D. E. Larsen, DVM
Howard was leaning on the front counter, trying to dig his address out of his wallet and maintain control of Roxy at the same time. Roxy was a young German Shepard. She was pulling hard on the leash, leaning toward the cat carrier in the far corner of the reception area.
Nan was quick to defuse the pending chaos in the waiting room by taking Roxy back to the exam room. At the same time, Howard finished with the paperwork for Sandy. Howard was a new client, and he lived out on Bond Road, out of Brownsville.
“Hi, Howard, I’m Doctor Larsen,” I said as I extended my hand. “What can we do for Roxy today?”
“I am told that there is an injection that will keep a dog from getting pregnant if she is bred by the wrong dog,” Howard said.
“Well, I guess I would say yes and no to that question,” I said. “There is an injection, but it is not safe, and it is something that I don’t use or only rarely use it. At one point, we used DES, a synthetic estrogen. But that drug has been removed from the market. So right now, we only have estradiol. That will eliminate the possibility of a pregnancy, but it is not a safe drug to use in the dog.”
“This is my situation, Doc,” Howard said. “I bought this purebred little German Shepherd with the intent of breeding her with my dog, who has just achieved his champion status. Then what do I find yesterday morning when I get up, the neighbor’s black lab hooked up with Roxy in my backyard.”
“I would assume that she is early in her heat period,” I said. “Not all matings result in a pregnancy, especially if they occur outside of the prime period of ovulation.”
“Doc, I just don’t want to take a chance,” Howard says. “What am I going to do with a litter of mutts?”
“The safest thing for Roxy, if for her to deliver that litter of mutts,” I said. “German Shepherd and Lab crosses are pretty good pups, and you shouldn’t have much of a problem giving them away or selling them for a small fee. I think we do better selling puppies for a small amount rather than giving them away. That way, the new owners are invested in the pup, and that lessens the chance of it winding up in the humane society or being dumped along the road somewhere.”
“I just don’t want to deal with it, Doc,” Howard said. “I want to get her that shot.”
“When I sat this is not a safe drug for the dog, I am not talking about obscure side effect that occurs once in every thousand doses,” I said. “The dog’s uterus is sensitive to estrogen stimulation. After years of stimulation, a fair number of intact females will develop pyometra. This is an abnormal accumulation of pus in the uterus. Pyometra is a life-threatening condition and requires an emergency ovariohysterectomy. With this injection, that condition can be a complication following her heat cycle. I can’t give you a percentage, but I would guess it occurs in over ten percent of the dogs getting this injection. If it doesn’t occur following this heat cycle, it greatly increases the odds of it occurring at a later cycle.”
“Doc, I drove all the way up here because I hear nothing but good things about you,” Howard said. “But if you won’t give Roxy this injection, I will just go elsewhere to get it.”
“Did you hear, and understand, what I just said?” I asked.
“Yes, I heard you. And I understand there is a chance Roxy could lose her uterus, and possibly her life if I fail to watch her close,” Howard said. “But here is my situation, Doc. I don’t want to have to deal with a bunch of mutt pups.”
“Okay, against my better judgment, I will give her an injection,” I said.
It was several weeks later, and Howard was back with Roxy. She was dripping pus from her vulva and had been vomiting for several days.
“You know what this looks like?” I asked Howard after looking at Roxy.
“Yes, and I guess I can’t say you didn’t warn me,” Howard said. “So, what do we need to do now?”
“Now we need to take her to surgery and get that infected uterus out of there,” I said.
“Is there no other option?” Howard asked.
“Actually, I did treat a pyometra in an older dog once,” I said. “It is difficult, and we run the risk of losing the dog.”
“How did it turn out for the old dog?” Howard asked.
“We cleared the infection, and the dog got pregnant on the next cycle,” I said. “But things never worked very well, and she never went into labor. The owner brought her in several days past her due date. All the puppies were dead, and the uterus was infected again.
We spayed her at that time. I learn from my mistakes, and I won’t treat a pyometra without surgery again. And I won’t give that misstating injection again, despite pressure from the owner.”
“Okay, Doc, let’s get it done,” Howard said. “She is too good of a dog to risk losing her. And I am not interested in finding another veterinarian right now. When will she be ready to go home?”
“We will do the surgery at the end of the day,” I said. “I like to get a good level of antibiotics circulating before surgery, and I generally like to get a bottle of fluids into her also. I will give you a call when I’m done. I would expect to send her home in the morning most of the time. There is always a little hedge when working on an infected uterus. There is a chance of some contamination of the incision.”
Roxy was a great dog and a good patient. I was always worried about German Shepherds because there are always a few knotheads in the breed.
The surgery went well. Roxy’s pyometra was an open cervix infection, and there was only a moderate amount of pus present in the uterus. Her surgery was not much different from a standard spay. I did oversew the uterine stump, something not done on a routine spay. I also changed the surgery pack, drapes, and gloves before closing the abdominal incision. Just as insurance, in case there was some contamination from the infected uterus.
Roxy recovered well and healed well. She went home and led a long life as the matron aunt to Howard’s future puppies.
Howard remained a faithful client, despite the distance from the clinic. He said many times that he appreciated my honesty and straightforward mannerism.
“I always know you will tell it like it is, Doc,” Howard once said.
And, like I mentioned before, I never used a mismating injection again.
Photo by Lindsay Wilson from Pexels.