On the 19th of May 2022, a busy Thursday at our WVS HICKS ITC clinic in Goa a nondescript adult female cat was presented for a spay. The owners were unsure of the cat’s age as they had adopted her as an adult. The cat had queened multiple times of which the last time was in January 2022. History taken before giving the appointment suggested that the cat was active and had a normal appetite.
CLINICAL EXAMINATION AND SURGICAL PREPARATION
After pre-medication and sedation of the cat, the vet and the vet assistants who were preparing the cat noticed something odd, while shaving and prepping the abdomen. Physical palpation revealed an enlarged abdomen with 3 very distinct hard masses – 2 on the right side of the abdomen caudal to the right kidney and 1 on the left side of the abdomen. Due to these findings, a wider area was prepared for the spay as well as to possibly perform an exploratory laparotomy. Entering the abdominal cavity was the only way to find out what we were dealing with – be it a tumour, a calcified abscess or even mummified fetuses.
We began the ovariohysterectomy and were able to identify and exteriorise both ovaries and the uterine horns easily. The uterus had normal anatomy without any adhesions, growths or fetuses within and we were able to complete the spay without any obstacles. The owner was informed about the masses felt prior to surgery and permission was obtained to do an exploratory laparotomy. Since we were unsure as to what the masses were, the prognosis remained guarded.
The spay incision was extended cranially towards the umbilicus. We got our hands on two of the masses on the right side of the abdomen and as we exteriorised them out of the abdomen gently, we realized they were mummified fetuses adhered to the omentum. The fetuses were gently unwrapped from the omentum with careful blunt dissection. Since the omentum adhered to the fetuses was highly vascular, it was ligated using catgut size 1-0 and the 2 fetuses on the right side of the abdomen were removed. On further exploration into the abdominal cavity, another fetus was found embedded and entangled in the small intestinal mesentery on the left half of the abdomen. Very gentle and skilled separation was done to separate it from the mesentery without rupturing the blood vessels and disturbing the blood supply to the intestines. The abdomen was then flushed thoroughly with Normal saline to remove any debris that might have been left in the abdominal cavity. After a thorough examination of the abdominal cavity, one last time to ensure nothing else was amiss, the muscles were closed with a simple continuous pattern, the subcutaneous layer with a herringbone (in and out) pattern and the skin with an intradermal pattern using PGA for all the layers.
(Image from vivo.Colostate.edu)
MUMMIFIED FOETUSES ALONG WITH PLACENTA, OVARIES AND UTERINE HORNS FROM THE PRESENT CASE
For a routine spay, we do not prescribe any post-operative antibiotics as strict asepsis is followed, but in this case, a post-operative antibiotic course (Amoxicillin) was prescribed to prevent possible peritonitis. This was done since the mummified fetuses had remained in the body for a long time and we could see strands of their hair floating in the abdomen while flushing. She was also put on oral Meloxicam, 3 days post-op for pain relief.
Post-surgery, a discussion with the owners was undertaken to explain what we found and what could be the possible cause of this particular condition. Surprisingly the owners were able to provide us information about previous litters which correlated to our findings during the spay. The cat had uneventfully given birth to 2 kittens 4 months prior but all previous litters were 4 kittens each.
After the cat gave birth in January, one of the family members felt a hard mass still present in the abdomen but not much attention was paid to it. They also mentioned that since then, the cat did not allow anyone to carry her and showed signs of discomfort whenever they touched her anywhere near her abdomen. This was not present prior to giving birth to the last set of kittens.
We suspect that the dead fetuses may have been in the abdomen since January, which was causing her pain and discomfort. This may have been the reason she did not allow people to lift her or touch her abdomen. As they were found outside the uterus, along with the placenta attached we suspect that this particular pregnancy may have been ectopic or the fetuses ruptured the uterus and ended up growing outside, where they later deceased and mummified as being in the abdominal cavity there was no way for them to get out of the cat’s body.
The cat was presented for a follow up 3 days post-surgery and was bright and active. The owner reported that she was recovering well post-surgery and had a normal appetite and activity levels. What you must note here is that not all cats would be as lucky as she was. The problem was discovered and dealt with before the damage became severe and irreversible. This is why we insist you please spay your animals well on time to save them the pain, discomfort and life risks that come along with these issues in intact animals.
Note: Always keep an eye out for any behavioural or physical change in your pet. If you notice any such changes please get your pet checked by a veterinarian to identify the cause. Never neglect any change in behaviour thinking it’s small or unimportant as it can be masking something serious or even grave. Early diagnosis can help save your animal and reduce any associated risks.
The best time to spay your cat is at 6 months of age or just after their first heat cycle as they reach sexual maturity by this time. Many studies have proven that there are no long term adverse effects when you spay a cat at this age.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE:
WHY IS ANIMAL BIRTH CONTROL IMPORTANT?
Listed below are a few benefits of castrating your cat at 6 months of age or spaying before the first heat cycle in females:
- Decrease in behavioural issues linked to reproductive hormones: Male cats often engage in fights over mates and territory which can be taken care of by neutering them on time. Many owners also complain of their female cats marking around the house by spraying urine during the heat, meowing excessively or even running away from the house. These issues can be avoided.
- Elimination of reproductive emergencies like dystocia and pyometra. Most intact (unspayed) animals suffer from pyometra, later in life. Some even experience difficulty while giving birth.
- Spaying prevents unwanted pregnancies in animals and also helps in population control.
- Spaying decreases the risk of mammary, ovarian or uterine tumours if done before the first heat cycle.
- Castration in males prevents prostate cancer as well as cancer of the testis.
- Some studies show that it even increases the life expectancy of the animal and allows them to live a healthier life.
- Castration reduces spraying and marking of territory in males.
Spaying and castrating stray animals helps them lead better and safer lives. Overpopulation leads to scarcity of food and other resources which may lead to fights among the animal and/or death by starvation. Overpopulation also increases human-animal conflicts and road accidents. The only way to prevent and overcome these issues is by performing planned and humane Animal Birth Control.