Veterinarian discusses Chihuahua’s care in animal hospitals trial

Veterinarian Balpal Sandhu is accused of 41 causes for discipline at his three animal clinics, including the All Creatures Veterinary Center in Newhall.

Balpal Sandhu, a veterinarian accused of 41 causes for discipline at his three animal clinics, testified in his own defense this week.

The virtual trial continued as Sandhu’s attorney, George Wallace, asked the animal doctor about the charges brought by Deputy Attorney General Nancy Kaiser, who’s trying the case on behalf of the state.  

Sandhu is accused of negligence, incompetence and other practices “outside the standard of care” at his three animal clinics: AV Veterinary Center in Lancaster; All Creatures Veterinary Center in Newhall; and Canyon Country Veterinary Hospital, which were filed in November.

For the first week, the trial focused on the reports made by Beth Parvin, a staff member for the Veterinary Medical Board, who reviewed the medical files of the animals listed in the complaints.

During this second week, Sandhu sought to defend himself through testimony for the online trial, which is scheduled to continue until Oct. 2.

Part of the day’s testimony focused on the treatment of Rosie, a 4-year-old Chihuahua that died after a surgery performed at Sandhu’s Antelope Valley facility.

In the previous week, Parvin discussed Rosie, a 4-year-old Chihuahua she felt received treatment deemed below the standard of care because there was no neurological exam given to the dog.

Parvin indicated a few concerns with Rosie’s care, including the Chihuahua was not examined until about six hours after admission, according to records from May 2016. She also noted a neurologic exam was necessary in order to properly complete a hemilaminectomy, which was ultimately deemed necessary for Rosie. (A hemilaminectomy is an orthopaedic neurosurgical procedure that involves removing part of one of the two laminae on a vertebra to relieve excess pressure on the spinal nerve(s) in the lumbar spine, or lower back, according to the American Center for Spine and Neurosurgery.)

Sandhu acknowledged providing care for Rosie at AVVC, his Antelope Valley location, after the dog was referred to him from Chris Biggerstaff at Quartz Hill Animal Hospital. 

“We talked about CT scan because before presentation, the owner was recommended (to have) a CT scan by their regular doctor,” Sandhu said, adding that he spoke with the owner and recommended a CT scan and performed a neurological exam. The latter was done in front of the owner to demonstrate the animal’s pain response, he added. 

Sandhu said he then assumed responsibility for making medical judgments regarding the care for the animal whose hind legs were paralyzed. He said the CT scan was performed and the results were sent to a specialist, who reported finding compression on the fifth and sixth discs, which was causing paralysis. 

Sandhu acknowledged the report was not in the animal’s medical history, which was what Parvin reviewed, but said he could generate the report during his testimony Wednesday.

When asked if the report sent back from the CT specialist specifically recommended the surgery, Sandhu said he did not “100% recall,” but referred back to his own notes, and then said the report from the CT specialists was not collected by the inspectors who reviewed his files. Sandhu later said he relied on the report and its findings to back up his own recommendation for surgery in Rosie’s treatment. Wallace later produced the report for the record.

Sandhu described Rosie’s procedure as uneventful and the recovery routine. However, a few days after the procedure, a blood test showed Rosie was anemic, as well as acting lethargic and not eating or drinking. Sandhu later said he performed blood transfusions at the owner’s request, against Sandhu’s recommendation. Ultimately, Rosie developed respiratory distress and later died, according to the dog’s records cited at trial.

Parvin also testified last week that, similar to other care she saw records for, Rosie was given pain treatment “far, far below the recommended therapeutic range,” according to accepted animal care standards. She mentioned that a dog not appearing to be in pain could be in serious distress.

On Wednesday, Wallace referenced testimony Sandhu had given regarding another animal in his care, which explained how the adjusted pain-medication levels were part of his procedures, similar to those Sandhu explained on the record in reference to other treatments. Sandhu’s examination led him to believe that Rosie was not experiencing excessive levels of pain, and the dog was transferred to oral medication.

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