In celebration of women’s health, it is only fair to celebrate the health of our female dogs and cats! The most common diseases associated in the female dogs and cats include:
- Abnormal or Difficult Birth (Dystocia)
- False Pregnancy (Pseudopregnancy)
- Follicular Cysts
- Ovarian Remnant Syndrome
- Subinvolution of Placental Sites
Unfortunately, pyometra is a very common disease that we as small animal general practitioners see almost on a daily basis! Pyometra is a secondary infection that occurs as a result of hormonal changes in the female’s reproductive tract. Following estrus (heat), the hormone progesterone remains elevated for up to two months and causes the lining of the uterus to thicken in preparation for pregnancy. If pregnancy does not occur for several consecutive estrus cycles, the uterine lining continues to increase in thickness until cysts form within the uterine tissues. The thickened, cystic lining secretes fluids that create an ideal environment for bacterial growth.
In addition, the muscles of the uterus cannot contract properly either due to thickening of the uterine wall or the high levels of the hormone progesterone. This means that bacteria that enters the uterus and fluids that have accumulated cannot be expelled.
During estrus, white blood cells, which would normally protect against infection by eliminating bacteria, are inhibited from entering the uterus. The combination of these factors can often lead to life threatening infection.
The clinical signs depend on whether or not the cervix remains open. If it is open, pus will drain from the uterus through the vagina to the outside. Pus or an abnormal discharge is often seen on the skin or hair under the tail or on bedding and furniture where the dog has recently laid. Fever, lethargy, drinking more water (polydipsia), polyuria (drinking more water) anorexia, and depression may or may not be present.
If the cervix is closed, pus that forms is not able to drain to the outside. It collects in the uterus ultimately causing the abdomen to distend. The bacteria release toxins that are absorbed into the bloodstream. Dogs with closed pyometra become severely ill very rapidly. They are anorectic, very listless and very depressed. Vomiting or diarrhea may also be present.
Toxins released by the bacteria affect the kidney’s ability to retain fluid. Increased urine production occurs, and many dogs drink an excess of water to compensate. Increased water consumption may occur in both open- and closed-cervix pyometra.
All of this can be prevented by spaying the female dogs and casts (ovariohysterectomy). An emergency pyometra surgery can be anywhere from $1500 to $3000 depending on the severity and size of the animal. Pyometra surgeries tend to be an emergency surgery. The more you wait, the more it becomes a problem. Therefore, being more proactive than reactive is important. Spay your pets! Let’s celebrate and love our female dogs and cats by keeping them nice and healthy.
Adam Christman, DVM, MBA
Chief Veterinary Officer
MJH Life Sciences