Pyometra: An Overview
The word pyometra is derived from the Latin words “pyo” meaning pus and “metra” meaning uterus. Thus pyometra literally means pus filled uterus and that is exactly what the condition is. The infection normally occurs in middle-aged or older, non-spayed female dogs. Symptoms normally will present 4-6 weeks after a female dog has been in heat. There are two types of pyometra, closed and open. In open pyometra the cervix of the animal remains open while in closed pyometra the cervix is closed. Closed pyometra is more severe due to the fact that there is no way for the uterus to drain the infection inside it.
Causes of Pyometra
The main causes of pyometra are hormonal and structural changes in the lining of the uterus. Over many heat cycles the lining of the uterus thickens and in some instances this can become persistent. When the lining becomes persistent it is termed cystic endometrial hyperplasia. This persistent thick lining provides a perfect environment for bacteria to grow. Under normal circumstances the uterus is free of any bacteria. When the bitch is in heat the cervix is open and bacteria from the vulva can travel up into the uterus. Once there, the bacteria can thrive and will eventually lead to the uterus filling with pus. The main bacterium associated with this infection is E. coli. Estrogen injections given to prevent pregnancy in bitches that have been accidentally bred increase the risk of developing pyometra greatly and should be avoided.
Pyometra can be prevented by having your female pets spayed early in their life.
Symptoms of Pyometra
Clinical signs of pyometra vary from case to case but can include:
- not eating
- increased water intake
- increased urination
In open pyometra there may be a pussy white or green colored discharge from the vulva. There may also be a foul smell being emitted from the vulva. In cases of closed pyometra the abdomen may look bloated or swollen due to the uterus being filled with pus. Clinical signs are not normally seen until the condition is in the late stages. Pyometra can progress rapidly and even cause shock or death due to toxins being leaked through the uterine wall into the abdomen of the bitch.
Care for Dogs with Pyometra
If your animal has been diagnosed with pyometra it is very important to follow you veterinarian’s instructions carefully. If antibiotics are prescribed be sure to give the correct dose at the intervals specified. Always complete the round of antibiotics given. Do not stop giving them because your dog acts better. Following treatment the bitch should be monitored and her activity restricted. Encourage your dog to eat and drink to keep them hydrated. Any abnormal signs observed should be reported to your veterinarian and a follow up appointment should be scheduled.
Contact Kootenai Animal Hospital at (208) 773-6000 with any questions you may have.