The condition of Pyo-metra is literally defined as “pus/purulent material within the uterus”
This can be one of the most common and dramatic problems we are presented with but it is usually very rewarding to treat. Treatment has a high success rate meaning many patients go on to live for years afterwards.
There is no single defining symptom or test which we use to diagnose the problem but when a female dog is presented and we suspect pyometra we find out the following information.
Has the patient been spayed (hysterectomy)? – if the patient has been spayed then she cannot have pyometra.
Has there been a recent season? – in many cases there has been a season within the last 4 to 6 weeks.
Does the patient have an increased thirst? – in many cases the patient has an excessive thirst (polydipsic)
Has the patient had irregular seasons or false pregnancies? – previous episodes of these conditions give an increased risk of developing pyometra.
Has the patient been off colour or not eating?
When the patient is examined at the surgery the following symptoms may be obvious.
If a pyometra is suspected there are a few diagnostic tests that can be carried out to help us confirm a diagnosis.
Full blood profile – This can be run through on our in-house analyser allowing us to have results within twenty minutes. The most obvious change is a significantly raised white blood cell count. White cells are released in to the bloodstream in larger numbers in the presence of infection. An anaemia indicating reduced red blood cells is often seen. This is due to the infection reducing the production of red blood cells.
Ultrasound examination – The enlarged uterus can be seen on the ultrasound examination.
X-ray – this gives us similar information to the ultrasound.
Once the diagnosis has been established most patients end up under general anaesthetic and having a hysterectomy – complete removal of the womb. Intravenous fluid therapy is also given before, during and after surgery along with pain relief and antibiotics. We have known the uterus to account for up to 30% of the patient’s bodyweight. That is similar to a 12 stone person losing nearly 3 ½ stone!! Recovery is normally straightforward with sutures removed ten days later. In some cases antibiotics treat the infection initially to clear the problem but we always try to carry out a hysterectomy before the next season happens which will trigger the problem again.
In many cases the condition has been grumbling for some time and it is not uncommon for owners to report that the dog is acting “like a puppy again” about a month post-operatively.
The only way to reliably prevent this problem is to have your dog spayed - hysterectomy before symptoms develop. This would be one of several health benefits to be gained from the procedure but this can be discussed in more detail with the Vet.