If your female cat has not yet been spayed, risks for developing mammary tumors and pyometra are looming on the horizon. What is pyometra? It is a fatal infection that can be prevented. Once your cat has been spayed, the chances of developing pyometra are eliminated.
What is Pyometra in Cats?
Pyometra is a bacterial infection that occurs in the uterus. When an intact female cat goes through multiple heat cycles that do not end in pregnancy, the uterus undergoes changes and becomes a haven in which bacteria thrive. As white blood cells stream to the uterus to fight the bacteria, the uterus becomes filled with pus. The toxins from this material are then dispersed into the bloodstream, resulting in kidney failure, and the cat will die from pyometra if prompt treatment is not sought. Pyometra can occur at any age, but the risk increases as cats approach the age of five years and older.
What Are the Signs of Pyometra in Cats?
Signs of pyometra are noticed within two to eights weeks following the cat’s last heat cycle. Cat pyometra can present in one of two different ways. In the open presentation, the cat’s cervix is relaxed and open, enabling the pus to drain out of the cat’s uterus through the vaginal opening. Owners may notice discharge on the floor where the cat has been sitting, on the cat’s bedding or on the skin and hair underneath the cat’s tail. A fever may or may not accompany an open pyometra , and additional symptoms include lethargy and loss of appetite.
In a closed cat pyometra, the uterine wall is so thickened and enlarged that the cervix is closed off, and the infectious material remains trapped in the cat’s uterus. The cat’s abdomen may appear distended as the amount of pus accumulates, increasing the risk of a ruptured uterus. As the toxins enter the bloodstream, owners will notice signs of illness in their cat, including fever, lethargy, vomiting and loss of appetite. As the kidney function begins to diminish, signs of kidney failure set in, which include a noticeable increase in the cat’s water intake and urinary output. If the uterus ruptures, the infectious material within the uterus spills into the body cavity, and the cat will die of sepsis.
How is a Pyometra Cat Treated?
Pyometra is a life-threatening emergency that must be treated without delay to save the cat’s life and to minimize the extent of kidney damage that is incurred. Surgical intervention is the most effective method to save a pyometra cat. The surgical procedure is an ovariohysterectomy, more commonly known as a spay procedure. The difference between a routine spay and spaying a cat that has been diagnosed with pyometra is that the latter is a more intricate procedure to perform. A larger incision must be made in order to accommodate the enlarged uterus, and meticulous care must be taken to extract the engorged uterus in tact to prevent its infectious contents from leaking into the body cavity. Intravenous fluid therapy is required to flush the toxins from the bloodstream, and antibiotic therapy must be administered throughout the cat’s recovery period following the surgical procedure.
If the diagnosed cat is a breeding cat, a course of treatment with hormonal drugs can be attempted in lieu of surgery. These drugs help to relax and open the cervix so that the pus can drain from the body. These treatments carry risks and side effects, they are not always successful, and cats that are treated for pyometra once are very likely to have repeat episodes in future. Cats that receive this treatment are also less likely to become successfully impregnated thereafter.
Prevention is the Best Option
If there is one silver lining to pyometra in cats, it is the simple fact that it is entirely preventable. Once your cat is spayed, heat cycles will cease, there will no longer be a uterus in your cat to become infected, and the risk of developing pyometra is eliminated once and for all. Having your cat spayed while it is young and healthy will also reap the added benefit of reducing the chances of mammary tumors. These benefits enable your feline friend to enjoy a longer and healthier lifespan.
Learn about Pyometra in Dogs.