If you have been hesitant to have your dog spayed, you are increasing the risk for mammary tumors and pyometra in your dog. What is pyometra in dogs? It is a life-threatening condition that can be prevented. Once your dog is spayed, the chances of this condition are instantly eliminated.
What is Pyometra in Dogs?
Pyometra is essentially a bacterial infection of the uterus. When an intact female dog goes into heat for multiple cycles without becoming pregnant, uterine changes create an environment in which bacteria thrive. The uterus becomes engorged with pus. Toxins from the bacteria are released into the bloodstream, resulting in kidney failure and death. Pyometra can occur in any intact female at any age, but the risk is significantly higher in dogs that are six years of age and older.
What are the Signs of Pyometra in Dogs?
Signs of pyometra in dogs typically present within the two to eights weeks that follow a dog’s heat cycle. There are two presentations of pyometra. In the open presentation, the dog’s cervix is open, which allows the pus to drain out through the vaginal opening. Signs of discharge will be seen on the floor where the dog has sat, on the dog’s bedding or on the dog’s body underneath the tail. An open pyometra may or may not also exhibit such symptoms as fever, lethargy and loss of appetite.
In a closed presentation of pyometra in dogs, the cervix is closed and the infectious material remains trapped in the dog’s body. As the pus accumulates, the dog’s abdomen may appear distended. As the toxins enter the bloodstream, the dog will demonstrate signs of illness, including fever, vomiting, loss of appetite and lethargy. As the kidney function becomes compromised, signs of kidney failure include increased water intake and urination. If the dog’s uterus ruptures, the pus will flow into the body cavity, leading to sepsis and death.
How are Pyometra Dogs Treated?
Pyometra in dogs is a life-threatening emergency that must be addressed promptly to save the dog and to minimize the level of kidney damage incurred. Surgical intervention is the best option to save pyometra dogs. The procedure is an ovariohysterectomy, or spay, but it is a more intricate procedure to perform on a dog that has been diagnosed with pyometra. Care must be taken to remove the enlarged and engorged uterus in tact to prevent infectious pus from leaking into the dog’s body cavity. Fluid therapy must be administered to assist the kidneys in flushing the toxins from the bloodstream, antibiotic drugs must be administered throughout the dog’s recovery from surgery, and the dog’s incision is notably longer than that of a standard spay that is performed on a healthy dog.
In the case of breeding females, treatment with hormonal drugs may be attempted. The drugs relax and open the cervix so that the infectious material can exit the body through the vagina. These treatments are not always successful, and dogs that are treated for pyometra are likely to have repeat episodes in future. These dogs also have lower chances of being bred successfully thereafter.
Prevention is the Best Option
If there is one good thing about pyometra in dogs, it is that the condition is entirely preventable. Once your dog is spayed, there are no more heat cycles and there is no uterus to become infected. Having your dog spayed while it is young and healthy will reap the benefits of reducing the chances of mammary cancer, eliminating the risk of pyometra and potentially extending the lifespan of your canine companion.
Learn about pyometra in cats here.