Archived News

UC Davis Saves Dog with Emergency Surgery

October 1, 2014

What's New Image

Thanks to the necessary specialists and equipment immediately available at the VMTH, Angel’s life was saved.

VMTH "Case of the Month" - October 2014

Angel, a 3-year-old female Akita, had been getting progressively inappetant for about a week. She was also experiencing vomiting and diarrhea when her owner brought her to her primary care veterinarian. The vet prescribed medications, including an antidiarrheal and an antibiotic, as well as an adjusted diet. Angel initially improved with the medication, but she continued to not eat. She was lethargic and still not her normal self, so she was brought to the Community Medicine Service at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

Once at UC Davis, veterinarians in Community Medicine performed a physical examination on Angel, using the opportunity as a teaching moment for veterinary students training with the Service. As the VMTH is a teaching hospital, every appointment is utilized as part of the final year training for DVM students. Student clinical rounds in Community Medicine are especially important as so many of the veterinary students go on to be primary care practitioners.
Community Medicine consulted with the VMTH’s Diagnostic Imaging Service, where radiographs (x-rays) and an abdominal ultrasound revealed Angel’s uterus was dilated and filled with fluid, an infectious condition known as a closed pyometra. Closed pyometras can be deadly if not treated properly since they can cause dogs to become septic and develop shock. Diagnosis of a pyometra is a surgical emergency. The proper course of action is an immediate spaying of the dog. Known as an ovariohysterectomy (OVH), spaying is a complete removal of a female dog’s ovaries and uterus.

In Angel’s case, she was most likely in septic shock and was anemic due to the chronic inflammation and the likely bacterial sepsis resulting from the pyometra. Normally, Community Medicine can perform OVHs, but due to Angel’s systemic instability and ill health, as well as the potential need for intense postoperative monitoring and advanced supportive care, the surgery was performed by specialists in the VMTH’s Soft Tissue Surgery Service. Despite Angel’s guarded condition, she made it through the successful surgery.

She recovered in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit and was monitored overnight. Throughout the night, she remained stable and was given intravenous antibiotics, pain medication and fluid therapy. She was also given medications for her vomiting and potential nausea. Angel remained hospitalized for one more day, but was then allowed to go home where she recovered with the help of pain medication, cold compresses of the incision site and activity restriction until her sutures were removed two weeks later.

Angel’s case is a great example of the integrative approach to veterinary medicine at UC Davis, and of the many benefits of utilizing the VMTH. Angel’s emergent condition was diagnosed and treated immediately because of the full range of services available under one roof. In critical conditions such as Angel’s, having all the necessary specialists and equipment immediately available saved her life.

Her case also is a reminder of the importance of spaying and neutering pets. The procedures are not just a way of controlling the pet population – they can also hold many health benefits. Had Angel been spayed earlier, her pyometra never would have occurred. Thankfully, Angel is healthy once again and back to her normal self.

About the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
The William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis—a unit of the School of Veterinary Medicine—provides state-of-the-art clinical care while serving as the primary clinical teaching experience for DVM students and post graduate veterinarian residents. The VMTH treats more than 47,000 animals a year, ranging from cats and dogs to horses, cows and exotic species. To learn more about the VMTH, please go to Timely news updates can be received on its Facebook ( and Twitter ( pages.

Rob Warren
VMTH Communications & Marketing Officer