A Guide to Pyometra in Dogs and Cats

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By: Simran Mudaliar Updated: January 26, 2018

A Guide to Pyometra in Dogs and CatsIf you have a cat or dog, you might have you heard about pyometra. Pyometra in dogs and cats is a serious and life-threatening condition that tends to affect female, unfixed dogs. In this article, we’ll cover all you need to know about this deadly bacterial infection.

Pyometra: Dog and Cat Alike Can Contract this Condition

Pyometra is a condition of the uterus that can affect both female cats and dogs. The pathophysiology, clinical signs and treatment options for pyometra is essentially the same for both dogs and cats. However, pyometra may be much more common in female dogs as opposed to cats.

Female cat with a big tummy sitting on concrete which has Pyometra in Cats

This is because, in order for a female cat to come into heat, she needs to be stimulated by a male for her progesterone levels to increase.

What is Pyometra? The Pyometra Definition

Pyometra in dogs is defined as the presence of pus in the uterus as a result of secondary bacterial infection. 

When a female dog is in estrus “heat” she begins to secrete hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, FSH, and LH. Of all these hormones, progesterone is the key hormone that plays a role in influencing pyometra in dogs.

A female’s reproductive tract is actually built to keep out germs and sperm. This is all thanks to the presence of immune cells such as white blood cells.

However, when females begin to ovulate, their body tells the white blood cells that it is now okay for sperm to enter the uterus. Post-ovulation, progesterone is seen to be the most dominating hormone in a female dog.

This is normal as the role of progesterone is to increase and thicken the uterine wall lining so that a fetus may be carried safely. However, the problem often arises if a female dog does not carry out pregnancy. 

In this case, her progesterone levels increase and thicken the uterine lining. But, in doing so the uterine lining may begin to form pus-filled cysts- a condition known as Cystic Endometrial Hyperplasia.

The Two Kinds of Pyometra

There are two kinds of pyometra a bitch may be susceptible to. These are open pyometra and closed pyometra.

When an animal has an infection, then their body responds by producing white blood cells.

Open pyometra in dogs simply means that the cervix of a female dog remains opened during pyometra. This will allow her to respond by licking and cleaning out any vaginal discharge. 

Closed pyometra means that the cervix is completely closed and so fluid and pus cannot exit the body through the vagina. 

Unfortunately, dogs with closed pyometra are at risk of their uterus rupturing! So, once diagnosed, this becomes an urgent problem.

Pyometra in Dogs

Certain dog breeds may be prone to pyometra. Dog breeds predisposed to pyometra include the

  • Chow Chow
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Saint Bernard

Pyometra in Cats

Just like dogs, cats too can be at risk of pyometra. The condition is essentially the same thing as seen in dogs! cats can have both open pyometra and closed pyometra.

Feline pyometra may be more prevalent in young adult cats to middle-aged cats.

What does this mean for the Uterus and Cervix?

The cervix, uterus, and ovaries all compromise of the reproductive tract of a female dog.

When a dog has such a severe bacterial infection, the body will naturally increase the level and number of white blood cells in order to combat this infection.

With pyometra in cats and dogs, only the uterine wall and cervix will be affected.

The uterine wall often forms pus-filled cysts which are characteristic of cystic endometrial hyperplasia. This occurs as progesterone leads to an increase in endometrial growth and glandular secretion. This secretion and thickening of the uterine lining provide an excellent place for bacteria to grow and bacterial infections to flourish!

Uterine Disease or Bacterial Infection, Here are the Pyometra Symptoms to Look Out For

In general, symptoms of pyometra can include:

  • Polydypsia
  • Polyuria
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting

Dogs with open pyometra may have symptoms such as:

  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Blood in discharge

Dogs with closed pyometra will not show symptoms such as vaginal discharge, but they may have symptoms such as:

  • Enlarged uterus upon veterinary palpation

Often, when your veterinarian examines your dog. They will palpate the uterus and abdomen in order to check for distention or swelling. A small percent of dogs may also develop a fever or go into shock as a result of pyometra.

How Long Can a Dog Live With Pyometra?

In cases of emergency such as a ruptured uterus from closed pyometra, a dog may have no more than 24 to 48 hours to live if not treated. 

Dogs who have open cervix pyometra can recover if they are treated on time. However, if these dogs are not spayed then they can still be at risk of developing pyometra.

Unfortunately, there is no real way of determining how long a dog would live with pyometra. Generally, if you’ve got a pooch who’s healthy, strong and is a fighter then once the bacterial infection has been cleared, your pooch can resume living a normal healthy life.

What is the Pyometra Survival Rate?

In general, dogs with open pyometra have a greater chance of survival since the condition can be caught early. According to some studies, the mortality rate of pyometra can be anywhere from 3 to 4%.

Poor prognosis

The prognosis for both female dogs and cats can be good or bad. It really just depends on your individual dog and the type of pyometra they have.

If your dog or cat has open cervix pyometra, and if they respond positively to treatment and IV fluids then they have a 70% to 90% of chance of remaining fertile. 

However, if your dog has had closed cervix pyometra or in fact, even open cervix pyometra and is not responding well to treatment, then they can be at risk of losing their fertility or they can even have a decreased survival rate.

How to Prevent Pyometra

The best and safest way to completely prevent canine pyometra or pyometra in cats is to simply take out the organ that’s causing the problem!

Spay Your Dog or Cat!

If your dog has recently recovered from pyometra, your board-certified veterinary surgeon will recommend that you spay your dog.

The best way to prevent an infected uterus is to simply stop the problem before it occurs by spaying dogs and cats. In doing so, your beloved furbaby will not have to face the gruesome symptoms of pyometra.

Pyometra Surgery and Alternative Treatments

Ovariohysterectomy is the best treatment for pyometra in cats and dogs. But, in general pets with pyometra will require oral antibiotics for 7 to 10 days post-surgery in order to combat any bacterial infections.

Kitten in a vet's table undergoing Pyometra surgery

Dogs and cats may be placed on medical therapy that involves the use of prostaglandin inhibitors that prevent the effects of progesterone taking place in the uterus. Your board-certified veterinary surgeon may also combine progesterone inhibitors with various other sorts of drugs that will allow the uterus to control and expel any pus or uterine contents.

Alternative treatments for pyometra has only recently been a topic much pet owners and veterinarians have queried about.

In 2005, it was discovered that a Chinese herbal preparation known as Yun-Nan-Pai-Yao can be used to treat pyometra in dogs. In the study, 10 female dogs were classed according to the severity of their pyometra.

The study demonstrated that pyometra can be effective in treating open cervix pyometra. Ongoing research still continues in order to test the efficacy of this herbal remedy.

Pyometra Surgery Cost

The cost of pyometra can be quite expensive!

Particularly, if your pooch requires emergency care. Not accounting for post-op and pre-op care, the average cost of pyometra surgery can range anywhere from $1200-$2800.

Covered by Pet Insurance?

Unfortunately, the only way of knowing if your pet insurance company cover pyometra is to have a read up on their policy.

In general, pet insurance companies will not cover pre-existing conditions. For example, before you purchased pet insurance your dog had developed and now has recovered from open pyometra. Your dog is still not spayed and so she has a 70% chance of getting pyometra again. In such a case, your pet insurer may not cover the cost of pyometra.

However, if you’ve just purchased pet insurance for your young dog, and she requires emergency surgery for her closed pyometra. Then yes, as this is an emergency treatment your pet insurer will pay-out for pyometra.

To Spay, or Not to Spay?

Pyometra in dogs and pyometra in cats can be a fatal illness.

The best way you as a pet owner can prevent this problem is by spaying your pet! Spaying not only eliminates the chances of your dog obtaining pyometra but it also has many other benefits such as protecting your dog against breast cancer and preventing unwanted pregnancies.

Talk to your veterinarian about pyometra and the amazing pros of spaying your dog and cat!

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