The Importance of Spaying Your Pet

May 30, 2014 at 12:36 pm Leave a comment

CAUTION: This is going to be a very long entry, as I’ve had a long, stressful week and I’m not good at breaking my thoughts down into fewer words. 😉

I got my cat Gracie 7 years ago as of this August. A girl from school had a cat who had a litter of kittens, and she and her family were looking to find them homes free of charge. Me, being a cat lover, was all over that, naturally. Despite having 2 cats at home already, my 22 year old, carefree self thought another cat would be a wonderful addition. I was still in school and unemployed, but since I was already feeding and taking care of the other 2 cats financially I figured adding one more to the group wouldn’t be an issue. In that aspect, I was right. When Gracie got to be around 6 months old my mother was asking me when I was going to get her spayed. I looked into it, and it wasn’t exactly cheap. There were clinics around that did offer lower prices for the surgery, but I was just starting a new job (that didn’t exactly pay the best) and because she was a strictly indoor cat I decided to push it off. For the next couple of heat cycles the same topic came into question, and it was always the same logic- she’s not outdoors or around male cats that aren’t neutered, so it’s not a pressing issue. I was warned about the possibility of her being at a greater risks for certain types of female cancers (reproductive, mammary, etc.) when she became older, and even though I never, ever thought that was no big deal, I wasn’t particularly worried about it. After all, it was a risk, not a guarantee, and older cats tend to have some sort of ailment to cause them to pass away. I did look into it seriously about a year or two ago, when I finally seemed to have a stable income, but as I searched the internet for information I found a lot of risks about spaying an older cat, which worried me and turned me off to the idea.

Fast forward to last Saturday. I got up early to get ready for work, and from what I can recall Gracie seemed her usual self. Of our 2 cats, she’s the one that follows me around most, stays with me every night and therefore wakes up with me every morning. It was super early so I was rushing around trying to get ready (as is normally the case) and though I know she was there and I remember interacting with her before I left, I didn’t really notice her acting any differently. After work I came home, we ran to the grocery store, cooked dinner, and I went out to take advantage of Memorial Day sales and bought a new bed. It was a pretty busy day, so I didn’t have time to notice in the midst of everything that Gracie had been hiding. That night my boyfriend and I rented a movie, and as I always do, I went to look for Gracie so she could come in and cuddle with us. I checked every possible hiding spot she’s been known to be in, and when I didn’t see her there we got out the treats and shook them. Still no Gracie, which was the first time I realized something wasn’t right. She is always ALL OVER treats. I can’t even go into the cupboard we keep them in for something else without her showing up and waiting for a snack. We finally found her and carried her into the room, gave her a few treats, and she still showed no interest. She also seemed very quiet and just all around lethargic. She’s normally very energetic, affectionate, and VERY vocal. At this point it was very late on Saturday night. I googled a few local 24/7 vet hospitals and after getting an idea of their pricing ultimately decided to wait until morning to see if she seems better. I didn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars for something that could’ve been nothing. I hardly slept due to my worry and anxiety, and woke up early Sunday morning to check on her. She was still acting the same, so the process of finding a vet open on a Sunday (not to mention a holiday weekend) began. Google pointed me to the Banfield Pet Hospital which is located within Pet Smart stores. I remembered a coworker of mine using them for her dog and giving great reviews, so I figured that was my best bet. There’s a Pet Smart literally 2 minutes away from my house, so instead of calling I decided to just pop in when they opened so I could ask questions and see if they had any openings. I also wanted to pick up some canned cat food since she usually prefers that over the usual dry food, and because she wasn’t drinking either I figured if I could get her to eat this it at least would give her some moisture.

I get there and explained my situation to the girl at the desk as best as I could. I hate to say it, as I didn’t have all that much interaction with her, but she wasn’t the friendliest. I didn’t see her do it, but I just felt like she was rolling her eyes at me the entire conversation. Anyway, she said they didn’t have an opening until the next day at 2pm, and from what I was explaining to her it didn’t sound like an emergency situation at the time as long as I could get her to eat and drink something that day. I took the appointment, bought my cans of food, and returned home. Gracie still showed no interest in the canned food, so at this point I was at a loss. Her appointment was in over 24 hours, and not knowing what was wrong with her I was worried she wouldn’t even make it to that point. Luckily my coworker suggested I try calling the Pet Smart she goes to. Despite it being 30-40 minutes away, I felt I had no choice. By some grace of God they had an opening that day, and shortly after I made that they called me and offered me an even sooner time after someone else cancelled. Needless to say we packed up Gracie and headed out there immediately. As I was putting her into the carrier, I noticed some discharge coming from her rear, which made me even happier to be getting her in ASAP.

When we got there we were pretty much taken in immediately. They did a standard exam- temperature, weight, blood work, etc.- as I explained her symptoms and my concerns. Because she wasn’t spayed, their first suspicion was an infected uterus. Her temperature was a bit raised as was her white blood cell count, which are both key indicators of an infection. They explained to me that the only cure was surgery, essentially an emergency spaying procedure, where they remove the reproductive organs. Spaying, while invasive, is a generally simple procedure. However, with her being sick, somewhat dehydrated, and the uterus being swollen due to the infection (aka pyometra), it made the surgery extremely risky (and therefore much, much more expensive than your average desexing opertation). I was able to sign her up for a monthly insurance plan they have, which cut a lot of the prices down, but I was still responsible for $60 that day, and $550 for her surgery. That was hard to swallow both emotionally and financially, but without the surgery she would’ve died within days. Because they were fairly certain at that point that it was a pyometra they did allow me to bypass having XRays done, which saved me $180. I was skeptical, but ultimately nixed them just in case something else went wrong and I needed the extra money. I’m convinced the Dr. we saw is a living saint. Not only did she come in early first thing the next morning to do the surgery (they just didn’t have the time that day), but it was also on a holiday. Since they don’t do overnight stays there, they sent her home with me with a prescription for antibiotics to start her on. This made me a nervous wreck. We knew what was wrong and had her set up the next morning for what needed to be done, but there was still no guarantee that she’d make it through the night. Giving her the medicine was no easy feat, either. They were out of liquid, so twice a day I have to basically shove a pill down the back of her throat and rinse it down with a syringe full of water.

The next morning we took her in at 7am and dropped her off. I pretty much slept in a couple 20-30 minute intervals the previous night, so by the time we got back after taking her I was exhausted. Even still, I couldn’t really fall asleep until they called, which was about 3 hours later. The Dr. explained that it was indeed a pyometra and that everything so far was going good. She was waking up from surgery, and they’d be keeping her until about 4:30 for monitoring and to keep her on an IV of fluids. I was elated. Even though there was still time for complications to arise, the hard part was over. I was really concerned about the anesthesia because she’s a really, really small cat. It turns out the discharge coming from her bottom was a good thing, as gross as it sounds. It meant the infection was draining a bit rather than filling up the uterus, which would’ve made it larger, harder to remove and far more prone to rupture and ultimately spreading the infection throughout her torso. We got so lucky in so many ways. At first I was thinking how the timing was so bad financially (we were on vacation less than 2 weeks prior, and I had just purchased a new bed) but the timing actually worked. I actually had the money in my savings to cover the cost of surgery, I was off work for Memorial Day and therefore able to take her in without worrying about calling off, and it didn’t happen while we were on vacation. She would’ve likely been dead before or soon after we got back if that were the case.

As soon as I got her home, she seemed almost like her old self. She was excited, meowing, and ate some canned food almost immediately. While this was very comforting, it was also worrisome considering I was told she’d probably be extremely lethargic and sleepy and may not regain her appetite until the next day. And here she was already trying to jump around on things, which isn’t good for her incision. We took her back in the next morning because the Dr. wanted to check her red blood cell count, which was a bit low before surgery, and it seemed to be rising back to normal. It’s been 4 days since her operation now, and pretty much everything has been going very well (knock on wood!). My main concern this week was that she didn’t poop despite the fact that she’s been eating regularly. Drinking has been a little more of a struggle, but she’s a little diva and tends to dislike drinking water out of bowls, haha. I was able to trick her by giving her ice water in a regular drinking cup, because I swear she only likes water if it’s coming out of the faucet or in a cup that I plan to drink. 😛 When they called me to check up on her 2 days post-op I mentioned that she hasn’t pooped yet. They said her antibiotics, pain meds, and the fact she didn’t eat much prior to surgery would back her up, but if it doesn’t change in a couple of days to call them. When I still didn’t see anything in the litter box (besides pee) last night I set my alarm so I could wake up and call them as soon as they opened at 8 this morning. Sure enough, 2 hours prior to my alarm going off I was woken up to the sound of her digging around in the litter pan, and she pooped. I never thought I’d get so excited over my cat pooping (and simultaneously leaving a pile of litter on my floor) but I was elated and had to wake up my son and boyfriend to tell them the good news, lol!

Needless to say, she is doing excellent, and I couldn’t be happier. She’s not a fan of the e-collar she has to wear but she’s becoming more and more used to it. I know there are still freak complications that could arise, and we still have to make sure her incision heals properly without any issues, but for the first time I have nothing but hope and positive thoughts. Money is going to be tight for a while, and who knows how long it will take me to build my savings back up, but it is more than worth it to have my cuddly, sweet little Gracie with me and hopefully with me for at least the next 10 years. ❤

For more information on Gracie's condition and for other risk factors of not spaying your pet, just google Pyometra. It's extremely dangerous, and fatal if it's not caught and dealt with immediately. Even if surgery is performed, there's still a chance they will not make it through the surgery and/or recovery. We were extremely lucky in that Gracie's liver, kidneys, and other organs were not yet damaged by her infection and lack of eating and drinking prior to the surgery. Moral of the story? Spay/Neuter your pets! Yes, it does prevent unwanted pregnancies, but there are several health benefits that string from having it done as well. You may think that $200-$300 seems like a lot at the time, but it’s far more affordable than a $700 emergency, high risk, surgery, and definitely more affordable than losing your pet.

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The Amy Blog

Hello, I'm Amy! I was born in '85 and live in Pittsburgh, PA. I became the mama of my wonderful son in 2004, and also own 3 kitties that I treat like children. I am a self-admitted cosmetics and beauty addict, but I also enjoy fashion, music, art, and am totally guilty of reading way too much celebrity gossip. :P
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