Health Alert: Pyometra

January 21st, 2008 by Dee

Pyometra is an interesting word to say, very unimposing I think, but it has proven to be a very deadly condition if not caught in time. Simply put, Pyometra is an infection in the Uterus. The word can be broken down into “pyo” and “metrum”, which in Latin simply means pus and refers to the uterus. The picture below is a good example of what a dog’s uterus should look like compared to an abscessed uterus.

The difference between a healthy Uterus and an infected one.

This condition is most commonly seen in intact female dogs 3 to 8 weeks after estrus. Although Pyometra typical occurs in older bitches it is not unlikely to happen to younger dogs. After a heat cycle Progesterone levels remain elevated for several weeks and the lining of the uterus will thicken and fill with fluid. Over time if the lining does not go back to normal the thickened uterine wall makes for a great environment for bacteria like Escherichia coli (that during the heat cycle has migrated from the vagina through the open cervix and into the uterus), to grow. This also causes the muscles to not contract correctly and thus not expel the bacteria present.

Signs of Pyometra can include the following:

A closed pyometra, meaning the cervix is closed, is a more serious condition because it does not allow for pus to drain. A rupture or slow leakage from the uterus can release toxins into the abdominal cavity, causing peritonitis (an inflammation of the membrane that lines the abdominal wall). A closed Pyometra can be harder to diagnose.

An open Pyometra allows for the infection to drain through the open cervix. Bacterial toxins may enter the blood stream from the infected uterus and the severity of the resulting illness is greatly influenced by the degree of drainage..

Diagnosis is partly based on your knowledge of your dogs heat cycles, age, and medical history. Typically females with tendencies for false pregnancies are at a higher risk. Blood test usually show elevated white blood cell counts and dehydration. X-rays and/or ultrasounds will show the enlarged fluid filled uterine horns. Other tests maybe used to properly diagnose, especially with cases of closed Pyometra. Supportive treatment with fluids and antibiotics is often times administered for a few hours before surgery, depending on the severity of the condition..

Typically the preferred treatment is an emergency spay to remove the infected uterus. With open Pyometra there is an alternative treatment of Prostaglandin and long-term antibiotics for females that will be bred in the future. This treatment is available for closed Pyometra but the success rate is very low. Open or closed, Pyometra should be treated immediately. After surgery care is usually limited activity for a few weeks, a course of antibiotics and a pain medication, as well as encouraging food and water consumption. The incision should be monitored for signs of infection.

As scary as this condition is, if Pyometra is treated immediately and correctly, there are rarely any complications. The best preventative is to have your dog spayed at an early age.

***Picture courtesy of – http://www.marvistavet.com/html/body_pyometra.html





One Response to “Health Alert: Pyometra”

  1. R. Sullivan Says:

    I have a 14 year old Sheltie that was just diagnosed with Pyometra. I’m concerned however, because I have read all the articles on the internet and she is not showing any of the symptoms. She has not been in heat that I am aware of and the only thing that is happening is that she is bleeding. I thought she was going into heat, but the flow is much too strong for a normal heat cycle. She had xrays and nothing showed and her blood work came back in fine shape. No elevated white cells either. The Vet told me today that the ultrasound shows the infection. Obviously, it is very risky for a dog my age to have surgery so I would just like to know if you’ve ever heard of a dog showing these type of symptoms?
    Thank you.

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