There are many benefits to spaying your dog or cat; some of these benefits include pet population control and decreased risk of reproductive diseases. One of the reproductive conditions that can occur in an intact female is pyometra which is a disease of the uterus. It is a serious and life-threatening condition. Pyometra can occur in any intact female dog or cat of any age though it is most common in middle-aged and older dogs. When a female dog or cat is in estrus (in heat), there are hormonal changes that can lead to the uterus being more susceptible to bacterial growth. Bacteria from the vagina can enter the uterus when the cervix opens while a female is in heat. A female is most vulnerable to developing pyometra 4-8 weeks after each cycle.
Pyometra can either be what we call an open pyometra or a closed pyometra. One sign of pyometra, if the cervix is open, maybe pus. The pus can sometimes be mixed with blood draining from the vagina, and this can be noticed on the pet’s fur or their bedding. If the cervix is closed, the pus has nowhere to drain and will continue to build up in the uterus; this is called a closed pyometra. When a pet is suffering from a closed pyometra, they will become ill much more quickly, and the symptoms can be more severe. Eventually, when enough pus builds up the uterus can rupture, and the pus will spill into the abdomen. Other signs a dog or cat may have pyometra can be lethargy, depression, increased drinking and anorexia. If you have an intact female showing any of these signs, she should be taken total right away. Pyometra can be fatal if not treated promptly.
Diagnosis of pyometra can include a physical exam, radiographs to view the uterus and blood work. Once the diagnosis of pyometra is confirmed the best course of treatment is the surgical removal of both ovaries and the uterus. When removing, the uterus and fallopian tubes are large and when filled with pus can weigh up to 5 lbs depending on the size of the dog!
In veterinary medicine, the saying goes don’t let the sunset on a pyometra. Meaning many veterinarians have stayed late or come in during the middle of the night to make sure their patients have the best chance at surviving.
Written by: Lauren Woschee