Pyometra (which literally translates as “pus in the womb”) is a uterine infection due to a hormonal abnormality that affects female dogs (but it has also been observed in intact or unneutered/unspayed cats, ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, and rabbits), and experts recommend it be treated “quickly and aggressively.” It is often accompanied by a secondary bacterial infection, and if left untreated, can be fatal.
WHICH DOGS ARE AFFECTED BY PYOMETRA? – Unspayed female dogs and cats who are sexually mature which suffer years of heat cycles without pregnancy. It usually affects female dogs who are six years old or older, though it has been seen in younger dogs.
WHEN AM I MOST LIKELY TO NOTICE SYMPTOMS IN MY DOG?- After she concludes a heat cycle; if these symptoms (see list in article on right) occur, bring her to a veterinarian immediately.
Remember that the bloody pus discharge may not always manifest, especially in cases of closed cervix pyometra.
IS THERE A NON-SURGICAL WAY TO TREAT THE DISEASE?- Ernest Ward, DVM, cautiously recommends prostaglandins, but warns, “…the success rate is widely variable and not without considerable risk and potential long-term complications. Prostaglandins are a group of hormones that lower the blood level of progesterone, relax and open the cervix, and cause the uterus to contract and expel bacteria and pus. They can be used to treat this disease, but they are not always successful and have some important limitations.”
You won’t see any improvement for about two days, so the treatment can’t be used on dying or seriously sick dogs. And there are painful side effects such as vomiting, abdominal pain, salivation, and restlessness;
these can last for hours after each treatment. Then, “Because prostaglandins cause the uterus
to contract, it is possible for the uterus to rupture and spill infection into the abdominal cavity resulting
in the severely life-threatening condition known as peritonitis. This is most likely to happen when the
cervix is closed.”
According to Dr. Ward, the success rate ranges from 75-90% for the open-cervix type of the disease if there are no complications, but drops to 25-40% for the closed-cervix type.
Neither treatment protects against recurrence, which happens in up to 75% of all cases, and it is highly
likely your dog will be unable to breed afterwards, so spaying— with its better success rate—as suggested by Dr. Macapagal, is the better option.
This story appeared in Animal Scene’s March 2017 issue.