What is pyometra?

Pyometra is a fancy doctor word for an infection and pus accumulation in the uterus. Pyometra can have an “open” and “closed” form that refers to whether your pet’s cervix is open or not. Both the open and closed pyometras are an emergency that should be evaluated right away. We can help you evaluating your pet at MarQueen 24 hour veterinary hospital for this condition. This can be a life-threatening condition because when the infection gets bad enough it can get into the blood stream of your pet and cause a problem throughout their body.

What animals are commonly affected by pyometra?

Pyometra most commonly affects middle aged intact female dogs. Owners will commonly report that their female dog was in heat 2-3 months prior to presenting to the emergency room. In heat females will bleed and be receptive to males. This most commonly happens twice per year (every 6 months) for most female dogs. Therefore, it is very important for owners to track their intact female dog’s heat cycles as this can be a crucial part of information for your veterinarian. Pyometras can also affect cats so if you have an intact female cat this all applies too.

What does pyometra look like in my pet?

Depending on the stage of the disease process the signs can vary. For some females it may start with mildly decreased appetite and/or not being as active. Maybe your female didn’t want to go on her walk this morning when she is usually very hyperactive. You may also notice that your pet is drinking and urinating more than normal. Females with an open pyometra will typically develop vaginal discharge (really it’s vulvar discharge but owners call it the vagina) that can vary in appearance from yellow, green, and/or red and often will contain mucous. Closed pyometras are not as easy for owners to catch because there is no vaginal discharge. If you notice multiple days of lethargy and/or decreased appetite that is worsening in your female dog and she was last in a few months ago, please have her evaluated on an emergency basis. Closed pyometras can get so bad the uterus breaks open from the pressure and this is an even more life-threatening condition.

How is pyometra diagnosed in my pet?

Pyometra is diagnosed with a complete history, physical exam, and imaging. We will typically perform abdominal x-rays to evaluate for the fluid filled uterus and confirm with evaluation on ultrasound that will show the fluid filled uterus. We will typically use both diagnostics because x-rays show us only a shadow of things, so we need the ultrasound to confirm it is fluid within the uterus. Ultrasound allows us to see within the uterus and make sure we aren’t dealing with something else like a miscarriage in your pet. We will also likely recommend baseline bloodwork to help better guide our treatment plan as the bloodwork can help us further evaluate the severity of your pet’s condition.

How is pyometra treated in my pet?

Pyometras are best treated with surgery. Surgery involves removing the infected uterus and the ovaries as the hormones produced by the ovaries contribute to the disease. We then send the tissues into a lab to be evaluated by a pathologist to make sure there isn’t an underlying cause like uterine cancer that might have contributed to your pet’s condition. Don’t worry! If we find cancer, we have an on-staff oncologist at MarQueen who can help guide ongoing care for your pet. Patients can sometimes go home the next day if their condition is caught early. More severe cases typically require 2-3 days of hospitalization after surgery.

If caught early the long-term prognosis for pyometra is good with surgery. Without surgery the prognosis is very guarded/poor. Cases that are medically managed often have a recurrence of the condition and that is why we do generally recommend medical management at MarQueen. We have a well-trained staff of emergency veterinarians available 24/7 who can perform this more complicated spay to help save your pet.

Pyometra is prevented by spaying your intact female. If you do not plan on breeding your female, we recommend speaking with your primary care veterinarian about the best time for your dog to have their spay performed. Spaying your female completely prevents this life-threatening condition. Elective spays are great surgeries to have done with your primary care veterinary referral hospital but if your pet has special conditions or other concerns where your primary care veterinary hospital is not comfortable performing an elective spay please reach out to MarQueen’s surgery department about how our specialty trained surgeon may be able to help.