Pyometra In Dogs – Signs, Treatment, Costs

Pyometra is a potentially fatal condition that impacts intact female dogs.

Not only will dogs experience significant illness when falling victim to pyometra, but they will require life-saving measures to pull them out of their critical state.

If you have an older female dog that is not yet spayed, pyometras are a realistic threat you should be aware of.

In this article we will discuss the details of this deadly uterine infection in our canine friends, and help you better understand which treatment options are available to your pup.

Canine Heat Cycle Review

Pyometra In Dogs

Before we discuss the details of pyometra in dogs, it’s important to have an idea of the general heat cycle in our furry friends.

Pyometras tend to develop at certain points throughout their estrous cycle, so it’s always best to have an understanding of the timeline.

Proestrus

This is the stage in the canine heat cycle where owners will notice visible signs of heat.

A dog’s vulva will start to swell, and they will likely experience blood tinged discharge.

Dogs will be interested in the female, but the female will not be receptive to mating just yet.

This stage often lasts 9-10 days.

Estrus

This is the stage in which your dog is most fertile.

While outward symptoms may seem as if their heat has ended, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Their red tinged discharge will begin to decrease, but this is the stage in which the female will accept other males.

This stage lasts about 9-10 days.

Pyometra typically occurs 2-8 weeks after estrus

Diestrus

Hormonal changes will begin to slow once a dog enters the diestrus stage.

They will no longer have vulva discharge, they will not be interested in mating, and the swelling of their vulva will begin to subside.

This stage lasts about 2-3 months.

Anestrus

This is the stage in which the body is preparing for the next fertile cycle.

There will be no visible signs of heat in the dog, and they will not be interested in other males.

This stage typically lasts about 4-5 months.

Most dogs will have two full heat cycles each year.

This can vary from dog to dog, so it’s important to examine your dog’s heat cycle in effort to better understand the reproductive stages to come.

What Is A Pyometra In Dogs?

A pyometra in dogs is a severe uterine infection that occurs due to hormonal changes in the reproductive tract.

Bacteria will begin to reproduce within the dog’s uterus, leading to a significant amount of pus and accumulated fluid.

The uterus is unable to contract due to thickening of the uterine lining, often resulting in the inability of the body to expel the infection.

This leads to worsening of the infection, eventual sepsis, and even death.

What Causes Pyometra In Dogs?

It is believed to be a combination of factors that triggers pyometra in intact female dogs.

Directly after estrus ends in our furry friends, their hormone levels will remain elevated for up to two months.

This elevation can cause significant thickening of the uterine lining, as this is the body’s way of preparing for potential pregnancy.

The more heat cycles that your dog has without a pregnancy, the thicker the lining will become.

As the uterine lining gets thicker and thicker, tiny cysts will begin to form within the tissue.

Often referred to as cystic endometrial hyperplasia, the lining will then begin to secrete a small amount of fluid.

The excess fluid present within the uterus creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

Once the bacteria begins to replicate within the uterus, this is when the development of the pyometra begins.

Not only is the production of bacteria dangerous enough in itself, but the thickening of the uterine lining makes it challenging for their uterus to contract.

Not only does this factor make it impossible for the body to expel the fluid, but there are less white blood cells present in the uterus at this time.

White blood cells are blocked from entering the uterus during estrus, so this allows the bacteria to run rampant.

As you can see, this is a recipe for disaster for our canine friends.

Common Signs Of Pyometra In Dogs

Pyometras in dogs can be considered either open or closed.

This simply means the cervix is either open or closed, with an open cervix allowing some discharge to escape from the vulva.

To help you identify all the potential symptoms of pyometra in your dog, let’s list the most common clinical signs below.

  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Purulent discharge from the vulva (pus)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Collapse

If your dog is not spayed and they are displaying any of the above symptoms, it’s time to reach out to your veterinarian.

Even if pyometra is not the cause of their illness, these symptoms can be found with other serious health complications as well.

Diagnosing Pyometra In Dogs

If your veterinarian fears a pyometra in your canine companion, there are a few diagnostic routes they may explore.

First, your vet will gather a detailed history on your dog’s previous heat cycles and current symptoms.

They will likely ask you when their last heat cycle was, and at what point after the cycle their symptoms began.

Next, your vet will perform their physical exam.

They may palpate the abdomen for any obvious sign of pain around the uterus, as well as checking the vulva for any evidence of discharge.

Once they have gathered the details needed from their physical exam, it will be time to move on to more in depth diagnostics.

The most common way to diagnose a pyometra in dogs is through an abdominal x-ray that captures the enlarged uterus, and blood tests that search for evidence of infection.

Your vet may also perform an abdominal ultrasound if the x-ray is not definitive, as some pyometras are more challenging to diagnose on x-ray.

Treating Pyometra In Dogs

Pyometras will not resolve on their own without some form of medical intervention.

The severity of pyometras can vary from dog to dog, but the best treatment option is always surgical removal of the infected uterus and ovaries.

There are conservative approaches that can be performed in certain cases, but surgical removal is the only guaranteed route to resolve the current infection.

Because of this, your veterinarian will always suggest surgery is their ideal treatment method.

If your dog has an open pyometra, there are some cases in which surgery is not needed.

These situations are risky and do not promise a full recovery, but they can be explored if your dog is not in a critical state.

Your veterinarian may explore the use of prostaglandins to reduce the amount of progesterone in the body, as well as antibiotics to help fight the infection.

However, it’s important to note that prostaglandins may cause the uterus to contract, which can lead to uterine rupture in some cases.

Rupture of an infected uterus is a medical emergency that requires immediate surgery.

Due to these risks, most people choose to have the uterus and ovaries surgically removed.

Many dogs will need to stay in the hospital after having their pyometra removed.

Since most of these pups present very ill, they often require anywhere from 24-72 hours of critical care.

These pups often receive IV fluids, IV antibiotics, and IV pain control to offer them comfort.

Once your vet feels they can be safely monitored at home, they will send you with 2 weeks of antibiotics and pain control.

What Happens If You Don’t Treat Pyometra In Dogs?

Most dogs will die if their pyometra is not addressed.

An untreated pyometra can lead to sepsis in many cases, especially if the pyometra is closed.

An unaddressed uterine rupture in dogs will lead to a severe case of peritonitis as well, which is also considered a deadly condition.

Not only are the chances at recovery low without medical intervention, but your dog will experience severe pain as their pyometra worsens.

Most dogs will become violently ill, they will suffer from severe abdominal pain, and their uterus can even rupture if they don’t pass from sepsis.

As you can imagine, this process is unbearable.

To offer your dog the best chance at a full recovery, we always suggest taking your veterinarian’s advice on treatment.

If you are unable to agree to treatment for any reason, your veterinarian may initiate a quality of life discussion.

Standard Costs Of Pyometra Treatment In Dogs

Pyometra is a serious condition that can come with a high price tag.

Every situation will vary based on your dog’s current situation, along with their status of health when they arrive into veterinary care.

On average, you can expect a pyometra surgery to cost anywhere from $800-$2,000.

If your dog needs to stay in the hospital after their procedure due to being critically ill, you can typically expect anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 additionally.

Final Thoughts

Pyometras are one of the many reasons veterinary professionals suggest spaying your pup from a young age.

We recommend following your vet’s advice on your dog’s suggested treatment plan, as this is the best way to offer them a chance at a full recovery.

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