The Reason you should Desex your Dog!

Late last week, we were given a great reminder of the reason you should desex your dog.

‘Indi’ is a little Staffy girl owned by Jessica Chaplain. Jessica and Indi came in to see us late on Tuesday and it was clear that Indi wasn’t at all well. She was off food and had a bloated looking abdomen.

Dr Lys set the ball rolling by running some blood tests. These showed that Indi had a huge inflammatory response and Lys was worried that we could be dealing with a pyometron – a life-threatening uterine infection.  Indi is an eight-year-old girl and hadn’t been desexed. As such, she was at high risk of just such an infection.

At this point, Dr Lys passed Indi onto Dr Beck to perform an ultrasound exam. Ultrasound is a wonderful technology, especially in the hands of someone as proficient as Dr Beck.  It’s a non-invasive means of finding out a lot of detail as to what’s going on in the abdomen. Not only was Beck able to confirm a massively distended uterus, but also that there was a large mass on one of Indi’s ovaries.

Pyometron (uterine infection) is a serious condition and requires rapid intervention and so Indi was moved straight into surgery. Dr Dave was able to remove both the infected uterus and the mass on Indi’s ovary. Although the surgery went well, Indi still wasn’t out of the woods and needed a couple of days in hospital before she was well enough to go home.

The ovarian mass was sent to the lab for analysis and the results have just come back. Indi had something called an ovarian dysgerminoma. This is a rare form of cancer. Rare enough, in fact, that none of us at Gawler Animal Hospital has come across this before! Although Indi has bounced back really well and is feeling great, we’ll have to keep a close eye on her in future to ensure that the cancer hasn’t spread anywhere else in the body.

 Indi’s situation was far from unique but it does highlight one of the major reasons why we recommend early desexing in dogs (Jessica had always intended to do this with Indi but, for a combination of circumstances beyond anyone’s control, this just didn’t happen). Jessica was happy for us to use Indi’s tale in the hope that we might reduce the chance of something similar happening to any other ‘at risk’ dogs out there.

So, why does something like a pyometron occur and what can we do to prevent it?

  • Pyometron is a life-threatening infection of the uterus in female dogs
    • With each ‘season’ (happens every 6 months or so), the uterus changes a bit and becomes a bit more prone to bacterial infection
    • During season, the cervix opens up for a few days and so this leaves the door open for bacteria to enter the uterus
    • Once the cervix closes again, those bacteria multiple and the body responds by effectively creating an abscess within the uterus.
    • In some cases, the cervix relaxes and allows the infection to drain away, to an extent
    • In more severe cases, such as Indi, the cervix remains closed and there’s nowhere for the infection to escape.
  • As a result of the massive build-up of bacteria in the uterus, toxins are absorbed into the blood stream and this is what makes dogs feel so unwell
    • This is particularly the case in a ‘closed’ pyometron, such as in Indi’s case
    • In severe cases, these toxins can cause a dog to go into shock and even die as a result
  • Treatment involves a combination of surgery, antibiotics, intravenous fluid replacement, pain relief and intensive nursing care.
    • For Indi, this meant emergency surgery and then 2 days in hospital before she was well enough to go home
    • In some cases, even with intensive treatment, there is a danger that pets may not survive
  • The only certain way to avoid this problem is to desex your dog
    • Without a uterus and the hormonal changes caused by intact ovaries, pyometron is impossible
    • Although there is some debate on this, we generally recommend desexing at 6 months of age
  • Most common signs of a uterine infection  are vulvar discharge, listlessness, loss of appetite and a distended abdomen (in severe cases)
    • The most common presentation is a few weeks after your dog has been in season
    • It’s more common in older dogs
    • If you have an ‘entire’ female dog and she is showing any of these signs, it’s really important to bring her in for an assessment with one of our vets
  • Although there are some arguments for not desexing your dog (at least not early), none of them are strong enough to counter the downside of something like a uterine infection
    • JUST DO IT!!

 If you have any questions about any of this or if you’d like to have a chat with one of our vets about the risks to your dog, please give us a call on 8522 3500 and our receptionists can book an appointment for you. Alternatively, if you have an ‘entire’ dog and would this story has prompted you to have her (or him) desexed, we’ll be happy to arrange a surgical booking for you.

If any of these stories that we publish are of interest to you and if you like our service, we’d encourage you to review us either by adding a comment to the blog, by visiting our FaceBook page or by reviewing us on Google. We rely heavily on word of mouth for our new clients and your (positive, hopefully!) recommendations are hugely helpful!

Dr Dave MacPhail

Dr Dave MacPhail

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