One of the most disturbing and potentially fatal diseases that can affect your female pet is pyometra. Pyometra is an infection in the female’s reproductive tract. The womb gets infected and accumulates pus within its cavity.
A dog or cat with this condition needs to be treated urgently because it may die if left untreated or if the treatment is delayed.
Pyometra may occur in any sexually intact young to middle-aged female; however, it is most common in dogs or cats that have not been neutered and are over 6 years of age. Pyometra usually occurs two to eight weeks after the last heat cycle.
The clinical signs depend on whether or not the cervix remains open. If it is open, pus will drain from the uterus through the vagina to the outside. Pus or an abnormal discharge is often seen on the skin or hair under the tail or on bedding and furniture where the dog has recently laid. Fever, lethargy, anorexia, and depression may or may not be present.
If the cervix is closed, pus that forms is not able to drain to the outside. It collects in the uterus ultimately causing the abdomen to distend. The bacteria release toxins that are absorbed into the bloodstream. Dogs or cats with closed pyometra become severely ill very rapidly. They are anorectic, very listless and very depressed. Vomiting or diarrhea may also be present.
Toxins released by the bacteria affect the kidney’s ability to retain fluid. Increased urine production occurs, and many dogs drink an excess of water to compensate. Increased water consumption may occur in both open- and closed-cervix pyometra.
A very ill female dog or cat with a history of recent “heat” that is drinking an increased amount of water should be suspected of having pyometra. This is especially true if there is a vaginal discharge or a painful, enlarged abdomen.
The preferred treatment is to surgically remove the infected uterus and ovaries, or perform a spay. Dogs or cats diagnosed in the early stage of the disease are very good surgical candidates. The surgery is somewhat more complicated than a routine spay at this stage. However, most pets are diagnosed with pyometra when they are quite ill resulting in a more complicated surgical procedure and a longer period of hospitalization.
The chance of successful resolution without surgery or prostaglandin treatment is extremely low. If treatment is not performed quickly, the toxic effects from the bacteria will be fatal in many cases. If the cervix is closed, it is possible for the uterus to rupture, spilling the infection into the abdominal cavity. This will also be fatal. Pyometra is a serious medical condition that requires prompt treatment.