Pyometra in Dogs – By Laura McLain Madsen, DVM
By Laura McLain Madsen, DVM
Pyometra is a potentially life-threatening uterine infection in female dogs who have not been spayed. Roughly 1 out of 5 unspayed female dogs will develop pyometra at some time during their lives, so it is an illness every owner of a female dog should be aware of.
Pyometra literally means: pyo = pus and metra = uterus. The uterus fills up with pus and fluid. Toxins from the infection spread through the bloodstream and can cause septic shock and kidney failure.
Pyometra can be seen in any breed, age, or size of dog, although is more common in middle-aged to senior dogs. Usually it develops within a month of the dog going through her heat cycle. (Female dogs go into heat about every 6 months.) Symptoms include increased thirst, frequent urination, loss of appetite, weakness, fever (feeling warm to the touch), rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, and vomiting. You might also see a bloody or pus-like discharge from her vulva.
If you see symptoms of pyometra, take your dog to her veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will perform a physical exam, and may recommend diagnostic tests such as:
- Blood panel to check levels of white blood cells (infection-fighting cells), red blood cells, kidney enzymes, blood sugar, and electrolytes
- X-rays or ultrasound to look at the size and status of the uterus
- Looking at a smear of vaginal discharge under the microscope to look for white blood cells and bacteria
If your veterinarian diagnoses pyometra, the recommended treatment for the dog will include:
- Intravenous fluids to stabilize blood pressure and support kidney function
- Antibiotics for infection
- Pain medications
- Surgery: an emergency ovariohysterectomy (spay) to removed the pus-filled uterus
- In severe cases, dogs may need to stay in the hospital for several days to receive intravenous fluids and medications. Occasionally blood or plasma transfusions may be needed.
Pyometra can be prevented by having your dog spayed when she is young. Talk to your veterinarian about the ideal age to have your female spayed.