Posts Tagged ‘pet surgery’

Answer: When it needs to be surgically removed from your pet.

These pennies can add up to hundreds of dollars - in emergency vet bills.

These pennies can add up to hundreds of dollars – in emergency vet bills.

As a pet owner, you may already be aware of the hazards of lead poisoning in pets. But did you know that zinc is toxic, also?

Where would my pet find zinc?  Items containing or made from zinc include metal travel cages, plumbing nuts, hardware nuts, zinc oxide ointment, game board pieces, and pennies minted after 1982.

What are the signs of zinc toxicity in a pet?  Look for vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and membranes), blood in the urine, and pale mucous membranes.     

How is zinc toxicity treated?  Xrays can determine the presence and location of swallowed objects, while blood and urine tests can determine the extent of injury. Removal of the objects may require endoscopy or surgery. Removal of the zinc object is necessary for recovery. Some pets will need a blood transfusion, as well. The veterinarian will determine which type of supportive care is necessary, depending on the organs affected.

What happens after that?  The veterinarian will monitor your pet’s response to treatment, especially within the first 72 hours.

Is zinc toxicity really considered an emergency?  Yes. Unless the pet receives treatment soon after ingesting the zinc object, it may suffer organ failure and a heart attack. Known or suspected zinc ingestion cases will always be sent to the local emergency hospital.

This article originally posted February 1, 2011.

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FUNNY ANSWER:  No; let your vet do it.

SERIOUS ANSWER:    If you own a female dog or cat, you will be faced with the question of whether or not to spay your pet. Many animal shelters make that decision for the prospective owners, as they often will not adopt out an intact pet. Cats that come in and out of heat every few weeks, yowling, rolling, and trying to escape outdoors, are typically spayed in a hurry, so the owner can relax. 

But female dogs can be quiet about estrus*, perhaps not shedding much blood or making a nuisance of themselves. Male dogs jumping the fence in search of a mate may be the worst part of the problem. Still, pet owners wonder whether the risk of spay surgery is acceptable. Spaying – at least for now – is still an elective, rather than a legal mandate, in most places. 

[*Italicized words are defined in the glossary at the end of this article.]

For the purposes of this post, we will consider as a “spay” an ovariohysterectomy, in which the uterus and ovaries are removed. Another type of spay surgery is the ovariectomy, in which only the ovaries are removed. 

What are the benefits of spaying?

  • Reduced risk of mammary cancer
  • Eliminated risk of uterine and ovarian tumors
  • Eliminated risk of uterine infection (pyometra)
  • Eliminated risk of unwanted litters
  • Financial incentive, i.e. greatly discounted rate for city license fees 
  • Fewer unwanted “suitors” coming to call

Focus on pyometra
 is a preventable disease, in that it can be prevented through spay surgery. Intact (non-spayed) females are at risk for pyometra, which often presents 1-2 months after estrus (or “heat”). Elevated hormone levels can lead to greater than normal secretions in the uterus, providing a breeding ground for bacteria.

Affected dogs may have an “open” pyometra, in which pus, mucus, and blood may be seen draining from the vulva. In a “closed” infection, the accumulated pus does not drain, and the pet may show more severe signs of illness. In either case, look for lethargyanorexia, depression, excessive thirst. Pets with ”closed” infections may exhibit vomiting and diarrhea, shock, and collapse. Interestingly, fever is not always present.

In most cases, spay surgery is the preferred remedy for pyometra. Due to the illness, the risks of surgery are elevated. To wit: the infected organ must be removed from the body without introducing its contents to the body cavity. Adding to the risk is the pet’s poor general health as a result of the infection. For these reasons, prevention through early spay surgery is recommended.

Normal canine uterus.  Photo by Jennifer Miele

Normal canine uterus. Photo by Jennifer Miele

Normal canine uterus. Photo by Jennifer Miele

Normal canine uterus. Photo by Jennifer Miele

Infected canine uterus (pyometra).  Notice the sausage-like appearance.  Photo by Jennifer Miele

Infected canine uterus (pyometra). Notice the sausage-like appearance. Photo by Jennifer Miele




  • anorexia – loss of appetite
  • estrus – the portion of the reproductive cycle in which female animals will accept a mate; “heat”
  • intact – not spayed or castrated
  • lethargy – tiredness, reluctance to move or engage in normal activity
  • ovariohysterectomy – surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus; “spay” surgery
  • pyometra – infection of the uterus
  • vulva – the external female genitals

Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice (Birchard, Sherding)
Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary (Blood, Studdert)

This article was originally posted on January 30, 2012.

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