Spay Your Furry Friend And Spare Her From This Life-Threatening Condition

There are numerous reasons to get your dog spayed. You only have to walk through the kennels of a nearby animal shelter or peruse the pet section of your local classifieds to find hundreds of them. But if the pet overpopulation problem isn't enough reason for you to get your furry friend spayed, consider her health. Pyometra is a condition that can have serious, even fatal consequences—and is 100% preventable.

What Is Pyometra?

Canine pyometra is an infection of the uterus that occurs in unspayed female dogs. The name pyometra is Latin for pus-filled uterus. Because the signs and symptoms are similar to other conditions, its diagnosis is often delayed until the condition is life threatening. It is most common in older dogs but can occur in dogs of any age.

What Causes Pyometra?

Pyometra is caused by hormonal changes associated with the reproductive cycle. During your dog's heat cycle, which normally occurs about twice a year, changes occur that allow vaginal bacteria to ascend through the cervix into the opening of the uterus. In addition, the elevated levels of progesterone after the heat cycle cause the lining of the uterus to thicken in preparation for pregnancy. If she does not become pregnant for several heat cycles, this lining continues to grow, creating an ideal environment for bacteria to grow. White blood cells enter the uterus to fight the infection, causing the uterus to become filled with pus.

What Are the Symptoms?

A dog with pyometra will typically begin to show signs 4 to 6 weeks after coming out of heat. Signs will differ depending on whether it is an open or closed case of pyometra. In an open infection, the cervix does not close. This allows pus and fluid to drain from the vagina and you will likely notice a yellowish discharge under her tail and on her bedding. Other typical signs include fever, lethargy and loss of appetite.

In closed pyometra, the cervix remains closed and doesn't allow drainage, and you will notice an enlargement of your dog's stomach. The bacteria produce toxins which can enter the blood stream and cause severe illness. Quick action to stop the effects of the toxin is imperative for a good prognosis. Signs to look for in addition to a distended belly include anorexia, listlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, frequent urination and excessive thirst.

How Is Pyometra Treated?

If pyometra is discovered early, your veterinarian may try to treat the infection with antibiotics as well as prostaglandins, which cause the uterus to contract and push the pus out. However, it is not always successful, and even if it is successful, the pyometra can return with subsequent heat cycles.

The best way to treat pyometra in your dog is to perform surgery to remove the infected uterus. Because of the large size of the uterus and danger of further infection, this is riskier, costlier and more difficult than a routine spay.

So it's your choice. Spay her now and avoid any chance of pyometra, or take the risk of exposing her to this life-threatening disease—and possibly end up spaying her anyway. To learn more about pyometra and the reasons it's important to spay your dog, contact a vet like those at Norwin Veterinary Hospital.