Pyometra - The silent sickness in your old entire bitch
What is this disease we are talking about, that in some cases, you may not even know is happening in your own dog until she becomes very sick and compromised….
Pyometra (pyo) is effectively a pus filled uterus that can develop in an ovary intact bitch.
Why this occurs, without getting too technical, is because of the hormonal influence of progesterone, originating from the ovaries, that influences cyst formation and susceptibility of infection on the uterus –This usually occurs in two different forms that we call an open or a closed pyo. The open and closed is referring to the cervix, so in an open pyo, the cervix is open which means that this yucky pus fluid can be seen as a smelly bloody-pus discharge at her vulva, but in cases where the uterus is closed, this pus remains quite well sealed within the uterus itself and you may not even know it is occurring.
When does this disease occur you ask…It usually occurs about 4 weeks to 3 months after their last heat, and although any bitch that hasn’t been speyed is at risk, we see it most often in older bitches 6-7years +. Nearly 25% of bitches develop a pyometra before they are 10 years of age.
How do you know if your dog has this…Well if it is an open pyo, that makes diagnosis a lot easier as your bitch will have a smelly blood stained pus discharge from her vulva, this may attract attention from the dogs and clue you in to an issue as she would have already just had a heat within the last few months.
The closed pyo’s are trickier, and they may present with just being lethargic, off their food and drinking and urinating a lot. This is why in an older dog, especially if they are a working dog and not having a lot of time spent with them, these things can be easily missed. A closed pyometra is most dangerous as there is nowhere for the pus to exit and the uterus can and does rupture into the abdomen.
WHAT TO DO…if your dog is unwell and a vet confirms the diagnosis (this will often include an ultrasound to look for a fluid/pus filled uterus), the treatment then is surgical removal of the uterus and all its pus contents. The surgery is considered high risk as we are dealing with large, infected and fragile uterus, with very large and tearable blood vessels, not to mention a very unwell dog, so although we have good success with treating these, they are definitely not without their increased risk of complications.
Needless to say, we are all for prevention, and in these cases, this is easily prevented with speying, either before their first heat if not going to be used for breeding, or once they have finished breeding, while they are still healthy and well. Not to mention, you could probably spey 4-5 bitches for the cost of one pyometra surgery, so something worth considering – and no costly mis-mating injections because of the sly Labrador!