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Pyometra

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Pyometra is a bacterial infection in the uterus of dogs. It is a serious and frequently life threatening condition that requires prompt treatment. The risk of Pyometra is highest in dogs that have not been spayed or that are on any type of hormone-based therapy. Pyometra may be seen in young to middle-aged dogs, but it is most common in older dogs. It usually develops about 1-2 months after an estrus (or heat) cycle. The uterine wall becomes thickened and engorged after many years of estrus cycles, making it more prone to bacterial infection from bacteria that are normally present in the vagina.

In an open pyometra, the cervix is open, and the dog will have a vaginal discharge. In a closed pyometra, the cervix is closed, and there is no vaginal discharge. Other signs in both types of pyometra can include fever, increased water drinking and urination, lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. Dogs can have only mild symptoms or be extremely ill. Signs are often more severe in closed pyometra, because the closed cervix does not allow the vaginal discharge, which contains bacteria and pus, to drain from the body.

Diagnostic evaluation includes blood tests, x-rays, and sometimes ultrasound. The preferred treatment is surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries, ie, a spay or ovariohysterectomy. Dogs diagnosed before the signs become serious are very good candidates for surgery. Dogs that are already quite ill are at greater risk, and intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and general supportive care are also necessary. Medical management with prostaglandins, which open the cervix and contract the uterus to expel bacteria and pus, is a controversial and sometimes dangerous treatment. In addition, pyometra often recurs with medical management.

 

Q&A

What is pyometra?

Pyometra is a serious bacterial infection of the uterus that requires prompt treatment. 


What dogs are most likely to get pyometra?

Pyometra is most common in female dogs that have not been spayed, or that are on some type of hormone-based therapy.  Pyometra is most common in older dogs, usually about 1-2 months after a heat cycle. 


How is pyometra treated and prevented?

The preferred treatment is surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries, ie, a spay or ovariohysterectomy.  Having your dog spayed earlier in life (preferably before the first heat period) will prevent this condition from ever afflicting your pet.

Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
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