Pyometra plus refusal to spay: A look at two veterinary cases

Pyometra plus refusal to spay: A look at two veterinary cases

Management, legal and ethical issues abound when veterinarians recommend 'emergency' procedures to hesitant pet owners.
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Oct 01, 2013

Last week my office received a fascinating e-mail containing an account from a veterinary practitioner who is deeply involved with the ever-changing landscape of veterinary law. The story, which involved one of his clinic's show dog patients, stirred up a lively debate in the veterinary law cybersphere. I certainly found it compelling, especially since a very similar set of circumstances had unfolded at one of my own practices the previous month.


One pet owner didn’t want to consent to an emergency spay because he was interested in breeding his show dog eventually. The veterinarian threatened to turn him over to the authorities for animal abuse.
To summarize the practitioner's encounter: One of his clients, a regular participant in the dog show circuit, showed up with an ailing dog at the local after-hours emergency clinic. It appeared that the dog had developed a pyometra, which was open and draining, but the dog was otherwise normal and active.

The emergency veterinarian evaluated the dog and confirmed the pyometra. She then recommended that an immediate ovariohysterectomy be performed. The owner refused, citing his desire to obtain future litters from this dog, and did his best to fully explain his wishes to the doctor.

The emergency doctor replied that if the owner did not allow her to spay the patient by 5 p.m. that evening, she would report him to the authorities for animal abuse. The owner left with his dog and obtained medical therapy for her elsewhere. The patient recovered fully and a fresh litter was produced during her next cycle.