October 21, 2012
First, I want to apologize to readers who feel I don’t offer enough advice in my columns. The reason for that and I’m sure you’ll understand when you read this, is because the last guy I gave advice to actually took it.
My brother-in-law, Gary, has a bad back. So bad, in fact, that he needed surgery — a dorsal laminectomy of four of his vertebrae. Why his surgeon agreed to this, I don’t know, but he let Gary keep the removed pieces of bone. Gary casually phoned me shortly afterward, his wife would probably say under the influence of his pain medication, and asked how best to clean the shreds of meat from the bone. Although I can’t claim to have been under the influence of anything, I am guilty of my response: “Boil them!”
Weeks went by, and Bonnie and I were attending the Midwest Veterinary Conference in Columbus. Gary and his wife, Cindy, Bonnie’s sister and a registered veterinary technician, live not far from there, so we stayed at their house for the weekend.
On Saturday, Cindy went with us to the conference. Upon returning to their home that evening, the comforting smell of chicken soup greeted us from the kitchen. But, Gary wasn’t making supper. And, he wasn’t cooking chicken, either. Sadly, chicken soup has lost much of its appeal.
Recently, though, I did have another opportunity to offer some more advice. Only this advice wasn’t given in jest, and it was advice I wish I had given myself many years ago.
My patient, a young, female English Bulldog, had just ended her first heat cycle. Her owner’s complaint was that she had a greenish vaginal discharge. Notes in her chart from previous visits indicated that she had this condition twice before as a younger puppy. The phrase “intends to breed” was written as well.
From the almost constant petting, hugging, kissing, and I believe “sweet nothings” whispered in her ear, I could tell her owner really loved his dog. I explained that this was probably a simple case of vaginitis, but that it could ascend to become a urinary tract infection or worse yet, be a foreshadowing of a much more serious problem seen in older, unsprayed, females, called pyometra. This uterine infection itself can become life-threatening, or lead to kidney failure. The “life-threatening” part seemed to grab his attention.
Knowing his intention to breed, I added that pregnant English Bulldogs usually required a caesarian section. That didn’t faze him. He was, he insisted, only going to breed her once. I further explained that while we have done numerous caesarians in our practice, and most have gone well without complication, it is not an innocuous procedure, and there are no guarantees.
The concern returned to his face, and in a soft spoken voice he asked, “What should I do, Doc?”
In the nanoseconds it took to process his question, my first thought was that of an old friend. Chrissy was one of the greatest dogs who ever lived. Born in 1982, she was the granddaughter of my original Border Collie, “Old Chrissy.” I had given one of her puppies to my brother, and he in turn gave me little Chrissy when I worked for him that summer.
Chrissy would literally jump through hoops for me. Everyone who met her wanted one of her puppies, including, and especially me. I planned to have one of her family members in my life forever.
After several failed attempts to breed her, we tried one more time when she was seven years old. Two to six years of age are considered the best and safest breeding years. Bonnie thought Chrissy was too old, so I take full responsibility for what happened.
Chrissy went into labor on a Sunday afternoon. Things didn’t progress normally, however, and after too many hours and a couple injections of oxytocin, we decided she needed a caesarian.
The first part of the surgery was uneventful. We removed seven live puppies from the uterus, and Bonnie began to suture the wound. Then suddenly, without any warning, Chrissy was gone. Thank you to our neighbors, Denny and Rosie, for their help that awful night.
We raised six of the puppies and kept two. Jake had his mother’s kind and gentle heart, and Chrissy III, her steadfast devotion. Although we loved those dogs with all our hearts, if given the choice, I don’t think either Bonnie or I would have traded their mother for them.
“Have her spayed,” I told him. “Have your dog spayed and avoid any possible complications of pregnancy.” And maybe a whole lot of heartache and guilt. That’s the best advice I have.
Dr. John H. Jones operates a mixed animal practice in Delphos with his wife, Dr. Bonnie Jones.