One of the reasons why veterinarians recommend spaying female pets is due to the risk of Pyometra, an infection of the uterus. It is a painful condition that leads to unnecessary suffering and sometimes death.
In 2017, during a volunteering trip to Jamaica, Dr. Cliff was working as the sole surgeon at the JSPCA clinic in Kingston. Along came Auggie, a 5-year old female Akita dog who weighed 100 lbs. She had symptoms of Pyometra and they believed her uterus would rupture. Her condition was grave and she required urgent intervention.
Auggie’s Pyometra Surgery
Prior to surgery, Auggie was given a cocktail of sedatives and painkillers to relax her, but she kept fighting it off and required a second dose. While they were trying to settle her, Dr. Cliff examined her coat and discovered she had ticks. Ticks carry Ehrlichia, a bacteria that attacks the immune system and causes internal bleeding. Consequently, the procedure now became even more dangerous. There was no way of telling whether Auggie also had Ehrlichiosis (Tick Fever) without opening her up. After she finally went down they turned her over and gave her abdomen a shave.
While Dr. Cliff prepared himself for surgery, he could not help admire how the JSPCA maintained relatively low complication and mortality rates on their shoestring operating budget. Compared to his well-outfitted veterinary hospital in Markham, Canada, this clinic only had the most rudimentary equipment and supplies.
Mr. Henry, who had worked with the JSPCA for 35 years, was the most seasoned animal technician on staff. He was going to assist with the surgery. He had a vast repertoire of lived experiences and Dr. Cliff looked forward to learning from him. After all, they were going to perform major emergency surgery without general anesthesia, IV fluids or monitors, a horrifying prospect in Canada!
When Dr. Cliff made the first incision, they discovered Auggie’s uterus had already ruptured and the entire abdominal cavity was filled with pus. The poison from her uterus had spread to her organs and bloodstream. Auggie could die on the operating table of septic shock. And if that was not all, Dr. Cliff had trouble pulling the ligaments that held the ovaries and uterus in place. Mr. Henry calmly guided him along. He encouraged Dr. Cliff to get aggressive with his technique and he finally cut the uterus and ovaries out. After draining the pus and stuffing her intestines back, they stitching her up.
At the end of the exhausting day, Dr. Cliff reflected with shock and awe at what had occurred. This was easily one of the toughest surgeries he had performed in almost two decades of his professional career. And he was honoured to have worked beside and learned from Mr. Henry.
Auggie struggled for a few days after the surgery but eventually made a full recovery.
Pyometra occurs from the natural hormonal changes that take place in the reproductive tract of female dogs. Their progesterone levels remain elevated for 6-10 weeks after “heat” (Oestrus). This allows the uterine lining to thicken to prepare for a pregnancy. In the absence of a pregnancy, multiple Oestrus cycles cause the lining to continue thickening. Eventually, fluid-secreting cysts start to form in the lining. All of this creates an environment for bacteria to thrive. Furthermore, the high progesterone levels prevent the muscles of the uterus from contracting, thereby preventing female dogs from expelling the bacteria.
Early signs of infection include vaginal discharge and as the disease progresses, the dog will become more thirsty than usual, with an enlarged abdomen, no desire to eat and low energy. The disease progresses rapidly, causing a dog to go from perfect health to death within 4 days. Pyometra requires urgent treatment. Often it includes surgery to remove the uterus and ovaries, which is more involved than a spay.
About The JSPCA
The Jamaican Society for the Protection and Care of Animals is a 100-year-old organization that promotes compassionate treatment of animals through education, advocacy, veterinary care and the placement of unwanted animals in loving homes. For more information, or to donate visit JSPCA.
To see more rescue missions like this by Dr. Cliff Worldwide Vet, subscribe to our YouTube Channel.
About Dr. Cliff
Dr. Cliff Redford, DVM, is an experienced veterinarian and owner/operator of the Wellington Veterinary Hospital in Markham, Ontario, Canada. Fondly known as Dr. Cliff to his clients, he has tended to the wellness of pets and animals for over two decades. Hands-on experience in his clinic, combined with animal advocacy and rescue missions locally and across the globe, has allowed him to curate a vast body of knowledge on animal health and welfare, including preventative counselling, soft tissue surgery, advanced dental procedures, internal medicine and emergency care.