Pyometra in Dogs

Did you know that older intact female dogs can suffer from a deadly disease called Pyometra? Pyometra in dogs is a disease that needs to be treated immediately.

What is Pyometra in Dogs?

Photo of a pus-filled uterus. Photo by American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)/Facebook

Pyometra in dogs is a life-threatening infection of the uterus. The disease got its name from the medical terms “Pyo” (meaning pus) and “metra” (meaning uterus or womb).

Pyometra is what happens when the uterus accumulates infective fluid. This disease mostly affects older female dogs who have not been spayed. Pyometra has two classifications:

  • Open Pyometra–This means that the cervix of the infected dog is open – causing the pus that may be yellow, cream, greenish or bloody to come out from the vagina.
  • Closed Pyometra – With closed Pyometra, the cervix remains closed. This poses more danger than the open Pyomera since the pus isn’t drained out of the body. This can make your dog very sick and develop blood poisoning or toxemia. Left untreated, a closed Pyometra can lead to dehydration, kidney failure, blood poisoning, and death.

There is also something called “Stump Pyometra”, which happens to spayed dogs. This is very rare and only happens to females who were left with small parts of the uterus after spaying. Since the remaining womb is small, Stump Pyometra and its signs tend to be less severe. But treatment is still necessary to prevent complications.

 

What Causes Pyometra in Dogs?

Pyometra happens as a result of hormonal changes in the female dog’s reproductive tract. When your German Shepherd is in “heat” or “estrus”,the body stops white blood cells, which protect the body against infections, from entering the uterus. By inhibiting the entrance of these immune cells, the body makes the uterus safe for sperm cells to enter, promoting conception.

After the dog’s heat period, the progesterone hormone levels remain highfor up to two months. The high levels of progesterone cause the uterine lining to thicken – preparing the body for pregnancy and fetal development. If a female does not get pregnant for several consecutive cycles, the lining of the uterus continues to thicken. After that, Cystic Endometrial Hyperplasia – a condition where in cysts start growing from within the tissues – may occur.The thickened and cystic lining then releases fluids that make the uterus an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

Some dogs undergo hormone therapy. Do note that the use of progesterone-based drugs may also be the culprit for thickening of the lining of the uterus. These drugs may also contribute to the likeliness of a dog to suffer from uterine infections.

Pyometra, or the uterine infection itself, often starts developing two to eight weeks after the last heat cycle. During the heat cycle up until a few weeks, the cervix remains open as the body’s means to letsperm in for pregnancy. When the cervix is open, bacteria like the E. Coli can enter theuterus. And since the thickened and cystic lining of the uterus secretes fluids that make the organ ideal for bacterial growth, severe infection may follow.

Typically, the body will try to expel the bacteria on its own. But because of the abnormal condition of the uterine lining and high levels of progesterone, the muscles of the uterus do not contract correctly.

What are the Signs of Pyometra in Dogs?

If your German Shepherd has Pyometra, she will show one or more of the following signs:

  • Enlarged belly,
  • Lethargy,
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Fever,
  • Depression,
  • Green, yellowish, creamy or bloody discharge or pus from the vagina (Open Pyometra),
  • Excessive drinking,
  • Frequent urination (with large amounts of urine each time),
  • Excessive licking of the genitals,
  • Vomiting,
  • Muscle weakness,
  • And more.

With Pyometra, the uterus gets filled up with fluids and bacteria. If the cervix is open (Open Pyometra), pus may be discharged by the body. But if it does not (Closed Pyometra), the increasing size of the uterus can make the affected dog’s belly grow bigger. When this happens, your German Shepherd’s hind legs may get weak to the point that she will have a hard time standing up.

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As the disease progresses, the bacteria inside the uterus will release toxins that are absorbed into circulation – causing ablood infection. When that happens, your German Shepherd can become very sick at a fast rate. She will lose her appetite and become lethargic. Vomiting may also occur. During this stage, the dog may experience fever. White blood cell count may also elevate as the body’s attempt to fight off the infection.

Without treatment, toxins from the bacteria can make your German Shepherd very sick. The toxin can cause the kidney to have problems in retaining fluid. This is the reason why dogs with Pyometra pee a lot. With the increased urine production, the body will prompt itself to drink more water. As your German Shepherd enters kidney failure, she will stop eating, become depressed, and sleep a lot.

Treatment of Pyometra

After assessing the clinical signs, the veterinarian may also perform a series of tests including an x-ray, ultrasound and a complete blood test to confirm the diagnosis and to determine whether your German Shepherd is healthy enough for treatment.

The most common treatment for Pyometra in dogs is Ovariohysterectomy, which is more commonly known as spay.The procedure is done like an ordinary spay but there may be more risks involved since the procedure is being done on an already sick dog. Your German Shepherd may also be given IV fluids before and after the procedure. She will also need antibiotics and pain reliever after getting spayed.This is the most recommended Pyometra treatment because it’s the fastest way to deal with the problem and it eliminates the chance of reoccurrence of the disease in the future.

There are also other treatment options for Pyometra in dogs. Sometimes, when a female German Shepherd is considered very important because of her line and pedigree, owners refuse to have an Ovariohysterectomy done. Another reason why some owners choose other treatment options is the possible effects spaying may cause to the dog’s growth. Hormones play a vital role in the growth and development of the body so removing a primary source of hormones – in this case, the ovaries – can be a problem.

Some homeopathic veterinarians recommend using either:

  • Aglepristone,
  • Prostaglandins,
  • Combination of both Aglepristone and Prostaglandins,
  • And Estrogen.

A new treatment technique for Pyometra in dogs is being tested and has been showing promise in treating both closed and open Pyometra. It’s called Transcervical Endoscopic Catheter. Usually, it is used for intrauterine insemination. But for treating Pyometra, the procedure is done by infusing warm saline that contains prostaglandin F-2a into the uterus – causing it to contract and expel bacteria and pus. Two days after this procedure, an ultrasound is done to see if fluid is still detected. If fluid is still present, treatment is repeated.

But using either of these methods can still come with complications and painful side effects for the dog. These medical treatments are more effective in dogs with open Pyometra, with success rate ranging from 75% to 90%.The success rate for dogs with closed Pyometra is only approximately 25% to 40%.

There is also a 50% to 75% chance of reoccurrence if medical treatment is used. And unfortunately, the chance of successful breeding after treatment also drops by about 50 to 70%.

Preventing Pyometra

The best and most effective way to prevent your German Shepherd from getting Pyometra is to have her spayed while she is still healthy. It is advisable to have the procedure done after your German Shepherd has already fully grown to avoid problems that may occur regarding her growth and the development of her body.

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