with her new family, there are many puppies that are going through physical abuse in their homes. Even though these events are rarely reported, it doesn’t mean that they do not occur on a daily basis.
In Roxie’s case, the previous owners seemed very convincing and caring, which led all of us to believe that they wanted the best for her. Instead, it was the complete opposite. This was not a minor wound, it almost seemed as if this dog was run over by a car.
This story proves there are people who dislike animals to the extent that they are willing to hurt them badly. All dog breeders, aspiring and current dog owners, as well as employees in shelters, should be very cautious with handing puppies over to unknown people.
Q: How can we prevent such cases in the future?
We are not sure why people act toward dogs as they did in Roxie’s case. However, everyone who notices or hears about irresponsible owners who are abusing their dogs should momentarily report it to the animal control agency. It’s good to know that animal abuse/cruelty reports can be submitted anonymously.
We can advise all dog lovers who are not ready to keep one as a pet to simply wait for the right time. At least this way you are avoiding the possibility of having to surrender your dog to the shelter or rehome it.
Responsible pet parents and ethical dog breeders should constantly give advice to aspiring dog owners about all the dos and don’ts of owning a dog. Pets come with a number of responsibilities that you should be aware of before you bring them into your home.
4. Dr. Dwight Alleyne, DVM, a 2006 Cornell School of Veterinary Medicine graduate, 15 years of vet practice in Georgia.
Q: Is there a case in your 15 years of practice that gave you the chills?
The most memorable horror story is about two housemates that fought with each other. What made this scary is that these two dogs lived together for many years without any problem so the owners never had any concern about leaving them alone in the house.
It was a horrifying surprise for the owner to come home to both dogs bleeding out of multiple bite wounds. The wounds were severe enough that the dogs needed extensive surgery to repair them.
Q: What can pet owners learn from this?
The main takeaway from this experience is that even though dogs seem like the best of friends, there is still a risk for conflict. Fighting between housemates is more likely to be caused by squabbles over food or toys and asserting dominance, which is not easy to control.
Dogs are social animals but that doesn’t mean that all dogs can be friends. There is a hierarchy in the pack and if one dog dares to challenge that, fights become inevitable. And the solution to this complex problem requires lots of patience and consistency.
Q: How can pet parents avoid that kind of situation in the future?
When pets, especially dogs have to be left alone, it may be beneficial to have cameras to monitor their behavior when away from home. That way you can react quickly with your voice through the speaker if any fights break out.
Also, it would be best to avoid common triggers for fights when leaving dogs at home. This includes separate food or water bowls, and not leaving favorite toys around as they could be a reason to fight over.
Owners should consult an animal behaviorist on how to train their dogs to be calm around food, treats or things that are valuable to them. Unless aggression is kept under control, you might have to consider re-homing one of the dogs.
Practicing veterinary medicine is no walk in the park. There are cases that shock vets with their sheer terrifying nature and the images stick with them for the rest of their lives.
Reality often bites back and leaves vets with memories they would wish to erase. The horror stories vets have to tell may be difficult to stomach for devoted dog and cat lovers, but they are an inseparable part of their profession and can take a toll on vets’ health too.
As for all pet parents, remember that dogs, and all our furry and feathery friends, already love us unconditionally and there is no reason why it should not be the other way around.
Happy Halloween everyone! Keep your pets healthy and tonight watch for a visitation from the other side of the rainbow bridge!