Pyometra

Pyometra is a life threatening, serious infection of the uterus that occurs in intact females of many species (dogs, cats, rabbits, rodents and more). It is characterized by production of large mount of pus within the uterus and systemic toxicity. Middle aged or older animals are typically affected but young females can also get sick.  

Since dogs and to a lesser extent, cats make the bulk of the pet population; most cases of pyometra involve these species. Hormonal changes related to the heat cycle, predispose the uterus to bacterial infection. The uterus gets filled with pus and various toxic by-products, causing sever illness. Affected females are depressed, anorexic, drink and urinate excessively (polyuria/polydipsia), develop abdominal enlargement and often a bloody or pussy discharge. Signs progress rapidly and if left untreated, the disease culminates in death.  

Not all cases are obvious and in many cases the diagnosis is made very late, when the animal is in critical conditions. Many owners assume it is just a longer heat cycle and wait for it to end. It is not until the animal becomes very sick that they seek medical help.  

The diagnosis is made based on the history of prolonged or recent heat cycle, clinical signs of excessive drinking and urination, not eating, listlessness etc. and a physical examination (palpation of enlarged uterus and perivulvar pussy discharge). X-rays, vaginal smear and blood tests are done to support diagnosis of questionable cases. 

Pyometra is considered an emergency and surgical removal of the uterus should be done as soon as possible. Many veterinarians will initiate supportive antibiotic and fluid treatment, in order to stabilize the patient before going to surgery.  Surgery is dangerous and may get complicate by rupture of the uterus and pus leakage into the abdomen. Medical treatment alone is usually unrewarding and not recommended. 

Prevention is easily accomplished by spaying the animal early on. We recommend spaying every female pet prior to the first heat cycle. It is inexpensive and will prevent unnecessary suffering and death. Early spay also helps to prevent mammary tumors, another deadly disease.

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Yuval Nir
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Veterinarians, Animal hospital