Pyometra  (Pyo= pus, Metra= uterus) is a severe disease of the uterus, where the uterus fills up with infected material known as pus. It is most commonly seen in unsprayed dogs of around 6 years of age. If left untreated long enough, it can spread to other organs of the body and definitely endanger the life of your dog.

How does this disease occur?

Every time your dog comes to heat, the uterus spends two months under the influence of the hormone progesterone, the pregnancy hormone. This happens regardless of whether the dog is bred or not. That’s just the way dog hormones work, and it’s why we see pseudopregnancy, where she feels and acts pregnant.

One of the effects of progesterone is the activation of the glands in the uterus, which are needed to produce nutrient rich substances required for the foetus. Over time, with the influence of progesterone, these glands grow bigger and bigger, and secrete more and more fluid. 

Now, unfortunately, the fluid that is so good for the foetus, is also super good for bacteria! So, if and when bacteria enters any time that the cervix is open (during heat) or through the blood supplying the uterus, they have a luxurious and nutrient-rich space to grow and proliferate, which causes huge problems for the dog. If the infection gets severe enough, the bacteria can travel through the blood and affect the other vital organs, like the heart, kidneys and liver, making the condition life threatening.

What are the signs?

You will generally start seeing pyometra symptoms a few weeks after the heat period has passed. Pyometra occurs in two forms, open and closed, based on whether the cervix is open or not. Open pyometra means that the cervix is open, and you can see (and smell) a foul smelling vaginal discharge. Closed pyometra means that the cervix is closed, and no discharge can be seen. This is often more dangerous as it is more difficult to diagnose, and the uterus also has a chance of filling to the brim and bursting inside the body. Other symptoms of pyometra include a fever, increased thirst, and general dullness.

How is it diagnosed?

Your vet will diagnose pyometra mainly based on the timing of the symptoms, the symptoms themselves, and an ultrasound examination of the uterus, which is usually confirmatory for pyometra.

How is it treated?

Treatment consists of spaying, i.e. removing the uterus and the ovaries. Medical therapy using hormones is available, but is risky and does not always offer a complete cure. That’s why it’s only reserved for young dogs with high breeding value. However, as mentioned before, removing the cause (meaning the uterus via spaying) is the gold standard treatment for this condition. Your vet will give supportive treatment to stabilise your dog before surgery, to give her the best possible chance at a complete recovery.

Can I prevent this from happening to my dog?

Yes, yes and yes!! You need to remember, pyometra is pretty much a ticking time bomb. Leave an unsprayed dog long enough, it will happen sooner or later. What’s worse, once this happens you’ll end up in the same situation of having to spay her, and it’s infinitely more difficult to have to spay sick dogs than healthy ones. So please, if you are not planning to breed your dog, talk to your vet and get her spayed as soon as possible.