Pyometra.....what is it and how to prevent it?

Updated: Feb 10

Pyometra is a serious infection of the womb that can occur in our unneutered female pets. I will focus mainly in the dog here but be aware it can occur in cats, rabbits and other animals we may have. A wee warning there are a few graphic pictures to follow.

golden retriever dog, happy dog

A pyometra is a reproductive disorder occurring in females. It occurs in nearly 20% of un-neutered bitches before the age of 10 years. The initial symptoms are often quite subtle so often by the time they reach the vet they are quite unwell. This condition is considered an emergency.


Cause

A pyometra is a secondary infection in the womb that is triggered by hormonal changes occurring after the dog has been in season. The hormone progesterone increases after heat causing thickening of the womb lining. If the dog doesn't become pregnant this lining thickens after each season and cysts can form. These cysts leak fluid which is the perfect environment for bacteria to grow and this multiplication of bacteria causes pus which builds up. A pyometra usually occurs 2-8 weeks after the dog has been in season and is more common in older dogs.


pyometra, pus from vulva in dog

Signs to be aware of

  • One of the most obvious signs of a pyometra is pus leaking from the vulva. It can often be smelly or contain blood.

  • Fever

  • Lethergy

  • Off food

  • Increased fluid intake

  • Increased urination

  • Licking at vulva

  • Vomiting/ diarrhoea

  • Collapse


Pyometras can be 'open' where the cervix is open and the pus leaks from the vulva.

They can also be 'closed' where the cervix remains closed. A closed pyometra is more dangerous can cause a swollen abdomen due to the increased womb size. Dogs with a closed pyometra generally become unwell more quickly. The pressure from the pus can ultimately build up and the womb burst which is incredibly serious and at times fatal.


Can a pyometra be treated?

Once a pyometra has been diagnosed, often with bloods, ultrasound or x-ray,treatment can start. The preferred treatment is to remove the womb and ovaries by preforming a spay. The surgery is more complicated than a routine spay as the womb is much larger and the blood supply to

to the womb is much greater than normal.

pyometra in dog, large pyometra, pyometra surgery

If the womb has been stretched to the extreme it can rupture, this can complicate matters greatly. This photo shows a particularly large uterus about 10 times bigger than it should be. The pus can start to leak from the womb into the abdomen which can cause sepsis.

The dog will be on intravenous fluids throughout the procedure to maintain blood pressure and rehydrate the poorly animal. She will require pain relief and antibiotics post op. Surgery is the only treatment with a closed pyometra.


An open pyometras preferred treatment is also surgery, but there is also an option to give antibiotics along with injections of hormones. These hormones stimulate the uterus to contract and expel the pus. This option does not always work and in about 60% of cases a pyometra will occur after a subsequent season.


So a pyometra is a potential fatal condition, if you have concerns your dog may have one you should contact your vet ASAP. The sooner your furry friend is treated the better their chance of recovery.


The best way to prevent your pup developing a pyometra is by getting them routinely spayed. A routine spay is much safer than an emergency pyometra spay with far minimal chances of complications.

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