Case 2. An 8-year-old Chihuahua stopped
eating for 2 weeks
"My friend's Chihuahua has not been eating for
the past 2 weeks," the expressive lady in her late
forties said. "So I asked her to see the vet." The
friend took out the 8-year-old female Chihuahua
with a long coat from her sling bag.
The Chihuahua had passed large blobs of blood two
weeks ago instead of the usual fresh watery blood
of heat. After that the dog just had no appetite.
"Not even the table food," the friend said. I had
seen this dog 2 years ago and had advised spaying
her as she had false pregnancy.
"Why didn't you get the dog spayed in 2006?" I
asked the quiet lady owner in her 40s. Now she has
a fever due to an infection of the womb."
I palpated the lower abdomen with my left hand.
The Chihuahua winced in pain and cried softly
whenever I felt the lower abdomen. The lady owner
could see the dog arching her back as I pressed
the lower abdomen. The dog's soft cries of
discomfort were heard in this small consultation
room of 7 sq metres.
This case of pyometra was easy to diagnose based
on the history of dirty blobs of blood passed
after the heat period, lethargy, anorexia and
fever and lower abdominal pain.
The owner said: "My friends advise me not to
get the dog spayed. Too dangerous. My dog will die
on the operating table."
Such fears are common and must be appreciated from
the owner's point of view.
So, what to do now?
"Antibiotics will likely cure this dog. Most
owners will forget about my advice to spay the dog
after she recovers from the fever. She will be
normal and active. But she will suffer the same
problems of passing sticky dirty brown tissues of
blood at the next heat."
My advice was to get the dog spayed one month
later when the dog is healthy and normal.
"It is a high risk anaesthetic case now that the
dog is 8 years old. Your dog may die on the
operating table since she is much older than 2
years ago. Giving antibiotics every time she has
pyometra is not a solution. The dog will keep
licking her private parts to get rid of the
continuous vaginal discharge and thereby infecting
her womb and bladder after some years."
The quiet lady's eyes turned reddish. This dog is
family. She has to decide in one month's time.
Alternatively, she could wait for the same
clinical signs and repeat the whole process of
antibiotics and waiting for a month to spay. Blood
samples were taken from the dog.
After a 100-ml IV drip of dextrose saline, the
dog looked bright and energetic.
I cannot understand why this quiet lady would not
see the vet when her dog was not eating or had
poor appetite for 2 weeks. The intervention of her
good friend to get the dog examined probably saved
the dog's life for the time being.
Bacterial toxins from the womb would poison the
dog and affect the kidneys if the dog was left
untreated. Blood tests showed a very high
white cell and neutrophil count.
that the dog had a severe bacterial attack,
provoking an extremely high number of white blood
cell production. The white blood cells increase to
fight the bacterial infection.
Presently, this dog had no vomiting and therefore
the kidneys and liver are unlikely to be affected.
When a dog is not eating for 2 weeks, do not delay
The most likely reason that the quiet lady did not
consult the vet was that she feared that the vet
might advise spay. When her dog is operated, she
One moment the dog is alive. The next moment, the
vet says she has died. So, she does not want to
visit the vet. This is just my conjecture
but it is a common worry of old dog owners.
In any case of pyometra, it is best for the
vet not to do immediate surgery to reduce
the risk of anaesthetic death and a lot of
unpleasantness associated with deaths of a beloved
pet, not forgetting damage to a professional
reputation built up with sweat and tears over many
As for owners of female dogs, it is best to spay
them when they are young as they are healthy and
able to take anaesthesia generally.
Pyometra is a
common condition of old female dogs. Spaying the
female dog early prevents pyometra and a lot of
expenses and worries about deaths on the operating
UPDATE IN JUNE 2010
The dog is OK and well cared for.
Case 3. An
8-year-old dog died on the operating table
Recently the Chinese press printed a case of an
8-year-old dog dead after visiting a veterinarian
for spay and dental treatment. I did not read this
report and do not know the other side of the story
from the veterinarian involved.
A pet shop operator told me on Sep17 2008 when she
sent her Golden Retriever for spay about this
case. She said the complainant was quoted $500 for
spay (probably due to pyometra) and dental
work for the 8-year-old Jack Russell. However, the vet presented a bill of $1,200
on the death of the dog.
Another person told me that the vet had justified
saying that expensive drugs were used to revive
When a dog dies on the operating table, there is
so much unpleasantness from uneducated dog owners
and sensationalism from tabloids.
As I review the above 3 cases that occurred
recently, it seems that the dogs were
coincidentally 8 years of age.
"stop at 8" spay policy from a vet (Case 2)
a wise policy?
It may be wise for a vet to reject spaying and
pyometra if the dog is 8 years and above to avoid
unnecessary bad mouthing and unpleasantness from
uneducated dog owners. Some vets lose money as
they don't charge if the dog dies in such a
situation. Overall, it is not a good situation to
I read the comments in an internet forum regarding
this case. This time the forum moderators were
more responsible as they did not permit mention of
of the veterinarian or the veterinary surgery in Singapore. There were
more balanced comments than in a
previous writing of dog anaesthetic death at the surgery.
There were readers asking for the name of the
surgery and one writing about never spaying her
To avoid unpleasantness due to poor clinical
outcomes, maybe it is wise to pass the case to
other veterinarians. Reputations are hard to build
and with an uneducated pet owner suffering from
such situations, reputations are demolished in an
internet forum in no time.
In old dogs, it may be wise for the vet not
to combine spay and dental work so as to reduce
the anaesthetic time and therefore reduce the risk
of anaesthetic death. It is possible that the
owner will not come back for dental work after the
spay, but then so much unpleasantness is avoided
and damage to professional reputation.