Health & Fitness

The $3,500 question: Should Petland refund all costs of dog with nasty infection?

Like most puppies, Zigg just wants to show his owner some love.

But every time the Victorian bulldog tries to lick Raymore resident Brenda Douglas in the face, she jerks her head away violently. Her health depends on it.

Zigg has Campylobacter, a bacterial infection that can spread to humans through contact with dog feces. But Douglas didn’t find that out until after the Star published an article earlier this month about a nationwide outbreak of 39 human Campylobacter cases.

The outbreak included five cases in Kansas and one in Missouri, and the Centers for Disease Control had traced it to dogs purchased at Petland stores.

“I said to myself and my husband, ‘This sounds like what could possibly be going on with Zigg,’” Douglas said.

There were two clues: Douglas bought Zigg at a Petland in Overland Park on April 1. And he’s had diarrhea ever since.

“When he would poop it was slimy,” Douglas said. “... It’s always been slimy and it smells really bad.”

The Stanley Veterinary Clinic in Overland Park confirmed last Saturday that Zigg has Campylobacter. Douglas said she wants to return the dog and get a refund of the $4,000 she said she spent on Zigg and Zigg-related items.

The manager of the Overland Park Petland referred all questions about Douglas and Zigg to the store’s corporate office.

Elizabeth Kunzelman, the company’s director of public affairs, said the company has paid for all of Zigg’s care “except for routine vaccinations” and will continue to do so.

“We now have a confirmed diagnosis and have offered to pay for treatment (as we have paid for all vet visits and treatments),” Kunzelman said via email. “However, the customer has now made it clear several times that she doesn't even want the dog. Petland will gladly take the puppy back and refund her the $3,549. The puppy will remain under veterinarian care until it has a clean bill of health.”

Kunzelman was not available Friday to answer a followup question about what would become of Zigg after that.

Douglas said she’s bonded with Zigg but she’s concerned that having untreated Campylobacter for so long may have done permanent damage to his internal organs and someone else might be better qualified to care for him. She’s also burned out after six months of cleaning up after him.

“As far as getting another dog any time soon: no,” Douglas said.

Douglas said she fell in love with the Victorian bulldog breed after she saw one during a visit to Texas. When she got back home and found out there was one at the Petland in Overland Park, she went and bought Zigg.

She said the store told her he had a clean bill of health, but if anything seemed wrong in the next few days she could bring him to a Petland-approved veterinarian and his care would be paid for.

Two days later, she and Zigg were at the vet, where he tested positive for Giardia, a diarrhea-causing parasite.

“He must have had both,” Douglas said.

Douglas and the vet tried anti-Giardia medications. Then they tried giving Zigg a special prescription dog food. Nothing worked.

“They never did test him for Campylobacter and he just kept getting worse,” Douglas said.

Zigg was housebroken, but sometimes he couldn’t help but have accidents in the house. Sometimes he would vomit in his crate. And even when he made it outside, picking up after him was a chore.

“I have to run around behind him and make sure I get it up the best I can,” Douglas said.

In addition to not letting dogs lick their faces, the CDC alert recommends pet owners who suspect Campylobacter clean up poop promptly, “especially in areas where children might play.”

“I was worried about the kids, because I have four grandkids here,” Douglas said.

Douglas said she and her family members have not taken ill.

Campylobacter is usually mild in humans, but according to the World Health Organization, it “can be fatal among very young children, elderly, and immunosuppressed individuals.”

The cases the CDC is tracking resulted in nine hospitalizations but no deaths. The agency says Petland is cooperating with the investigation.

A statement released by Petland pointed to a CDC’s statement that “Regardless of where they are from, any puppies and dogs may carry Campylobacter germ.”

A spokeswoman for the Humane Society of Kansas has said that for-profit pet stores are vulnerable to infections if they purchase their dogs from puppy mills, which the group has found are prevalent in Kansas and Missouri.

The Humane Society of Greater Kansas, told KSHB this week that Parvovirus, a vaccine-preventable illness that spread easily among dogs, is also on the rise in the metro.

Andy Marso: 816-234-4055, @andymarso