Infection of the Uterus in Dogs and Cats
A Pyometra is an urgent and serious medical condition in intact female dogs (un-spayed). The term pyometra comes from the Latin “pyo” meaning pus, and “metra” meaning uterus. That’s exactly what a pyometra is, an infected, pus-filled uterus. This is not only as gross as it sounds, but also very serious. However, it is treatable if caught early. By one estimation, as many as 25% of intact female dogs will develop a pyometra during their lifetime.
Given how common and serious this condition is, it is important to note that this condition is 100% preventable by Spaying your dog or cat before they occur. In the following article, I will discuss what a pyometra is, how to recognize if your dog or cat may have one, and the testing and treatment options available.
Pyometra tends to occur in dogs 1-3 months after a heat cycle. Many factors play a role in predisposing a dog to develop a pyometra. These include changes in hormones, breed, age, and if a dog is receiving any hormone medications. There are two forms of pyometra, closed and open. An open pyometra results when the cervix is open, whereas a closed pyometra occurs when the cervix is closed.
Patients with open pyometras will have a bloody to pus-like discharge from their vulva; in a closed pyometra, no discharge will be present. Many dogs with a pyometra will drink a lot of water and urinate more frequently. This happens because a common bacteria implicated in causing a pyometra, E. Coli, will cause changes in the kidneys, resulting in increased drinking and Urination. Other signs which may be noted at home include lethargy, not eating, and vomiting.
Many tests can help diagnose a pyometra. Radiographs may show an enlarged uterus and cytology of the discharge from the vulva may show rod-shaped bacteria under a microscope along with white blood cells. Additionally, blood work might show elevated white blood cell counts. Finally, ultrasound can be used to visualize the uterus and confirm a diagnosis.
Treatment for pyometra in almost all cases, is the surgical removal of the infected uterus. Great care must be taken to remove the entire uterus intact. While this surgery is similar to a routine spay, it is complicated by the enlarged, infected uterus and the patient’s sickened state. Dogs with a pyometra can be very ill on presentation. Therefore, IV fluids, antibiotics, and other treatments will likely be utilized before, during, and after surgery.
It is important to note that cats are not small dogs. Cats can also develop a pyometra, although some will be chronic and silent with no clinical signs. Cats who show clinical signs sometimes have discharge from the vulva, abdominal distention, decreased appetite and vomiting.
If you think your pet has a pyometra or you are interested in spaying your dog to prevent one, please call one of our Veterinary Hospitals to schedule an appointment for a consultation. Pyometras can be life-threatening emergencies! Fortunately for many dogs and cats, it is treatable, and it is preventable for all pets. It is said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that is surely true in this case.
Jeffrey Stupine V.M.D.
World of Animals Veterinary Hospitals