The Vet is In:
Simple Prevention of Deadly Pyometra = SPAYING
One of the tragedies in a veterinarian’s existence is having to euthanize an ailing animal because a basic precaution was not taken at the right time. For example, if a cat’s guardian elects not to vaccinate his/her feline against feline leukemia (FeLV) and then permits the cat “outdoor privileges,” the cat may come across a carrier of the virus and end up being stricken by this incurable disease, ultimately dying because a vaccine was not given that should have been part of the initial wellness plan for an indoor-outdoor cat.
Pyometra is another disease that is entirely preventable, but often is not considered as part of the essential health promotion plan for each dog or cat in the family. This condition is much more common in dogs and, from Greek, is translated as “a uterus full of pus.” It can happen to any unspayed female, whether she has had pregnancies or not, and first appears as an unknown cause of a decreased appetite and a noticeable increase in water consumption and urinations. With luck, the dog is experiencing an “open” pyometra, in which the cervix is dilated enough to permit a creamy discharge to appear on the dog’s backside, her bedding, or her urination spots. A “closed” pyometra means that the cervix does not permit the uterine discharge to flow through to the outside, therefore leaving the guardian with no clue as to the cause of the dog’s malaise.
If you suspect that your dog has pyometra, she must be brought for radiographs and emergency surgery as quickly as possible, before the infection becomes increasingly septic and fatal. Since this is such a dangerous condition and is often such a challenging surgery if the uterus becomes massive and heavy with toxic contents, then what might have been an uneventful quick surgery before the female’s first heat for $200-$500 quickly becomes a challenging emergency that may cost upwards of $2,000 – $3,000. Unlike the quick post-operative recovery that a young pre-heat dog or cat experiences, the pyometra patient may will feel ill for days and require lengthy treatment with antibiotics and possibly intravenous fluid therapy — IF she is not euthanized for financial reasons.
I cannot recommend strongly enough that this is an area in which prevention — by ovariohysterectomy (more Greek!) before the female matures into adolescence — is essential and not optional. One final benefit: if the dog is spayed before her first heat, she has zero chance of developing breast cancer. Please do not believe the old myths about ”having one litter makes the dog/cat a better pet,” but rather have your female companion, cat or canine, spayed before there is any chance of this potentially fatal condition taking your beloved friend from you.
Please spread the word!
Holly Cheever, DVM
NYSHA’s VP, Dr. Holly Cheever, is a partner in a small animal practice, the Village Animal Clinic, in Voorheesville, NY. She sits on several boards for animal issues, is a speaker and consultant across the nation, and has testified before Congress about animal abuse in circuses, as well as in New York City regarding the carriage horse trade.
New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol. XXXIV, Winter/Spring 2019.