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Pyometra – Why You Must Spay Your Female Dog

2011 May 29
Maggie is black and tan with bog brown eyes and balding fur on her hind legs from flea allergy dermatitis

Maggie prepares for surgery

Maggie Feels Sick All of a Sudden

“Doc, Maggie was fine the day before yesterday.  Now she won’t eat, vomited once, and is straining to go to the bathroom.  I might be crazy, but her stomach almost looks like she’s pregnant.  I know she can’t be… she’s old,” said Maggie’s mom.

What is Pyometra?

Pyometra is a uterine infection in which the entire uterus fills with pus.  There is open pyometra in which the pus drains to the outside through the vulva and closed pyometra, in which the cervix is closed and the pus builds up inside until the uterus ruptures internally.

A sad, black and tan, ten-year-old shepherd-mix dog looked at Doc Truli. Maggie felt awful.  Doc Truli lifted Maggie’s lip and looked at her gums.  The normal pink was replaced by a lacy red network of fine blood vessels.  Doc’s index finger stuck to the mucous membranes; there was no moisture in Maggie’s mouth.

Next, Doc Truli felt Maggie stomach area.  Her sides bulged out a little bit.  Her abdomen felt a little bulbous, like a long, oval ballon was stuck inside.  Her vulva was enlarged, her nipples were prominent, and she had a little speck of red-yellow smelly discharge from her vulva.

Symptoms of Pyometra

  • Lethargy
  • Reluctance to eat
  • Straining to go to the bathroom
  • Sometimes vomit and diarrhea
  • Sometimes vaginal discharge
  • Sometimes visible abdominal enlargement
  • Septic shock
  • Sudden Death

In short, Maggie was septic, dehydrated, unspayed, with a large abdomen, straining to go to the bathroom, and we could not determine when her last heat cycle was because she did not show it with symptoms at her advanced age.

Tru Tip

Most cases of pyometra occur within two months after a heat cycle because of the hormone surges associated with the heat.

Spayed dogs can have a “stump pyometra” where the remaining cervical stump can develop of pus-filled infection.  Rarely, even a spayed dog needs emergency surgery.

“We’ll run a few tests – XRay her abdomen, and check her Complete blood count and chemistries of the blood, get her started on rehydration though intravenous fluids.  I’m 99% sure Maggie has pyometra and needs emergency surgery TODAY to save her life,” said Doc Truli.

Maggie has Emergency Pyometra Surgery

The pictures are graphic.  The purpose in showing the pictures is to motivate and educate anyone out there who is reluctant to have their healthy dog spayed.  Do it now while your dog is strong and healthy.  It will be planned to fit your schedule, cost you much, much less money, and be much, much, much safer for your girl!

Maggie’s surgery involved extra painkillers, special anesthetic monitoring, and extra equipment on hand in case the uterus ruptured as soon as it was touched! (Sometimes the uterus has been infected for days, and it becomes purple and thin-walled and pus oozes out when a light finger-touch presses on the uterus just to touch it in order to perform the surgery!)

The actual operation is a dog ovariohysterectomy.  The ovaries must go to eliminate the hormones that helped potentiate the body for the infection in the first place!  The difference between a regular dog spay and a pyometra spay is the risk, the metabolic and physical compromise of the female patient’s system, and the possible complications because of the large, pus-filled uterus.

Pyometra Complications

  • Sepsis can result in DIC, disseminated vascular coagulation- the dog has spontaneous blood clotting in the vessels anywhere in the body, uses up the clotting factors, and then bleeds to death internally.  This is very, very difficult to treat medically and the prognosis is poor.
  • Thromboembolism – especially pulmonary, prognosis poor, also very difficult to treat
  • Death from electrolyte imbalances, dehydration, anemia, or other infection complications, can be corrected and helped before surgery if there is time and the uterus is not about to rupture!
  • Sudden, unexpected death from leakage of uterine pus contents into the abdomen, leakage contents can be flushed and cleaned from the abdomen, then it depends on the strength of the dog is she will heal up.

Many Pyometra Patients Have Suboptimal Basic Care

To be honest, many dogs Doc Truli sees with pyometra have received little or no veterinary care over their lifetime.  Because of this, they often have concomitant health concerns.  The most common if heartworm disease.  Also, these girls often have intestinal parasite infestation.  Some of them also have incredibly poor nutrition because they were fed cheap dog food or not fed enough at all.

Pyometra Prevention

Unless your female dog is a show dog and you are a licensed professional breeder improving or inventing a breed of dogs, do not breed your dog.  Have your dog spayed, ideally before the first heat, which can occur as young as 6 months old.  If your dog is older, have her spayed right away!

Sometimes, even dogs with good healthcare will develop pyometra.  Usually, a typical pyometra patient is elderly, receives little veterinary preventative care, and also has been sick for days before the pet parent notices or feels compelled to seek professional help.  But once in a while, a young, healthy dog will unexpectedly just develop a case of pyometra.  If the symptoms resemble those listed above, consult your veterinarian right away!

Maggie’s Fate

Maggie recovered great!  She was sleepy for a day.  Then her appetite flooded back and she ate food like a starving dog!  All those daily dietary proteins her body used to fight the infection and make the pus suddenly became available for healing and tissue regeneration.  Maggie is happy and well today.

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