Pyometra in dogs is a dangerous infection that intact females can get. While the word might be very medical sounding, it boils down to being an infection of the uterus. When most of us hear the word infection, we think, “antibiotics will fix this!”, and while that can be true in some cases, pyometra in dogs is much more serious than your run of the mill infection. Today, let’s talk about pyometra, what it is, why it’s so dangerous, and how to treat it.
Everything You Need to Know About Pyometra in Dogs
While pyometra is simply an infection of the uterus, there’s nothing simple about it. Pyometra is a highly dangerous infection which occurs secondary to hormonal changes in intact female dogs. The condition is serious, life threatening, and must be treated as quickly and aggressively as possible. In fact, if left untreated, pyometra can lead to death.
What Causes Pyometra in Dogs
Pyometra is caused by hormonal changes as a result of females going into heat. During a female’s heat cycle, her body stops white blood cells from entering her uterus. This keeps her own immune system from destroying her mate’s sperm. After that heat cycle, her progesterone hormone levels remain high for up to two moths, causing thickening of her uterine lining, and preparing it for pregnancy. However, if she never gets pregnant, her uterine lining will continue to thicken over several heat cycles. This can lead to cysts which create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. If the bacteria takes hold, the dog will develop a pyometra, or uterine infection.
Learn more about both the pros and cons of spaying in Is There a Downside to Spaying or Neutering Dogs?
Symptoms of Pyometra in Dogs
The symptoms of pyometra in dogs can vary depending on whether or not the cervix remains opened or closed. An open cervix will allow more external signs that something is wrong, while a closed cervix will present symptoms of a more general variety.
- Purulent discharge from the vagina (if the cervix is open)
- Distended abdomen (if the cervix is closed, preventing the pus from exiting the uterus)
- Anorexia (loss of appetite, eating less than usual, and a lost off interest in her favorite treats are big warning signs)
- Increased water intake and urination (from toxins attacking the kidneys)
Many of these symptoms are found in other dog-related illnesses, so your vet will need to decide if you’re dealing with pyometra or something else. Do not try to diagnose your dog on your own. You will need your vet to help you treat the pyometra properly.
How to Treat Pyometra in Dogs
There are several different approaches to pyometra in dogs, but there is only one veterinarian recommended treatment of pyometra – removal of the uterus. Pyometra in dogs is deadly. It’s nothing to take lightly. Surgical removal of the uterus is the only option the guarantees a dog’s survival, especially since other methods basically only treat the symptoms in hopes that the body can heal itself.
In some cases, your vet MAY be able to treat pyometra with medications. Keep in mind that this is not the best treatment option, especially for closed-cervix pyometra. Your vet will use a combination of medicines designed to reduce the level of progesterone or block progesterone receptors in your dog’s uterus. A lot of factors go into deciding which medications to use and whether this is even an option. Your dog needs to be in near-perfect health (aside from the pyometra) and at a low risk for other complications. If you want to learn more about both options and don’t mind reading through “science speak,” this article does a good job of explaining the surgical and medical treatments for pyometra.
Some people try to treat pyometra with homeopathic remedies. Do. Not. Do. This. It is highly dangerous and likely to do nothing more than delay treatment that will work. In fact, if you search “how do you treat pyometra in dogs,” you’re better off ignoring all results that have the word “natural” in it. While there are definitely some dog health conditions that can be treated naturally, pyometra is NOT one of them.
Pyometra in Dogs is Deadly Serious
Pyometra in dogs is a deadly serious infection. It can and – without treatment – almost certainly will take the life of a dog. If you have an intact female, and you see any of the symptoms I mentioned earlier in this post, get her to the vet as soon as you can. When it comes to pyometra in dogs, the sooner detected the better. If your intact female shows no symptoms, now is they time to get her spayed. Pyometra in dogs is 100% preventable. All it takes is being spayed.