Necropsy: Dog that died during PetSmart grooming had heartworms

Saddened by the passing of a 6-year-old Yorkie Terrier named Fabio, who collapsed during a grooming appointment, PetSmart paid for a necropsy on the dog’s remains, performed at the University of Florida, to get better insight into the cause of Fabio’s death. 

The report notes Fabio had a collapsed trachea plus 16 adult heartworms, and cited the stress and excitement of a visit to a new groomer as contributing factors for the dog going into cardiac arrest at a Tampa PetSmart.

FOX 13 asked the Humane Society’s veterinarian to review the necropsy and explain Fabio’s condition before his grooming appointment. Dr. Nicole Cornett says while a collapsed trachea is a common occurrence for the breed, an active heartworm infestation contributed to the dog’s death. 

“They found 16 adult heartworms in the right ventricle, so only one side of the heart," Cornett said. "So that’s quite a lot of worms, it’s kind of like spaghetti. And if you have a very narrow valve the blood has got to flow through. The worms clogged up those arteries and gives it a sudden heart attack.”

Fabio’s owner said the dog showed no sign of illness when they brought him to PetSmart. The owner said heartworms were detected in October of 2015 and the terrier was on monthly medication, which was continued when he saw the vet in October 2017. The owner told FOX 13 he wasn’t aware of the extent of the heartworms at the time of the grooming appointment. 

“The ones that caused the death of this dog were adults,” Cornett said. "They could have been treated with adult heartworm Immiticide. These people obviously didn’t know, but monthly heartworm prevention would not kill them at this stage."

Fabio’s owners didn’t tell PetSmart about the prior treatment.  

They say PetSmart didn’t ask the wife, who dropped off the pet, whether Fabio had heartworms.  They say the wife indicated Fabio’s good health when she signed the admission form, but she didn’t understand the form because she doesn’t read English.  

PetSmart says even if your pet isn’t showing current signs of illness, it’s important for owners to disclose your pet’s medical history and any behavioral problems to a groomer so they can provide the best possible care.

“Because when a dog comes in with any pre-existing condition, it helps the associate determine what steps to take to customize the groom," said Ashley Beltz, PetSmart's quality and education manager. "The answers to those questions allow us to customize the groom or take necessary steps to make them comfortable, and that could be even delaying the groom.”

And since unfamiliar environments can trigger stress in animals, PetSmart emphasizes pet owners should keep a steady grooming routine.

"The frequency of the groom is most beneficial, bringing the dog in more often, and developing a relationship with one individual groomer," added Beltz.