Thursday, October 20, 2011

What Is Pyometra?

The term "Pyometra" is a very familiar term to those who work in the veterinary profession, either as veterinarians or as technicians.  For dog owners with female, unspayed dogs, it is likely a term they have encountered also.  If working in the profession, it's a common finding in unaltered female dogs presenting with purulent discharge from their girl parts, coupled with abdominal enlargement, dehydration, vomiting and lethargy, and drinking too much water and thusly needing to pee a ton.  Quite literally, "pyo" means puss, and "metra" means uterus.   Why the average female dog owner needs to be aware of this condition, is that preventing it may be as easy as ensuring you spay your dog.

I will try to put it best in simple terms why this happens in unspayed dogs.  During ovulation, naturally their bodies produce a lot of hormones.  This production of hormones can cause too much growth and thickening in the uterus, which can result in accumulation of fluid in the uterus.  Those same hormones can also therein reduce the natural amount of contractions in the muscle of the uterus, predisposing it to a bacterial infection... the pyometra.  Dogs who normally present with this illness tend to be middle-aged to older.

Regarding diagnosis, most vets will likely know what is wrong the minute they see your dog.  Some dogs, however, do not present with a discharge so indicative of this condition, and ultrasounds or x-rays may be needed to be sure.  There will likely also be changes in your dog's bloodwork to demonstrate the body trying to react to the infection. 

The standard treatment is to spay your dog.  You remove all the affected parts and prevent another pyometra from reoccuring.  26%-40% will have a reoccurance otherwise (Common Diseases of Companion Animals,  Aleice Summers, DVM).  There are other  treatment options for breeding females.  Only a very small percentage of dogs risk death getting spayed with a pyometra.

I personally feel very strongly about owners spaying their girls who are not intended for breeding. While the information on conditions like pyometra don't sound too horribly threatening, I've witnessed too many times what these poor girls have to go through.  Naturally they are anesthetized to remove the pyometra, but often times the uterine horns are so enlarged and inflammed that it no doubt puts a lot of undo stress on her body.  Performing the spay is a messy, bloody matter and it takes a lot to remove those huge, inflamed organs.  If we can avoid any procedures which cost us a ton of money and spare our dogs the pain of enduring a huge procedure, we should do it. 

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