When Chris Cymbalisty took his dog to a Winnipeg veterinary hospital for respiratory distress in June 2021, he didn't expect a bill for almost $4,000 and a dispute over the care provided and costs that's still ongoing 18 months later.
Cymbalisty, who is an emergency room physician, filed a complaint with Manitoba's veterinary regulatory body about his dog's care, which led to a finding of professional misconduct against a vet who is an owner of the Bridgwater Veterinary Hospital and Wellness Centre.
He took his dog Zeus — a 10-year old boxer mix he describes as a "docile, big, loving teddy bear kind of a dog" — to the Bridgwater Veterinary Hospital in June 2021, when Zeus was having breathing problems.
The dog was diagnosed and treated at the hospital over the course of five days, but Cymbalisty says he could not get answers to his questions about the care provided and the costs.
"I was completely dismissed … from the very start," he said in an interview with CBC News, adding the treatment "was absolutely … infuriating."
On the first day, the dog was examined and then had a tube inserted into his trachea to help him breathe.
On the second day, the vet hospital released the dog. But before Zeus even got home, Cymbalisty discovered the health issue wasn't resolved. The dog was taken back to the hospital and had to be reintubated at significant expense — about $700.
Around 5 a.m. the next day, "I received a call saying we either have to reintubate him again, [for] a third time in 48 hours, do an emergency tracheostomy — which is … putting an airway through his trachea — or euthanize him," Cymbalisty said.
Cymbalisty opted to leave Zeus in care, and his condition improved over the next few days. The vet bills for the five days added up to about $3,900.
Cymbalisty says staff at the vet hospital failed to answer his questions about the care provided to the dog, including his belief he had been overcharged. He said he asked about the calculations involved in medication fees during Zeus's hospitalization.
"I had some questions regarding some of the dosing of medications that I just didn't understand. They were massive quantities of some of the medications used, and I just wanted some clarification. And no one would speak to me during this time to clarify those," Cymbalisty said.
He also said he was not given a written prescription for medications so that he could potentially buy them at a pharmacy. As well, Cymbalisty said he has questions about why the overnight vet at the hospital digressed from the agreed-upon treatment plan.
Another issue came up when he went to pick Zeus up after the five days, he said.
"I said … 'I have some issues about the care that was provided and I'd like to discuss with someone.' And they said, 'Well, there's no one here to answer any of your questions and you can't have your dog unless you pay your bill in full,'" said Cymbalisty.