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      Date:   27 November, 2010  
Focus: Small animals - dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs & rabbits.

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Medical Problems of Old Female Not-Spayed Dogs - pyometra and breast tumours
Dr Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS
ate:  27 November, 2010 
Be Kind To Pets
Veterinary Education
Project 2010-0129

"Can you remember this dog?" the man in his late 20s put the Maltese X with fully formed cataracts in her eyes on the consultation table.

"No," I said. "It is not easy to identify Malteses or their crosses as they look almost alike."

"In June, you extracted her right tooth which you said was infected with pus," the man said as I referred to the medical records.

oro-nasal fistula, carnaissal abscess, 15-year-old singapore toa payoh vets "Yes," I said. "This 15-year-old must be the oldest dog in Singapore to suffer from an oro-nasal fistula. How is she now?"

"No more problem," the man showed me the right side of the face. Hair had fully grown and as I tried to open the dog's mouth, she turned her head away. The owner tried but was not successful as that was what occurred in June. The old dog remembered the pain and was avoiding the pain by turning her head away.

"What's her problem today?" I asked.

"She is itchy and keeps rubbing her back on the floor."

The dog's back was losing hair compared to the fullness of hair on the face.

I put some of the back hairs under the microscope. "There is ringworm in the hairs," I asked the young man to view the hairs.

"Does the dog lick her private parts?" I asked. "See the vulval area. It is swollen and is 10 times larger than normal."

"I don't think so. She only licks her thighs," he said.

"To you, it appears that the thighs are itchy as well." I said. "She has some infections, either in the womb as she is not spayed or in the bladder. As she is so old, I would not advise spaying as she might die on the operating table. If spaying had been done at a young age, we could be sure that the dog would not be suffering from infections of the womb or have ovarian cysts or tumours."

Due to economic reasons, I did not advocate blood test to check whether the dog had pyometra infections.

The owner wanted to clip the dog himself as he had bought a clipper. "It is not that easy for you to shave her completely bald," I said. "You can't even open her mouth for me to examine her teeth."

I had not forced this old dog to open her mouth this time as her main problem was the skin. It would be prudent to check the mouth but then she had her dental work and scaling just 6 months ago and had no bad breath. So, I spared her the agony.

What's the cause of the skin itchiness? I put the infected hairs under the microscope and showed the young man that the hairs had fungal spores.

Although ringworm is a primary cause in the back skin, this old female dog has a more serious insidious health problem.

It is likely that this 15-year-old dog has open pyometra. She keeps leaking out pus from her vagina. She licks off the discharge to be clean. So the irritated vulval lips become swollen 10X over the past few days or weeks. To the owner, she is just having itchy thighs and back area.

I got the dog clipped bald from head to toe by a professional groomer. She was bathed, and treated with antibiotics and anti-fungal medication. This is likely a case of pyometra and/or ovarian disorder e.g. hyperestrogenism, ovarian cysts, ovarian tumours. I hope this old dog does not need anaesthesia and surgery as I don't want to do it. The more the vet operates on high-risk cases, the higher the chances of getting deaths on the operating table and it does affect most vets and their staff emotionally. It is extremely traumatic for many veterinary staff.

TIPS: Spay your female dog when she is young. If she lives to 15 years, she will not be having pyometra.

But not every older female dog will get pyometra or breast cancers. You just need to check her daily and be observant. Blood tests and annual vet examination will prevent many sadness and inoperable tumours if you can spare the time for your companion.

Her oro-nasal fistula case in June 2010 is recorded at:
_carnaissal_tooth_abscess_old_dog_ToaPayohVets.htm. The image of the oro-nasal fistula above was taken in Jun 2010 with the cooperation of the young man who takes good care of his companion.

"Open your mouth for the vet," he said to his companion. "No way," she clamped her mouth shut. It is extremely painful to have decayed teeth and here the vet wanted her to open her mouth!


"What are those bluish lumps?" the young lady asked me. "I check my dog daily and saw them last week." The soft lumps under the skin were present between MG4 and MG5 on the left side. MG = Mammary Gland (breasts).

"They are breast tumours," I said. "The lumps may be cancerous if they grow fast."

"What to do?"

"Surgery to remove them while they are small in size," I said. "If they are cancerous, they will spread to the other breasts or grow to big sizes like ping-pong balls.

As the lady was worried about anaesthesia, she chose to have a complete blood test done to check whether her dog was healthy. "Whether she is healthy or not," I said. "Your dog needs surgery if the breast tumours grow big and fast. It will be too late if you wait another few weeks."

Early spay will usually not result in breast tumours in the female dog in the majority of cases.


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Be Kind To Pets
Veterinary Education
Project 2010-0129
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