Pyometra and Your Dog

Published: 10th May 2011
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Pyometra comes from the Latin language and is defined as a pus-filled uterus. The condition is usually seen in female dogs over five years of age, and the risk of the condition goes up with age. Unless the uterus is removed, which is a surgical procedure, the dog will most likely die.

In most cases, an imbalance of hormones, particularly progesterone, causes an overactive uterus lining. Accumulation of secretions in the uterine cavity can cause distention. A secondary infection from bacteria making its way in through the vagina may develop, however, a number of organs diagnosed as having Pyometra are found to be sterile.

The onset of pyometra is most commonly one week to three months after the dog comes into heat (but may be seen at any time in the cycle) and may also accompany Pseudocyesis (false pregnancy). There is not sufficient evidence to establish a link between these hormone dependent diseases though. Pyometra can appear in female dogs that have not copulated for an extended time, and dogs that have produced litters recently.

Pyometra may be diagnosed by clinical signs and symptoms along with the dog's recent heat history. The most widespread signs are digestive problems like appetite loss, vomiting, and diarrhea. Other symptoms may present such as listlessness, drinking copious amounts of water, abdominal swelling, and vaginal discharge. The discharge usually has a foul odor, and may signify that the cervix is open. If the cervix is open, some of the toxic effects and pressure in the abdomen associated with Pyometra may be reduced.

Your veterinarian will be required to take x-rays and a blood sample from your dog for diagnosis. The x-ray will reveal the large, pus-filled uterus without difficulty in many cases. A white blood cell count can also assist in the diagnosis as if there is an infection, the count will be up to ten times the normal count.

How can I keep my dog safe? The only way to prevent Pyometra in your dog is to have her spayed. If the uterus and ovaries are not present, the disease cannot form.

Is surgery safe for my pet? If your dog has Pyometra, the only real chance they have of overcoming the disease (as most vets will tell you) is by surgically removing the uterus. There are risks involved in any surgery. Some things to consider are the age of your dog, her medical history, and any other conditions she may have, such as heart disease. The good news, though, is that even in high risk dogs, there is a good chance that they will survive and recover fully with comprehensive therapy and good patient care. You may talk to your vet to see what they recommend for your particular situation.

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