What is Canine Pyometra?
Upon bringing a new puppy into your household, your veterinarian will likely ask you if you want to have her spayed. Many owners choose to delay making this decision, perhaps wanting to preserve her ability to have puppies of her own. Unfortunately, if this decision is delayed too long it can have a devastating effect on the animalÃ‚Â’s health.
Dogs who mature into adulthood without being spayed have a high likelihood of developing Pyometra. Pyometra is a lethal infection that occurs when bacteria build up within the uterus. Many owners, unaware of the risks of Pyometra, will elect not to have their dog spayed when she is a puppy and later fear she has gotten too old to tolerate the surgery. However, the risks from Pyometra outweigh the risks from surgery.
How does Pyometra start?
Although an animalÃ‚Â’s uterus is normally sterile, it can become infected when bacteria ascend through the cervix during a heat cycle. Once inside the uterus the microbes multiply, filling the organ with toxic pus. Dogs generally show signs of pyometra 3-6 weeks after they have been in heat.
Pyometra can be either Ã‚Â“openÃ‚Â” or Ã‚Â“closed.Ã‚Â” Open Pyometra means the animalÃ‚Â’s cervix is open, allowing pus to drain. Closed pyometra means the cervix is closed, trapping the toxic contents within. In either case the uterus will eventually become bloated with disease.
How do I know if my dog has Pyometra?
Dogs with Pyometra will begin to display signs of lethargy, lack of appetite, weight loss and dehydration. An owner may notice the animal drinking and/or urinating more frequently. As the infection progresses her abdomen may become bloated and in the case of open Pyometra a foul smelling discharge will leak from the vulva.
How will my veterinarian diagnose Pyometra?
Most veterinarians will recognize the symptoms of Pyometra immediately; however certain diagnostics are used to confirm the diagnosis. Blood work will show an elevated white blood cell count. X-rays of the abdomen will often show the enlarged and distended uterus; however, if the X-rays are inconclusive, ultrasound can also be used. Finally a culture of the pus can be done to confirm what kind of infection is causing it.
Is there any cure for Pyometra?
For very ill patients your veterinarian will recommend immediate surgery. The uterus and ovaries must be carefully removed without releasing any of the poisonous contents. If this is not done the uterine wall will eventually rupture spreading the infection and killing the animal.
The only nonsurgical treatment available involves the use of fluid therapy, antibiotics and prostraglandins to help the uterus contract and expel the pus. This is not an option for animals with closed Pyometra, and even if this treatment is successful the infection will likely reoccur when the animal goes into heat again.
The only way to prevent Pyometra is to have your dog spayed. Spaying young animals is fairly routine and comparatively inexpensive. Even older animals face a greater risk from Pyometra than from spaying. Luckily for animals that do develop Pyometra, successful surgery usually leads to a full recovery.