As Claire wrote above, pyometra is widely recognized as one of the most serious and dreaded infections that can occur in a valuable breeding bitch. Pyo means pus, metra means uterus, so it is literally pus in the uterus. As recently as 15 years ago when a bitch was confirmed with pyometra the only immediate and satisfactory resolution in order to save the bitch's life was to institute antibiotic and fluid therapies in order to stabilize and strengthen her and then surgery to remove the ovaries and uterus.
There are two types of pyometra, open and closed. Neither should ever be taken lightly. At the onset of any symptom the bitch should be taken to the veterinarian at once. Of the two forms, open pyometra is the least severe because the cervix is open and allows drainage of the pus. In some open pyometra cases the condition has been mistakenly diagnosed as an aberrant
heat. The abnormal vaginal discharge is foul smelling, of creamy consistency and tomato soup in color (although it can begin as a greyish color before turning to soup hue).
The closed form has no avenue to drain since the cervix is not open, consequently the pus builds up inside the uterus, intensifying and spreading the infection until the bitch's life is in jeopardy. In the case of closed pyometra, because the uterus enlarges due to an accumulation of pus, there will be a pronounced swelling of the abdomen. Other signs of this infection are a noticeably increased thirst, increased urination, fever, extreme lethargy and overall weakness. When clinical blood work is performed it will reveal an elevated white blood cell count.
This picture is an excellent graphic to show the true tomato color
of the abnormal discharge produced by the infected uterus.
The condition has often been blamed on hormonal imbalances. It was once
thought to occur only in older bitches who had irregular heat cycles, although mismate shots administered to abort ill conceived litters are
also known to have caused pyometra. The infection will most often
develop within weeks of going out of heat, whelping a litter, or after
being bred and missing conception. The earlier pyometra is diagnosed
and appropriate therapy begun, the better the chance of preserving the
This picture shows the uteus of a spayed Neo bitch
that got bred accidently. The vet estimated there were
13-14 puppies in this healthy uterus.
The treatment of choice is difficult for the bitch. My bitch was treated with high dosages of antibiotic and received two daily injections of prostaglandins for more than a week. The stinging shots are intended to cause hard uterine contractions to squeeze pus out of the uterus. Immediately after the shots are administered the bitch should be walked for at least 30 minutes, as this helps her endure the treatment with less discomfort. The treatment causes vomiting, and it can cause diarrhea.
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