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  • Post published:17/05/2021
  • Post last modified:17/05/2021
A cat lies on the couch as a woman pets her.

You may have never heard of the word pyometra, but it is a medical condition that warrants understanding. It is especially essential to recognize its signs if you are the owner of an intact rather than spayed female cat or dog. Pyometra is a uterine infection that occurs in older unspayed females. The Pet Experts at Wheaton Animal Hospital want our pet owners to be able to spot this secondary infection in their beloved pets, so that they can get treated right away.

What Causes Pyometra?

Pyometra is a condition that occurs only in non-spayed female cats or dogs, although it is more serious and common in dogs. In a non-spayed female, after the period of estrus, or their heat cycle, the cervix will begin to heal and return to normal. During this time, bacteria can enter into the uterus and can get trapped.

When a female isn’t spayed, the lining of the uterine continues to thicken during estrus due to the increased progesterone. This thickened lining is susceptible to bacteria growth and a secondary infection, pyometra. Since the lining is so thick, it then forms a plug in the cervix, which causes a secondary infection as pus continues to drain in the uterus. This leads to a veterinary emergency if not treated. Even when the cervix remains open, this infection can develop.

Pyometra can occur in any sexually intact female dog or cat, but more often occurs in older unspayed pets during the weeks that follow the estrus cycle.

What Are the Symptoms of Pyometra?

Pyometra can come on suddenly and cause an array of different symptoms. Any of these signs should be taken seriously, since this condition can become fatal.

  • Pus draining from vagina or seen on rear, tail, bedding, etc.
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Increased water consumption
  • Distended abdomen
  • Depression
  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Fever

Diagnosis and Treatment of Pyometra

Depending on the stage of the disease, some pets only show the slightest sign of discharge from the vagina. This is why it is important to take this symptom seriously and have your pet examined. Blood work will be conducted to determine the elevation of white blood cell count, which often indicates an infection.

Radiographs (x-rays) will be taken to get a closer look at the uterus to determine its size. An ultrasound may also be ordered to look at whether there is an increase in size, the thickness of the uterine walls, and fluid buildup.

Treatment of pyometra, in most cases, is an ovariohysterectomy, or removal of the uterus and ovaries. The more the disease has progressed, the lengthier the procedure and healing time. Afterward, the dog or cat would receive antibiotics and supportive care.

Pyometra is a serious condition that must be treated to avoid an early death for a beloved pet. With a diagnosis and treatment, many pets do recover fully. If you would like more information on pyometra, or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us. 

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