Pyometra Peril: Why Spaying Your Female Dog Or Cat Is Imperative

Posted on: 19 November 2015


There are several reasons why pet owners put off having their dogs and cats spayed, from budgetary constraints to fears of anesthetic complications. Such excuses are endangering pets. If your female dog or cat has not been spayed, scheduling your pet for an ovariohysterectomy should be a priority so that you can prevent pyometra, a life-threatening condition in your furry friend.

What Is Pyometra?

Pyometra is a bacterial infection of the uterus. When a dog or cat goes into heat repeatedly without becoming pregnant, the changes that occur in the uterine wall create a prime environment for E. coli bacteria to flourish. As the immune response kicks in, the proliferation of white blood cells that are fighting the bacteria lead to the accumulation of pus. Some complications that can result from pyometra include the following:

  • Septicemia occurs once toxins seep through the uterine tissues and enter the bloodstream.
  • Irreversible kidney damage can occur as the kidneys work overtime to filter toxins from the bloodstream.
  • Peritonitis occurs if the uterus ruptures and disperses pus and toxins into the abdominal cavity. 
  • Shock and death will ultimately result if treatment is not sought.

Which Pets Are at Risk?

All intact female dogs and cats are at risk for developing pyometra, and it afflicts roughly 25 percent of these pets. Pyometra can occur at any age, but it is more common in middle aged and older pets. All breeds are equally susceptible to pyometra.

Signs and Symptoms of Pyometra

Signs of pyometra usually present between two and eight weeks following a heat cycle in dogs and within the month following a heat cycle in cats. There are two presentations of pyometra. In the case of an open pyometra, the cervix is relaxed and open, allowing pus to drain out of the body through the vaginal opening. This discharge appears as whitish-yellow or a blood-tinged brownish-red, and it carries a foul odor. You may notice this discharge at your pet's vaginal opening or on her bedding. In the case of a closed pyometra, you will not observe any discharge because the cervix is not open. Pus remains trapped within the uterus and continues to accumulate until the uterus ruptures. Signs and symptoms that present with either open or closed pyometra include the following:

  • Lethargy
  • Increased water intake and urinary output
  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal swelling

If you observe any of these signs and your pet experienced a heat cycle in recent weeks, you must bring your pet to your local vet or emergency veterinary hospital immediately. Pyometra is an emergency that requires urgent care.

Going Into Surgery

The life-saving treatment for pyometra is surgical intervention. Intravenous fluids are administered to assist the kidneys in flushing toxins out of the bloodstream and to prevent dehydration. Antibiotics are administered to combat infection, radiographs are taken to assess the condition of the uterus, and blood panels are run to assess general organ health status. 

Performing an ovariohysterectomy on a pet who has pyometra is much riskier than when performed on a healthy pet. Great care must be taken to prevent leakage of infectious material into the body cavity. Pets should be in good health when undergoing anesthesia, and one that has been diagnosed with pyometra is in a compromised state of health.

Prevention is Possible

The good news about pyometra is that the infection is preventable. Having your pet spayed while she is young and healthy will eradicate the chances of pyometra occurring in the future. A routine spay procedure is considerably less costly and less risky than one that is performed while your pet is in the throes of pyometra. Be proactive in preventing a potential tragedy by scheduling your pet for her spay procedure as soon as possible.

To learn more, contact a pet hospital like Bijou Animal Hospital P.C.