Pyometra is a disease mainly of middle-aged female dogs that have not been spayed. Pyometra follows a heat cycle in which fertilization did not occur. Typically, within two to four months after the cycle, the female starts showing signs of the disease. If veterinary intervention is sought early, prognosis is often positive, however, if the dog's cervix is closed, it can be a life threatening condition requiring immediate medical attention.
As the dogs body attempts to flush out the build up of waste products through the kidneys, she will drink excessive quantities of water, and urinate large amounts frequently. She will lick at her vaginal area while the cervix is still open and the uterus may discharge a white fluid. She may run a low grade fever and if blood work is done, she will show an elevated white blood cell count. As the uterus increases in size and weight, the dog shows weakness in the rear legs, often to the point where she cannot rise without help. As the dog enters kidney failure, she stops eating and becomes very lethargic.
Pyometra can often present within 12 weeks of oestrus and bitches which have mis-mated, and subsequently received the estradiol hormone injection to abhort puppies, are at increased risk of infection.
Signs may include one or more of the following:
Abdominal distention (from an enlarged uterus)
Vulvar (vaginal) discharge
Lack of appetite
Constant grooming around the vaginal opening
Your vet will first likely ask questions about when your dog’s last season was, whether she has been cleaning herself more often around her vulva, and how she has been acting recently. They will examine your dog’s abdomen to check for swelling, and may perform an ultrasound examination. Dogs with pyometra usually have a severe elevation of the white blood cell count and often have an elevation of globulins (a type of protein often associated with the immune system) in the blood. The specific gravity (concentration) of the urine is generally low due to the toxic effects of the bacteria on the kidneys.
Since toxicity may develop very quickly in dogs with pyometra, it needs to be treated promptly. Dogs will receive intravenous fluids, usually for several days, and antibiotics. In most cases, the preferred treatment is a complete ovariohysterectomy (spay). This removes the ovaries, oviducts, uterus, and all associated blood vessels. These animals can be a surgical challenge because of their poor overall condition. In some females valued for breeding, prostaglandin and antibiotic therapy may be tried instead of surgery. The prostaglandin is given for 5-7 days and causes the uterus to contract and expel the fluid. In mild cases, when the cervix is still open and the fluid is draining, the success rate is excellent. This therapy should only be used in dogs 6 years of age or younger, who are in stable condition, and have an open cervix. Prostaglandins can have side effects, especially after the first dose, including restlessness, panting, vomiting, increased heart rate, fever, and defecation.
In the case of an open cervix, a thick, bloody, foul smelling discharge draining from the vaginal opening is the first sign of an infected uterus. These dogs tend to appear less sick because the infection has a route to leave the body. If the dog’s cervix is closed, there will be no discharge and the infection can accumulate and spread into the bloodstream or enter the abdominal cavity. Symptoms can progress to those of shock, including a high fever and rapid pulse. The uterus will fill with pus and expand. Infections of other organs is common. The sick dog will need veterinary attention immediately.
The best prevention is to have all female animals spayed. If the animal is used for breeding, then spaying the animal after she is past her breeding years is highly recommended. Pyometra is a fairly common and serious problem and is just one of many compelling reasons to have your female pet spayed at an early age.
The root cause of pyometra is heightened levels of progesterone, either found naturally in the four to eight weeks after a heat cycle, or induced by hormone-based therapies such as those used to prevent unwanted litters. The hormone estrogen is used in some of these "abortion" therapies, which, if given at a certain point after the heat cycle, can increase the effects of progesterone even further (though most of these therapies have been taken off the market). These high progesterone levels can cause cysts and pockets, which are prime target locations for bacteria. In pyometra cases, Escherichia coli (E. Coli) has been the most common bacteria isolated from the infected uterus due to its ability to thrive in a uterus sensitized by progesterone.
This video is an ultrasound of a bitch who was 27 days post mating and was being scanned to confirm pregnancy.
A particularly bad pyo and she was referred to the vet who confirmed she would have to be spayed
THE USE OF ALIZIN TO TREAT PYOMETRA - READ MORE HERE
Great read as so many owners are unaware of a Pyometra. Please read – it could save a bitch’s life!!
'Pyo' is an infection of the womb and for any bitch that is entire (not neutered) it can happen. Anyone that owns an entire bitch should read these experiences from owners whose bitches have had pyo and be aware of the symptoms. It can be ‘open’ when there are more classic symptoms and ‘closed’ when it can fool even the experienced. PLEASE BE AWARE!
Pyometra literally means ‘pus in the womb’, therefore it is obvious that any bitch that still has a womb can develop this awful infection which can literally be life-threatening. In days gone by vets often advised owners of bitches that ‘it was good for them to have a litter’ – this was because it was thought that bitches that had had pups were less likely to develop pyometra. This is totally untrue and reading through these experiences you will see that any entire bitch, at any age and at any time can develop pyometra. Therefore, if you aren’t planning to breed it is a consideration to have her spayed.
Recently, advice was asked on our Club Facebook page as the owner’s bitch was unwell. A vet’s appointment confirmed that the bitch was suffering from pyometra and she was subsequently operated on and, I’m pleased to say,
is making a good recovery. As I know from experience myself that there are a whole myriad of symptoms that can present so I thought it would be good to gather experiences for future reference for our members.
The first symptoms Georgina, her owner, noticed were that Jazz appeared to be lazy, she stopped eating over a period of around four days, groaned whilst moving and seemed to lose a lot of weight fast. She just wasn't herself. Then Georgina noticed Jazz was sick and had a bloody mass in her wee. Georgina never thought it could’ve been pyo as she had never heard of it before and she was shocked at how fast it progressed. This happened around two weeks after Jazz’s season and she had no noticeable discharge.
Darran writes: Charlie had it at 8 years old. It started with her moping about feeling sorry for herself then her eyes puffed out a bit (hard to explain). I just knew something was up with her so I took her to the vet. My usual vet was
not there; the vet I saw said Charlie had a head cold, gave me antibiotics and sent us on our way. A couple of days later Charlie was deteriorating, having trouble getting up the stairs and looking bloated so I took her back to vet but the vet still said she had a head cold. I knew Charlie inside and out and I just knew she was very ill. Two days later I was In the bathroom getting ready for work when she came in and urinated on my feet, something she would n’t have done if healthy. It stank and was a terracotta/rusty nail in water colour. I tooko her straight to the vet and luckily my usual vet was back and saw her straight away. He knew she wasn’t well from the start because she allowed him to look at her on the table which she HATED!!!!!!! He said straight away she had pyometra and he needed to operate on her there and then. When I went to collect her I saw the vet who told me that when he opened her up her tubes were five times the size they should’ve been. She had lost a kilo and half in weight that how much infection was in her. We know our Staffords - don't let anyone tell you differently. These were a very scary few days. I never knew about pyometra or how serious it can be
Danni was 6 years old. On the Friday evening she just had some loose stool and was just "off". There was no temperature, no discharge and she was eating. The symptoms were like a mild tummy upset - she was just a bit
down with diarrhoea. We fed her rice and pumpkin and I gave her an antacid tablet. On the Saturday she was much the same - nothing to really ring any warning bells. Sunday morning she had her head down and was hunched up, walking like she was 100 years old. We took her straight to the vet and after an ultra sound pyo was confirmed. She was put on the drip for antibiotics for 12hrs then immediate surgery and spay on Monday morning. She had no temperature the whole time and was not off her food.
Nicky writes: My bitch had pyometra just before Christmas. She had a longer than normal season and was a week out of it. I noticed on the Saturday afternoon she was a little quiet and wouldn't jump on the sofa (totally unheard of) but apart from that she was fine. On Saturday night she was very clingy but still eating and drinking normally. On Sunday morning she seemed very withdrawn and again wouldn't jump up (which was concerning me). I took her temperature, which was normal, and noticed a brown discharge. I rang the emergency vets who didn't think it was
pyometra as she wasn't showing the normal symptoms but I took her in to get checked out. Roxy was scanned and found she had the start of pyometra. Because we caught it early we started the hormone injections treatment and strong antibiotics. One week later she had cleared the infection up but it was a long hard week for her and me. If I could go back I would’ve spayed as the treatment took its toll on her. She has now been spayed. No one knows their dog better than its owner, I'm so glad I took her to the vets when I did and insisted on a scan.
Angel is a five year old. She was mated and scanned at 35 days with a litter of 5+ puppies. At 42 days into the pregnancy Angel started to spot blood; it was fresh, no smell and Angel appeared well. The emergency vet
prescribed antibiotics; when I asked about a scan I was told it was not needed, I asked about pyo and was told she was not displaying symptoms and sure enough within 24 hours spotting had stopped and Angel was fine in herself and eating and drinking well. On the evening of day 45 of pregnancy I commented to my daughter Angel didn't look right, she refused food and water. She had been fine all day. I called her to leave the sofa and she refused to get up. As I lifted her she started to haemorrhage and deliver her puppies. We rushed to the vet and within 20 minutes theblood had turned to pus, she couldn't stand and her eyes were rolling. The vet immediately rushed her in to surgery. The puppies were not completely formed but a couple were live and but had to be put to sleep quickly.
Angel was operated on, she had blood transfusions and when the vet phoned at 10pm she was breathing on her own but had not come around from her sedation. I was told if she didn't come round within the hour we would have to make a decision of the worst kind. Thankfully she woke and spent several days in the vets recovering and came home three days later. Angel suffered neurological damage and as a result is blind in her left eye which may or may not be permanent and has damage to her kidneys. The moral of my story is firstly Angel did not present the normal symptoms and even though she must’ve been in pain as a typical Stafford she didn't appear ill until it was critical; also Angel was not in the typical risk time scale and lastly had I insisted she had a scan with the first visit to the vets then
maybe it could’ve been caught a lot earlier. That emergency vet was not experienced and didn't understand a bull breeds resilience. Angel is thankfully on the mend and her kidneys are starting to show improvement and hopefully her sight will return although that is doubtful
In this case, although the bitch was insured, the insurance company wouldn’t cover the costs of the operation as the bitch had been mated and the insurance didn’t cover ‘breeding’.
We had taken a lot of thought about mating Tally and did try a couple of times but she was having none of it! So when she got to 5 years old we waited for after her next season (advised by vet) to take her to be spayed. Her seasons were very random, sometimes only having 1 a year and very light. She was very clean and cleared up after herself. She never had what I would describe as "heavy bleeding" so the last season was just like the ones before, nothing unusual. Towards the end of the 3rd week after the start of the last season she became a little lethargic and off her food waddling about. Darren picked her up onto his lap to give her a cuddle and he felt around her abdomen one morning, it felt hard and she moaned. She had no discharge after her season so no signs of anything wrong. We called the vets as soon as they opened and they asked that we bring her in straight away. She went in that morning and had a scan which revealed she had a Pyometra! We left her there and she was operated on immediately. The
hours to follow seemed to go on forever until I was allowed to call after 2pm to see how it had all gone and how she was doing. I called on the dot! The vet advised us that she was only maybe an hour away from it being a different story, although it wasn't one of the worst one's he had seen it was the biggest. We were allowed to go and collect her after 5pm the same day and bring her home to recover. She was very wobbly to start with and a bed was set up for her to avoid any jumping/stretching. Following the op all her wounds healed well but she developed a water works problem and became almost incontinent. After putting "Google" through over drive and reading comments, forums and vets pages I found that it was a side effect of spaying, this went on for 4 months until she was back to a more normal Tally. Tally went on to survive having a large fat lump removed from her chest and 2 other lumps which were non cancerous when she was 10 but then developed kidney failure and we lost her at 10 years old.
TULA - my own bitch - 8 years old, one litter, had an unusual season which seemed heavier than normal, my young male not interested in the scent which seemed odd as he had been very interested in her daughter a few weeks earlier. The day her discharge stopped she seemed 'off', scanned her and nothing showing, normal temperature. Took her to vets to ask for a blood test to check white blood cell count, which was normal. Next morning, just 12 hours later, completely off her food, turned green when I offered her breakfast, scanned again, showing a large amount of pus in the uterus. Vet operated within 30 minutes as she had a full blown closed pyo.
This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the advice provided by your veterinarian.