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Posted on 12-11-2017

Pyometra is an infection of the uterus.  It is an emergency, life-threatening condition that
commonly occurs in older female dogs that have not been speyed. Each time an entire female dog has a heat (or has a period), she undergoes all of the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy, regardless of whether she becomes pregnant or not. These hormonal changes increase the risk of an infection developing in the uterus following each subsequent heat.

What are the signs of a pyometra?
A pyometra more commonly develops in older female dogs (over 6 years of age), but can occur at any age. Usually signs develop about 4-6 weeks following her being on heat.

Early signs you may notice:

  • Lethargic, decreased energy, depressed
  • Reduced appetite
  • Drinking and urinating more than usual
  • Licking at her back end more than usual
  • Pus (yellow/brown/red discharge) from her vulva

These signs can progress to:

  • Vomiting
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Collapse

If left untreated she will rapidly deteriorate and death due to septic shock can occur.

Diagnosis and treatment of pyometra
Your vet will likely be quite suspicious of a pyometra based on the description her symptoms and following a thorough examination of your pet. An ultrasound of her abdomen will often reveal an abnormally large, fluid-filled uterus – this will help confirm a diagnosis of a pyometra. Bloodwork will show and increased white blood cell count and sometimes and increase in kidney values. Advanced cases may have a low blood sugar.

The best treatment is immediate surgery to remove the infected uterus. The operation is essentially the same as a spay procedure, however much more difficult and there is much greater risk of complications as the infected uterus is very fragile and the operation is being carried out on a sick animal.  One of the main complications is rupture of the uterus into the abdomen, prior to, or during surgery.  This can spread the infection and makes it much more difficult to successfully treat. The surgery can costs much more than a routine spay (generally 5-10xs the costs!) and has a much longer recovery period. She will also be given an intravenous drip, antibiotics and pain relief to stabilize and support her through the surgery.

The good news is pyometra is virtually 100% preventable. If you do not plan to breed from your dog, or she is having no further litters of puppies, spaying her will prevent a pyometra from developing. In rare cases a spayed dog can get infections in what is called the stump of the uterus, especially in the unusual event that the ovaries were not completely removed at time of initial spay procedure.

If your female dog has not been spayed, it is important to be familiar with the signs of a pyometra. If you notice her displaying any of these symptoms following a recent heat, contact your vet immediately. Early treatment will give her the best possible chance of a successful speedy recovery!

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