After surgically removing a 12-kilogram infected uterus from a dog in Phnom Penh, a leading animal charity has issued a warning about the dangers of giving dogs and cats birth-control injections, a cheap and widespread procedure in Cambodia they say puts countless animals’ lives at risk.
According to Nou Chamnan, a veterinarian at the Phnom Penh Animal Welfare Society (PPAWS), 14-year-old dog Srey Mao was just days from death when her owner brought her in on Monday, but now looks set to make a full recovery after the hour-long procedure.
“If the owner had waited one or two days more, the uterus would have broken inside [her],” Chamnan says. “She was already dying.”
Srey Mao’s owner, retired teacher Be Vantha, said the dog received four birth-control injections at three-month intervals before she began to show signs of infection – which he initially thought was the pregnancy he had sought to avoid. When he took her, bloated and unable to walk, to the person who had injected her, he was told to find another vet.
“He said he couldn’t treat her,” Vantha said.
Luckily for Vantha, a tuk-tuk driver in the Tuol Tompoung neighbourhood where he lives had heard of PPAWS and told him to take her there.
According to Chamnan, over the past year she has treated dozens of dogs and cats in Phnom Penh for infected uteruses, caused by injections of birth-control medicine intended for humans.
While none of the dogs she has treated have died, she says she has found the injections to be commonplace in many of the provinces she has visited, where the lack of proper veterinary care available leaves animals with much bleaker survival prospects when infection strikes.
Chamnan says she encountered up to 30 dogs with infected uteruses in a single short visit to southern Kampot Province. But she finds that many owners only heed her words once their animals begin to show the symptoms she warns them about – bloated stomach, diminished appetite and pus seeping from the vagina.
“Once they see, they trust [me],” she said.
According to Chamnan, the injections that lead to infection are often the work of “local vets” working door-to-door that either have no formal training or are surgically inexperienced and lack the confidence to spay.
Money is also a key factor, with Vantha saying each injection cost him just $1.25, compared to $80 for surgical sterilisation. Another veterinarian consulted by the Post, who offers both treatments and declined to be named, said he charges between $5 and $10 for each injection, while spaying can exceed $100 for large dogs.
Though the veterinarian accepted that the injections carry risks, Chamnan says such warnings are rarely provided by neighbourhood vets.
It’s a situation that will likely force Chamnan into the operating theatre many more times to come.
“I have another surgery at 2pm,” she said yesterday.
A dog brought in during her interview had an infected uterus after receiving birth control injections.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY PHAK SEANGLY