Pyometra (also known as ‘Pyo’) is a condition affecting female dogs that requires urgent veterinary attention, without this your dog’s life is at risk. Pyo is an infection of the uterus caused by E.coli, a bacteria found in your dog’s faeces. When your female dog has a season, usually twice annually, she will undergo hormonal changes related to pregnancy regardless as to whether or not she is actually pregnant. The changes that occur in these seasons within the uterus make it more likely that the older the dog, the more likely she is to suffer from Pyometra. If the bitch has also recently given birth to a litter, an inflamed womb with bruised or vulnerable tissues can allow infection to set in.
The clinical signs of Pyometra usually start to develop around 4-6 weeks after your dog has finished bleeding from her last season. The early signs of the infections can include tiredness, lack of appetite, unquenchable thirst, licking their back end more, their season lasting longer than usual, thick vaginal discharge leaking from the vulva and vomiting. In the later stages of Pyometra your dog may be reluctant to move, dehydrated, they could collapse, have a swollen abdomen and unfortunately, die from septic shock. Most dogs will make a full recovery after treatment if the condition is caught early but spaying your dog before she develops Pyometra will prevent this condition occurring.
If you’re suspicious your dog may have been suffering from Pyometra for a little while, there is the risk that she may be septic; this is where the bacteria have entered into the bloodstream, meaning that a longer period of hospitalisation may be required. In this situation, the prognosis is usually worse which is why it’s important to look out for clinical signs early on.
Treatment of Pyometra typically involves surgery to remove the uterus, essentially the same as a routine spay. However, be aware that there are more risks and a higher chance of complications with this operation than a routine spay because of the operation being carried out on an already sick pet. After the surgery is finished, your dog will be given intravenous fluids via a drip, antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection and pain relief.
Alternative treatment for Pyometra includes the use of prostaglandins (hormones) with antibiotics, however this is rarely chosen due to the severity of the infection. Due to the thickness and amount of pus, any antibiotics injected or ingested are delivered to the diseased tissues via the bloodstream and they rarely tackle the infection effectively. This is why the surgical treatment option is the most popular choice for owners. The following limitations with the prostaglandin (hormone) treatment are also reasons why surgery is more widely used:
- This treatment is only available with an “open pyometra” case, this is where the pus is draining from your dog’s vulva. In a case where the cervix is closed, this treatment carries a risk of rupture and peritonitis, this is an infection of the entire abdomen.
- Treatment with hormones often results in signs of distress such as panting, defecation, salivation, vomiting, abdominal pain and restlessness.
- It takes at least 48 hours to notice any improvement with the dog.
- Your dog may be really sick when starting the hormones so waiting 48 hours may not be realistic and more urgent surgical treatment will need to be undertaken.
- With prostaglandin treatment the recurrence rate tends to be a lot higher, around 60% of cases.
- Your dog’s fertility will be affected – only a very small number of dogs successfully give birth to a healthy litter following this treatment.
If you believe that your female dog may be displaying signs of Pyometra, contact us immediately on 01327 350239. We have a 24 hour emergency line and our veterinary team will be able to advise you on what the best course of action is to take.