UPDATE : Investigators are eyeing two dogs burned by a heating pad at the Ridgefield Park Animal Hospital.
For Cris Repoles, there's nothing worse than seeing her bulldog Cooper suffer.
That's why she took him to the Ridgefield Park Animal Hospital in the first place.
But Repoles says the past three months have been nothing but pain for both herself and the dog, who suffered third-degree burns from heating pads during ACL surgery at the vet in December.
To make matters worse for Repoles, head doctor Paul Kim initially treated the burns as skin allergies, as they looked similar to the conditions he'd come in with more than three times that year already.
It wasn't until the red bumps began blistering and bleeding mid-January that Repoles took Cooper to another vet for a second opinion where she discovered the truth: Burns.
RPAH has since tossed the heating pad the burned Cooper and offered to recheck and treat him for free.
But as far as Repoles is concerned, the damage has been done.
"I'm not bringing my dog there again," said Repoles of North Bergen. "Too much suffering."
"Ridgefield Park Animal Hospital cannot do anything to fix the problem, make up for the suffering caused to my dog and to myself seeing him this way."
Kim and his partner Claire Park haven't seen Cooper or heard from his owner since January, a few days after his ACL surgery.
That's when Kim examined him for what he thought was yet another skin condition, common among bulldogs, the vet said.
"Initially the dog had a rash, so I thought there was a possible allergy problem," Kim said.
He sent him home with allergy medication and never heard from the owners again. He wondered why.
But then, someone sent him the link to a Change.org campaign started by Repoles, urging PETA to do away with heating pads at veterinary practices altogether.
"Then I saw the picture of Cooper online," Kim said. "I realized it was getting worse."
Kim and Park explained that burns initially appear as red patches and raised bumps. In some cases, the burns only present themselves four weeks after they occur.
Such was the case with Cooper.
"There is no doubt we would have suspected a burn on Cooper at the time the pictures were taken (see above). But earlier, with just raised skin and redness, we didn't. And the only way to tell would have been a biopsy."
Park said she was surprised that the plastic, flat-top heating pad pictured above burned Cooper, as its maximum temperature is 103.5F and it's always covered by a towel when a patient is on it.
That same heating pad has been used for more than eight years at the vet and this is the first time it's burned any patient, Park said.
She explained heating pads are necessary during surgery.
"Any dogs or humans under anesthesia will have a drop in temperature because their metabolism slows down," she said. "It can be scary how low it will drop -- but we can't get rid of heating pads."
Instead, they've tossed the plastic heating pad and found a new one called the "HotDog" -- similar to a blanket with three temperature settings.
Park and Kim were saddened upon reading Cooper's story and said said they will do anything they can to help him.
"We really loved Cooper," Park said. "He was one of our favorite patients and I would hate to lose him."
*** In 2014, 40 dogs allegedly being kept in small crates were recovered from the RPAH . Sixty of 71 animal cruelty charges were dismissed against employee Edison Davalos. Park declined comment to Daily Voice. ***
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