December 2, 2020

Pyometra in dogs Symptoms | Treatment

What is pyometra in dogs and its symptoms?

Pyometra in dogs is a life-threatening secondary bacterial infection of the uterus with symptoms that are quite serious and detrimental. It occurs due to hormonal changes in the female dog reproductive tract. Pyometra is a disease of middle to old age non-spayed female dogs. After the heat in dogs, the hormone progesterone remains high for up to eight weeks. Which causes thickening of the uterus internal layer in preparation of pregnancy. 

What causes pyometra in dogs?

After many unsuccessful pregnancies after heat, the internal layer of the uterus becomes very thickened. This thickened uterus secretes fluids which can provide a suitable environment for the growth of bacteria. Bacteria from the uterus can spread to the blood and can cause toxic shock and fever. 

The use of estrogen can also cause pyometra in intact female dogs. Estrogen is mainly used to prevent pregnancy in dogs, but it can cause pyometra at the same time. 

How do bacteria enter the uterus?

Bacteria can enter the thickened uterus from the vagina through the cervix. The cervix remains closed except during heat, this is the time when bacteria can enter the uterus easily..

Due to the thickened layer of the uterus, the pet’s reproductive organ is not able to expel the bacteria.  During heat, white blood cells (WBC) do not enter the uterus to provide any protection against bacteria. The bacteria settled in the uterus and multiple there. Toxins produced by bacteria causes severe illness in the pet.

What are the types of pyometra in dogs?

Pyometra is of two types.

  • Open pyometra
  • Closed pyometra
pyometra in dogs

In open pyometra, the cervix is open and the pus can drain from the uterus to outside. You can notice pussy foul-smelling discharge from the vagina. You may also notice this discharge on the dog’s bedding material and skin.

In closed pyometra, the cervix is closed. No discharge through the vagina. The pus is not able to pass from the uterus to the outside. Infection from the uterus can spread to the blood and can cause serious consequences. A closed type of pyometra is more dangerous than the open one.

What are the symptoms of pyometra in dogs?

  • Lethargy 
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • More urination
  • More water intake
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal distension
  • Diarrhea
  • Vaginal discharge, in open pyometra

How is pyometra diagnosed?

Diagnosis of pyometra in dogs is made on some common steps:

  • A thorough history regarding heat cycle, reproduction status, etc.
  • A thorough physical examination to check any  vaginal discharge
  • Blood tests will show a very high white blood cell count (WBC).
  • High level of globulins in the blood due to severe infection.
  • Urine specific gravity may be low  due to bacterial toxin
  • X-rays play a very important role in the diagnosis of pyometra. Pus filled uterus is very noticeable on the x-rays.
  • Abdominal ultrasound is helpful in doubtful cases, and to differentiate from pregnancy.

How to treat pyometra in dogs?

The best treatment option for pyometra is the surgical removal of the infected uterus along with ovaries. If the pet is severely ill. Then The priority is to stabilize the pet with intravenous fluid and antibiotic injections. The recovery rate is very good with successful surgery. It will prevent future heat cycles and a recurrence of pyometra. oral antibiotics are given after surgery.

In an open type of pyometra, if the pet has high breeding value then, non-surgical options are also available. But the success rate on non-surgical options is low as compared to surgery. And they are dangerous too. The recurrence rate is high.

Prostaglandin hormones are used to increase the uterine contraction which helps in expelling the bacteria and pus. But these hormones have many side effects like restlessness, salivation, panting, abdominal pain, and vomiting.

pyometra in dogs

How to prevent pyometra in dogs and symptoms?

 Pyometra is easily preventable with simple spay surgery in the early stage of life. 

Can pyometra in dogs be treated with antibiotics (Cephalexin)?

Antibiotics can suppress the infection for some time, but the chance of full recovery is very less. Cephalexin is the most commonly used antibiotics.

How common is Pyometra in unspayed dogs?

One in four non-spayed dogs gets pyometra if they are not bred.

Will my dog survive Pyometra?

Chances of survival are good with timely surgery.

What is pyometra surgery cost and risk factor?

Surgery cost can range from $1500 to $4000 depending on risks involved during surgery.

How do you prevent pyometra from unspayed dogs?

If you are keeping your dog for breeding purposes, then take puppies from her on each heat cycle. Do not miss any heat cycle. If you do not need puppies, spay is the best option. 

Conclusion: pyometra in dogs is an emergency. It should be addressed immediately. You can prevent pyometra with simple timely spay surgery.

Some other important articles:   

IMHA in Dogs

Diabetes in Dogs

Cushing’s disease in Dogs

This information is NOT intended as a substitute for veterinary consultation for any of your pet’s diseases. Always consult your veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

References:

  • Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline by Larry P. Tilley, Francis W. K. Smith
  • Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice by Robert G. Sherding and Stephen J. Birchard
  • Emergency Procedures for the Small Animal Veterinarian by Signe J. Plunkett
  • Merck Veterinary Manual by  Susan Aiello
  • 100 Top Consultations in Small Animal General Practice by Peter Hill, Sheena Warman, Geoff Shawcross
  • Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook by Donald C. Plumb
  • Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Manual, 3rd Edition by Karol A. Mathews

Dr Gurpal Chahal, DVM

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

View all posts by Dr Gurpal Chahal, DVM →

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