Pyometra in the dog is a very
serious condition! Before we look at what pyometra is, let's review
the best way to avoid pyometra... and that is spaying. Pyometra means
pus in the uterine cavity; if a pet is spayed the uterus and ovaries are
removed so there no chance of pyometra developing.
(There is no such thing as SPADE or SPADED, the correct terms are SPAY
or SPAYED). It is major intra-abdominal surgery performed under general
anesthesia. If it isn't done precisely and in a sterile environment the
outcome can be disastrous. During my career I've never considered any spay
"routine"; every one is different and each presents a challenge.
Usually the procedure is done prior to the first estrus (heat) cycle and
having it done at this time greatly lessens the dog's chances for later
development of mammary gland cancer. Some dog owners, for various reasons,
want their dog to have one estrus cycle or even one litter of pups before
she's spayed. And some pet owners do not want their pet to undergo
any surgery. Personal choices do come with responsibility, too,
so it is best to be sure there are homes waiting for any planned pregnancies.
Probably 80% of dog spays are done prior to the first heat cycle. The other
20% will go into their first heat around 9 -12 months of age and then about
every 6 to 7 months thereafter until about 9 or 10 years of age. An unspayed
dog does incur some special health risks throughout her life. Mammary cancer,
unwanted pregnancies, ovarian cysts and cancer, difficult pregnancies...
and fights with wandering male dogs who seem to appear from nowhere during
the three week estrus cycle are a few troubles that readily come to mind.
Cats generally go into their first heat cycle at 6 to 7 months of age.
It seems like they go back into heat whenever they feel like it after that!
Technically, cats are seasonally polyestrous... which means they go in and
out of heat a few times during certain seasons of the year.
Here's a real nasty problem . . . pyometra. The term means pus in the uterus.
Any time a veterinarian is presented with a dog or cat suffering from pyometra
the condition is considered serious and immediate surgery is nearly always
indicated. This pus formation in the uterus results from infection, hormone
imbalance or mucous buildup inside the uterus. Most dogs and cats suffering
from pyometra are presented because of loss of energy, increased thirst
and poor appetite. Plus a good tip-off would be a foul smelling, purulent
(means pus) vaginal discharge. Most of the cases of pyometra I've seen in
dogs occurred about six weeks after the bitch's last heat cycle. They
may not look it on the outside, but on the inside these dogs are really sick!
If that swollen, enlarged uterus happens to rupture internally, the dog will
rapidly go into endotoxic shock and whatever the veterinarian does may not
be enough to save the dog
Normally, even in a large dog, the uterine horns aren't much thicker than
a pencil. See the photo on the right for normal
anatomy... click it to enlarge. When pyometra is present the uterus
looks and feels more like a stuffed venison sausage. I've removed eight-pound
uteruses that should have weighed no more than eight ounces!
For whatever reason, if your female dog or cat hasn't been spayed be alert
for pyometra. The condition is more probable in females eight years
or older and who experience infrequent or irregular heat cycles or episodes
of false pregnancy. Poor appetite, increased thirst, poor stamina and vaginal
discharge are cardinal signs. And some patients' white blood cell count
can go from a normal of 9,000 all the way up
to 75,000. X-rays often reveal two large sausage-like structures in
the abdomen. It's time for surgery! These patients should almost always
be operated on right now, not after work, not in the morning, not after
a few days of antibiotics "to build her up."
The surgery is not a minor procedure. A patient with a uterus swollen with
a foul and putrid soup, is simply carrying a bucket of poison that would
eventually kill the cat or dog. Many of these patients require I.V. fluid
therapy, antibiotics and nutritional support post-operatively. These pyometra
patients, once recovered, act like puppies once their near death experience
See what is involved when a pyometra surgery is performed
on an 85 pound Malamute...
[ Click on the images to see a full sized photo ]
|The skin in the midline of
the abdomen is incised.
|The abdomen is entered and
the uterus identified
|The uterus is very gently
pulled through the incision
|If there is any leakage of
infected contents, life threatening peritonitis may result.
|The ovary, ligament and blood
vessels are carefully identified.
|The ovary is inspected to
be certain that the entire ovary is excised
|After separating the two uterine
horns the body of the uterus is visualized
|The uterus is removed from
the dog after careful ligation of the uterine tissues assures a clean separation
|The abdomen is carefully sutured
closed layer by layer
Every veterinarian has heard
the following conversation when the owner is informed that their dog has
pyometra and needs surgery:
"I guess I should have spayed her, Doc, but . . .
a) I wanted her to have at least one litter first.
b) She's got papers a mile long so if I breed her, the pups will be worth
c) My brother-in-law says not to spay her because he heard they can die
from the anesthetic.
d) I was afraid she'd get fat and lazy.
e) You vets charge too much for just a little poke-and-a-stitch.
f) I thought it would ruin her spirit.
Shall we put one common myth to rest right now? Here goes...
Spaying a dog or cat does not make her become overweight and lazy.
Thirty-one years of practicing small animal medicine and surgery have convinced
me that healthy dogs and cats become overweight
from either insufficient exercise or consuming too many calories. Unless
your pet is sneaking into the fridge at night and making it's own ham and
cheese sandwiches, you the owner are responsible for what and how much your
dog eats. Lots of unspayed dogs and cats are overweight too, so don't
blame the weight gain on the surgery!
You'd be surprised how many dogs (especially Golden Retrievers) are hypothyroid.
This condition almost always leads to weight gain. Cushings Disease, a hormonal
problem associated with the adrenal cortex, may predispose a pet to gain
weight. Weight problems should always prompt a thorough evaluation
by your veterinarian. If you choose not to spay your dog or cat, be
on the alert for pyometra. It can be dangerous.http://www.thepetcenter.com/gen/cd.html
The above information is simply informational.
It's intent is not to replace the advice of a veterinarian nor to assist
you in making a diagnosis of your pet. Please consult with your own veterinarian
for confirmation of any diagnosis. Your pets life may depend on it.