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Toa Payoh Vets Clinical
Making veterinary surgery alive
to a veterinary student studying in Australia
using real case studies and pictures
Operating On A Dangerous Dog
Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS
Case written: 08 April, 2002
01 July, 2009
PYOMETRA IN A DANGEROUS DOG BREED - THE ROTTWEILER
A CASE WRITTEN IN 2002
"The eyes are still blinking
by itself, as if the dog is getting up!" Nurse Ann warned. The Rottweiler was
under the gaseous general anesthesia and the operation to remove the womb and ovaries was
The Rottweiler was in deep general anaesthesia as her sclera or eye white was seen when
Nurse Ann parted the upper and lower eyelids. The cornea and pupil were
further down, hidden by the lower eyelid. This was
a classic textbook description of the stage of deep anaesthesia described in any
veterinary anaesthesia book.
The reason that the cornea and pupil was not visible was due to the fact
that the eyeball had rotated
downwards during the stage of surgical anaesthesia. Therefore, only the top part of the eye, the
white of the sclera was visible when
Nurse Ann separated the eyelids. In deep anaesthesia, when Nurse Ann touched the eye
lashes with her fingers, the eyes should not blink.
Now, these eyelids blinked automatically and continuously. It should not happen at
all. A higher dose of the halothane gas managed to subdue the dog. But the
effect was not total. The blinking commenced again, causing Nurse Ann to worry.
It was like operating on a tiger. They may bite suddenly even when anaesthetized.
This was an unusual anaesthetic case and occurred once in a blue moon. Suddenly, the
operating room appeared hot and I dripped sweat from my eye-brow. The
dangerous dog was about to be awake.
Nurse Ann was vigilant but would this petite Chinese girl of 4 feet 8
inches in height would not be strong enough to hold the Rottweiler's head down.
Dogs don't blink automatically during deep anaesthesia. This dog seemed to know what was
going on. Two big swollen ovaries of around 3/4-inch in diameter and 2 uterine tubes
of 3/4-inch diameter and 8 inches long were taken out. The womb tubes were fragile
and full of thick sticky pus. This was an easy diagnosis of open pyometra as the thick pus exuded were seen dripping
from the back end of the Rottweiler and had stained the owner's floor
I had my ankle snapped by a Rottweiler who was displeased with being vaccinated. It
was not muzzled and it was a big-headed big jawed male. Would the female of the
species be more dangerous? Once bitten, twice shy? All dog vets get bitten by dogs.
But this was the dangerous dog, as classified by the Agri-food Veterinary Authority
and I was worried. Sometimes it would be better to get a male veterinary
assistant for security reasons when operating a dangerous dog.
"Last 2 stitches!" I gave Nurse Ann the assurance that the
danger would be over. The skin incision was closed with
nylon stitches 2/0. The operating table shook as if there was an
earthquake in Toa Payoh Vets. The big dog started to move his head
"Loosen the four strings!" The strings were holding the dog's feet to the
operating table so that the abdomen could be positioned for surgery. Within a wink
of the eye, the Rottweiler just got up from the operating table in a daze wondering where
"Where is the muzzle?" I asked Nurse Ann. She slipped the muzzle
to prevent the big Rottweiler's jaws from chomping on us. Nurse Ann was worried about being bitten. This was her first week at work. Nobody
could guarantee that when the dog was anaesthesized, the dog would not bite.
There was a continuous episode of bleeding from the stitched area.
"The tongue looked pale", said Nurse Ann.
Would the old dog die? Should she be operated at all?
The skin blood vessels do bleed and this can be quite frightening to the Owner if the dog
is sent home immediately. A bandage was applied to stop the bleeding. Within 3
days, the dog was stronger and had put on weight.
She was not the ferocious to Nurse Ann.
However, the veterinary surgeon was not welcome and it would be foolish for
me to test
her anger by going near her. If the female dog had been spayed when she was younger,
she would not have suffered from pyometra and the risk of dying on the
operating table. These are personal choices for
the Dog Owner. In this case, the dog survived and lived to an old age.
Diagnosis: Open pyometra
Bacterial infection of the womb in older female dogs
& and possible right hip sprain. The cause of the sprain could be the sudden
jumping at every dog passing by, the slippery wet tiled floor and the fright from the loud
midnight thunder 2 days ago.
At home, 20 days before surgery, the Owner complained that the 9-year old bitch
was not eating for a few weeks and thought it was due to old age. She was emaciated with
spinal bones seen and was not a good candidate for surgery.
I gave the dog a 10% chance of surviving the anaesthesia.
When she was given antibiotics, her appetite returned.
She needed to gain weight and health before anaesthesia and surgery to minimize risks of
death during or after surgery.
Thick lumps of pus were seen on the ceramic tiled floor indicating an infection of the
Before surgery - sticky mucus from the vaginal discharge seen from the
vulval lips. A crescent strip adheres to the right hock. .
At home, 7 days after surgery, ready to pounce on
me despite her dislocated
right hip. I was happy to see that she had put on weight.
CLOSED PYOMETRA IN A VERY OLD DOG IN 2009. Isoflurane gas
anaesthesia is used at Toa Payoh Vets. There are still pyometra cases in
dogs in Singapore in 2009 and throughout the years.
Not all old female dogs survive pyometra surgery. Owners need to be
educated that their delays in seeking prompt treatment or surgery would
result in a high risk of their dogs just dying on the operating table.
In such cases, some will not be happy as they have to pay for a dog that
died, attributed to "the vet's incompetence".
June 2009, I encountered 3 cases of pyometra in dogs in a short period
of time. Many events happens in 3s.
One of the cases was incredible. It was a case of a very old dog (16
years old) having closed pyometra is described at:
A Mission Impossible.
I thought such old dogs would have had "menopaused", being equivalent to
96 years old in women. Women are said to have menopause at the age of
Closed pyometra is due to the accumulation of pus and bacteria inside
the womb, making the dog look "bloated".
The cervix would close due to the effects of progesterone in the heat
cycle of the dog as the dog prepare for pregnancy. But a 16-year-old dog
must have closed down the ovarian factory. Apparently, this dog did not.
She did look young. No visible eye cataracts.
I took the young lady's word that this dog was 16 years old. Still
having heat cycle at 16 years old? And pyometra too? Sounds
incredible? But true if the owner is honest and I have no reason to
doubt her word about her companion's age.
Not every dog owner want to spay
their female dogs as some believe
it is cruel to deprive the dog of
her reproductive organs. Yet, the
old dogs don't receive much
personal attention from the owner
compared to the time when they
were young and much fussed over.
So many cases of
closed pyometra come to the vet at
the doorway of death. The vet is
supposed to perform a miracle and
save the old dog.
Vets are not
Gods, but they then get blamed for
the deaths on the operating table
by some unenlightened owners and
family members. Some e-mail or
post disparaging comments about
the vet using the internet without
considering the legal implications
of being sued for libel since they
believe that they can hide their
identity anonymously in the web.
Every dog's anaesthetic death on
the operating table affects the
vet personally too, in one way or
another. Better educated dog
owners may consider spaying their
female dogs when they are young
unless they have the time to check
their dogs regularly or go to
veterinary examination every year.