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Pyometra in Dogs

Pyometra is a common disease in female dogs that develops due to abnormal hormonal changes in the reproductive tract. Following a regular heat cycle, the progesterone levels remain elevated causing the uterus wall to thicken as if preparing for a pregnancy. When pregnancy doesn’t occur, the wall thickens more and more with every new heat cycle until a fluid-producing cyst develops. The secreted fluid is an ideal environment for bacteria to grow and cause an infection to the uterus.

In such a case, the uterine muscles aren’t able to properly contract and the bacteria and the pus get stuck inside the uterus. During regular estrus, there are white blood cells that protect the uterus from harmful bacteria creating a safe environment for the sperm. However, pyometra develops when the dog is not in heat and often progresses to a life-threatening form of infection. Pyometra is most often seen in middle-aged and older sexually intact female dogs, but can also be seen in younger ones.

What is Pyometra

One of the most common reproductive emergencies seen in a veterinary emergency room is a condition called pyometra. The name of this disease is Latin for “pus-uterus” and describes a life-threatening uterine infection that most typically affects older, intact (or unspayed), female dogs.

What Causes Pyometra?

Why do dogs get pyometra? Pyometra is caused by a bacterial infection, most commonly E. coli, and often occurs a few weeks after a female has finished a season. This is because being in season causes the animal’s body to go through hormonal changes which make the chance of infection much more likely.

Can Pyometra Be Prevented?

The best and only prevention for pyometra is to have your dog spayed. Spaying (whether by removing the uterus and ovaries or just the ovaries) removes the hormonal stimulation that causes both heat cycles and the uterine changes that allow pyometra to happen.

Pyometra Clinical Signs

The main clinical signs depend on whether the cervix remains open or not during the disease. If the cervix is open the most apparent clinical sign is yellow to green discharge (pus) draining through the vagina.  If it is open, pus will drain from the uterus through the vagina to the outside. It is often noted on the skin or hair under the tail or on bedding and furniture where the dog has laid. Fever, lethargy, anorexia, and depression may or may not be present.  The dog’s hair around the tail, as well as the bedding and furniture, can also be dirty because of the discharge. Lethargy, anorexia, depression, fever, and vomiting may also be present.

Closed pyometra is a more serious form. The pus with all the bacteria remains inside the uterus, the abdomen tends to distend and toxins released from the microorganisms enter the bloodstream. The closed type of pyometra causes the dog to become severely ill very quickly. The dogs are usually depressed, anorectic, and tend to vomit often. The toxins in the bloodstream disrupt the normal function of the kidneys. There is an increased production of urine making the dog drink a lot more water than it used to in order to compensate for the fluid loss.

Pyometras are categorized as “open” or “closed.” In an open pyometra, infectious material leaks from the uterus; owners may notice a bloody, yellow, or cream-colored discharge on their dog’s fur near the uterine opening or on their bedding.

In the case of an open cervix, a thick, bloody, foul-smelling discharge draining from the vaginal opening is the first sign of an infected uterus. These dogs tend to appear less sick because the infection has a route to leave the body.

Symptoms of a pyometra usually begin four to eight weeks after a season, and include:

  • Drinking more than usual
  • Vomiting
  • Pus leaking from vulva/vagina
  • Bloated abdomen (tummy)
  • Panting and weakness
  • Off food
  • Weeing more than usual
  • Collapse

Pyometra Diagnosis

Pyometra is diagnosed based on history, clinical signs, and laboratory findings. Blood analyses reveal an elevation of all types of white blood cells. Blood biochemistry shows an elevation in globulins (proteins in association with the immune response). The urine’s specific gravity is low as a result of the toxic effect the bacteria have on the kidneys. All of these changes are unspecific and can also be signs of other illnesses. The conclusive diagnosis is made through x-ray images of the abdomen and an ultrasound examination.

Your veterinarian will likely recommend the following diagnostic tests to help diagnose pyometra:

  • General chemistry profile
  • Complete blood count
  • urinalysis
  • Abdominal radiographs
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Vaginal cytology

How Common is Pyometra?

Pyometra is an infection of the uterus in dogs and cats. It is relatively common, affecting approximately 25% of unspayed female dogs and cats. It is a serious condition which results in a variety of clinical and pathological signs requiring emergency surgery to remove the infected uterus.  Pyometra will affect roughly 1 in 4 non-spayed females before the age of 10 years, but can occur in dogs older than this.

Can Dogs Survive Pyometra?

Most dogs will recover successfully with immediate surgery. However, if treatment is not performed promptly, pyometra is fatal because of the toxic effects of the pus.

The chance of successful resolution without surgery or prostaglandin treatment is extremely low. If treatment is not performed quickly, the toxic effects from the bacteria will be fatal in many cases. If the cervix is closed, it is possible for the uterus to rupture, spilling the infection into the abdominal cavity.

Pyometra Treatment

The treatment of choice for any type of pyometra is performing a spay (ovariohysterectomy). Removing the infected uterus and the ovaries will get rid of the problem completely and prevent a reoccurrence. The surgical procedure is more complicated than a routine spay. Dogs that are quite ill need to be hospitalized and stabilized with intravenous fluid. Antibiotics are given a few days before and a couple of weeks after the surgery.

Antibiotics will improve the general status of the bitch but cannot resolve the uterine infection on their own. Given the increased vaginal discharge after prostaglandin administration, we recommend administering the drug early in the morning and hospitalizing the bitch for 4–6 h.

Prostaglandin treatment can be given if the owner wants the dog to remain intact or keeps it for breeding purposes. However, the use of prostaglandins has different rates of success and there is a big chance of recurrence of the disease and other breeding problems in the future.

How Much does it Cost to Treat Pyometra?

Pyometra surgery typically costs between $1000-$2000, since it is an emergency procedure and is more labor-intensive than a regular spay. This leaves low-income clients with an extremely difficult choice: pay money they do not have or euthanize their dog.

Originally posted 2020-11-05 22:28:25. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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