by Dr June McNicholas

We recently had a rather worrying case of pyometra in a rescue jill. The jill had arrived at the local RSPCA shelter in February. She was in season at the time and remained that way until we found out about her in July. Although she seemed reasonably well, she had lost a good deal of facial hair and body coat. We arranged for her to have a jill-jab on the way home from collecting her. Unfortunately we later discovered that she had briefly been with a hob only hours before her jill jab and we had no way of knowing whether a mating took place, so the next few weeks were a bit fraught while we waited to see what would develop.

We had already got a home lined up for this jill and it says much for her new owner that this lady was prepared to take her on despite the possibility of pregnancy or complications. In her new home, the jill quickly gained condition and regrew her lost coat. However, by the third week she was showing obvious signs of pregnancy. She remained well and cheerful but we all became increasingly worried as the pregnancy grew and no kits could be palpated. A visit to the vet at the 35th day of the pregnancy seemed to confirm that this was a phantom pregnancy. On what would have been the 44th day (two days over normal gestation) the jill showed a dark discharge from the vulva and swellings to glands in her neck and groin. She was taken to the vet for X-rays which confirmed there were no foetuses retained. The vet was unsure of treatment and prescribed antibiotics. By the fifth day of treatment there was no sign of recovery and we quickly made arrangements to visit another vet.

An emergency spay operation was arranged. Thanks to her owner's excellent care, the jill was still fairly fit and happy, although by now showing signs of lethargy. The operation took place with my own big hob, Jack, (Mr Blobby to his friends) on standby as a blood donor if needed. The operation appears to have been very successful and, after a couple of days hospitalisation, the jill is back home and beginning to recover much of her bounce and energy.

Both I and the jill's owner wish to extend our sincere thanks to John Dinsdale (Betty Shepard's wonderful vet) who answered our e-mails and took the time to telephone the attending vet to discuss the operation. If he ever finds his way to Coventry we promise to stand him an extra large drink to toast the recovery! Our thanks, also, to Sheila Crompton, who gave the most excellent advice to have a large hob on standby as a blood donor. Jack was not needed as it turned out, but it is a sensible precaution we could all take when we have a ferret in for non-routine surgery. Our thanks to all concerned.

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