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Probably the most common disorder seen in intact female dogs, pyometra is a serious and life threatening infection of the uterus. Due to hormonal and uterine changes that occur in the older dog, an infection starts in the uterus and can lead to death due to sepsis or organ failure if not treated properly. (see cystic endometrial hyperplasia) It is possible in a very few spayed dogs for a small piece of uterus, usually left during spaying, to become infected.

The symptoms are most common in dogs over 5 years old unless the dog has been given hormones for a medical abortion and then any age dog can be affected. Usually 4-12 weeks after a heat has occurred, symptoms will begin. The symptoms observed outwardly, however, will depend on whether the cervix is open or closed.

In cases of open-cervix pyometra a thick, bloody and pus-like vaginal discharge is noted. The dog will often be lethargic, weak, anorexic, drink and urinate more frequently and may vomit or have diarrhea. If the cervix is closed, no discharge will be seen; symptoms will include abdominal enlargement, shock and coma. (Pyometra)

Diagnosis is based on history, especially the fact that the female is not spayed (in most cases), analysis of vaginal discharges, culture, blood counts, serum chemistries, urinalysis, X-rays and ultrasound studies. This disease is serious and requires prompt and aggressive treatment.


All dogs should be stabilized with IV fluids, antibiotics and general supportive care. The best treatment is to perform surgery quickly to remove the uterus and ovaries (similar to a spay, but quite a bit more complicated) before any pus can leak into the abdomen. If the uterus remains in one piece and no organ damage occurs, the success rate is excellent. Where the uterus ruptures, the chances for survival are lessened, as peritonitis is a serious complication. The most common organ dysfunction secondary to pyometra is kidney failure.

Some persons, especially dog breeders, may hope to retain the reproductive capabilities of the bitch. If the dog has an open cervix pyometra, a drug called PGF-2alpha can be used along with antibiotic therapy. While this type of therapy does provide an option, it is advised only for selective cases, as there are many risks inherent to the procedure and the drug itself. Our advice is to surgically remove the affected organ and enjoy the dog.


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