The Rule of 3’s

April 19, 2012

In Veterinary Practice, it is well known that things come in threes.

We get calls to 3 calvings at different ends of the county at the same time; 3 horses get colic all at the same time; 3 cats come in with skin irritations and need to be treated for fleas.

So the other day, after seeing 2 bitches with vomiting and increased thirst, I just had a suspicion of what might be wrong with the next dog I called into the consulting room.

Sure enough, I had a concerned owner with a 5 year old Cocker Spaniel. The dog looked thoroughly miserable when placed on the consulting room table. The owner reported that she had stopped eating 4 days earlier and had suddenly started drinking lots of water. She had been unusually quiet and was reluctant to go for her usual walk. The previous evening, she had started with vomiting and diarrhoea.

On examination, her temperature was up a couple of degrees, her gums were tacky and her tummy felt tense. On questioning the owner, the owner confirmed that she had been in season eight weeks earlier. I had a suspicion that the “things comes in threes rule” was about to surface again.

I explained to the owner that I suspected a Pyometra as I had in my previous two consultations.

A Pyometra is a relatively common condition in bitches and tends to happen a couple of months after a season. The womb becomes infected and toxins leak from the womb into the blood stream making the bitch feel ill. If left untreated, the womb will fill with infected material and would eventually rupture triggering a peritonitis and death.

I suggested that we admit the bitch, set up a drip, and take a blood sample. As with the previous cases, high levels of white blood cells were found which confirmed an infection and an ultrasound scan of the abdomen confirmed an enlarged uterus.

After a couple of hours of intravenous fluids, all 3 bitches were taken to theatre and their infected wombs were removed surgically under general anaesthesia. Removing the womb removes the source of the infection, and continued fluids and antibiotics dealt with the residual infection.

True to the rule of 3’s, all dogs were discharged the following day and are making good recoveries.

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