Our veterinarian just gave us a very upsetting report on Rosie, our 12-year-old beagle. She said Rosie has an infected uterus and will die if it is not removed. Are there other options? Rosie seems old to be having surgery, although until this infection, she has been healthy.
Rosie has pyometra, which is an accumulation of pus, or infectious material, in the uterus. Often the first sign of this problem is that a dog will start drinking copious amounts of water, and possibly have a discharge from the vulva. An infection of the uterus is a very serious matter. Your veterinarian is right -- unless Rosie's uterus is removed she is in grave danger. The lining of the uterine wall will deteriorate as the infection worsens. The uterus actually can rupture allowing the infection to fill the abdominal cavity. Your veterinarian has examined Rosie and apparently feels that she is healthy enough for surgery. Even so, we understand your concern about whether Rosie's body can withstand the anesthetic and the surgery.
Today's newer and better anesthetics make it unnecessary to rule out surgery because of a pet's age. Most veterinary clinics use inhaled anesthetics which are similar to those used in human hospitals. We also have more types of safe injectable anesthetics than ever before. As an additional precaution, your veterinarian may administer fluids and antibiotics through a catheter in Rosie's vein to prevent shock and keep her kidneys functioning properly. Pre-anesthetic blood work will also indicate to your veterinarian if there is any other underlying problems with Rosie’s kidneys or liver.
Sadly, Rosie's current problems easily could have been prevented by the early removal of her uterus, either before her first heat or after her breeding days were over. Commonly called spaying, this surgery is important for preventing uterine infections as well as for birth control. Early spaying also prevents mammary tumors which are often cancerous in older dogs.
We understand your concern for your older pet. Without surgery to remove this infected uterus, Rosie has a poor prognosis. Please review with your veterinarian the anesthetic and surgical procedure for Rosie, so you feel comfortable with your decision to remove this infected uterus.