Sofie, a sweet 7 year old cocker spaniel, stood on the treatment table shivering. She had developed a very large, ulcerated, painful mass on her belly in the past few months and now it was starting to drip bloody fluid continually. Only after putting her on the scale did they realize that she had lost almost half her body weight over the past year. The situation was grim. The mass was clearly breast cancer, and it looked likely to be a very aggressive form. Surgically removing the mass would cost hundreds of dollars but would buy her some time to be more comfortable. Unfortunately it would be a miracle if the cancer had not spread all over her body, likely giving her less than a few months to live no matter how aggressively we treated her.
Maggie, a very laid back 8 year old Boxer, laid on the exam room floor clearly struggling to hold on to life. It had seemed to the owners that her last heat cycle had lasted for months instead of weeks, and now there was even more bloody discharge coming out of her vulva. Maggie was in septic shock from an infection in her uterus, a common problem in older, unspayed females. We would have to walk a fine line to get her stabilized enough to undergo the extensive surgery needed to remove that pus-filled uterus and try to save her life. It was going to cost many hundreds of dollars, and there was no guarantee she was going to survive.
Star, a somewhat jumpy 5 year old rabbit, was sitting in her carrier acting essentially normal. She was in because her owners had started noticing blood in her urine. With no evidence of urinary tract infection or stones in her bladder the most likely culprit was uterine cancer, a common problem in adult female, unspayed rabbits. Without an immediate spay she was going to become sick soon, but the surgery was going to be somewhat risky. As long as everything around the surgery went well her prognosis was fairly good, with some possibility for complete cure.
Mittens the shy grey 1 year old cat was crouched in the back of her carrier. Her owner had gotten her off of Craig’s List cheap and had not gotten her any medical care up to this point. A couple of months ago she had been making a lot of noise so her owner had booted her outside to get some peace and mysteriously shortly after that she had started to get bigger and bigger in the abdomen. Now it was clear that she was trying to deliver a kitten, but it had been hanging halfway out for the past hour and the cat was clearly in distress. Both mother and kittens were going to die without an immediate c-section, but the cost was too much for an owner who didn’t feel she could afford basic preventative care and that meant that this cat would have to forfeit her life.
The one thing that all these cases have in common is that all of this suffering, heartache, and expense could have been avoided with a routine spay early in life. Dogs, cats and rabbits should be spayed between five and six months of age without fail unless they are carefully selected and screened breeding animals. Not bothering to get around to getting a pet spayed is outright negligent, and your veterinarian is not going to feel sympathetic about how expensive it is to save a life when, to an owner’s complete surprise, an unspayed female animal gets accidentally pregnant, needs a c-section, needs surgery for uterine cancer, cystic ovaries, or infected uterus, or suffers from completely preventable breast cancer. If the cost of a spay is an impediment consider adopting animals from the humane society or rescue organizations where the animal will already be taken care of or a certificate to cover the cost of the procedure will be issued. Just get it done. There is no excuse for any pet to die from any of these problems.