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Pyometra in dogs

Pyometra refers to a bacterial infection of the womb (uterus). The infection causes the womb to fill with pus, and is highly dangerous. If not diagnosed and treated quickly, womb infections can be fatal.

Pyometra mostly affects unneutered female dogs and is quite a common issue. The risk of infection is one of many reasons that many vets recommend neutering in dogs.

Key takeaways

  • Pyometra mainly affects older female dogs that haven't been spayed, caused by changes in the uterus after each heat cycle.
  • Watch for signs like tiredness, drinking lots of water, bad-smelling discharge, not wanting to move, vomiting, and not eating.
  • Treatment is usually surgery to remove the infected uterus and supportive care like antibiotics and fluids.
  • Spaying your dog prevents pyometra, keeps her healthier overall, and avoids unwanted puppies.

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What causes pyometra in dogs?

Each time a bitch comes into season, she undergoes hormonal changes. One of these changes includes thickening of the lining of the womb. The more seasons a bitch goes through, the thicker the lining of the womb becomes, meaning that the likelihood of a womb infection increases with age.

Pyometra is usually caused by excessive amounts of bacteria entering the womb and embedding in the thickened lining. This causes infection, which can lead to blood poisoning (sepsis).

Read more: Dog in heat! A guide to your dog’s first season.

Symptoms of pyometra in dogs

Symptoms are most likely to occur after the bitch finishes her season. If your bitch is unneutered, it’s important to pay close attention at this time – symptoms can be difficult to spot and may not be obvious until your dog is very sick.

Symptoms of pyometra include:

  • Tiredness or lethargy
  • Increased thirst (which may increase to the point of dehydration)
  • Vaginal discharge (which can appear bloody, brownish or creamy)
  • Reluctance to move or stand up
  • Vomiting and anorexia

Whippet curled up on sofa for article on womb infection in dogs

Like most conditions or illnesses, the dog’s chances of survival are far greater if pyometra is treated early on. If you’re concerned about your dog’s welfare, especially if she’s just finished her season, contact your vet as soon as you can.

Lifesaving reason to consider spaying your dog

Owner and her dog Lola who had treatment for pyometra

Andrea Clifton learned how critical spaying is after her dog Lola, a nine-year-old Jack Russell-Chihuahua mix, nearly died from pyometra, a serious infection of the uterus common in older, unspayed female dogs.

Lola became lethargic and stopped eating, prompting a visit to Lawrence Veterinary Centre. An ultrasound confirmed pyometra, and urgent surgery was needed to save her life. Thankfully, the surgery was successful, and Lola recovered quickly.

This experience turned Andrea into a strong advocate for spaying. "I'll definitely spay any future female dogs early," she said.

Treatments for pyometra in dogs

Treatment for womb infections will most likely involve surgery. The ovaries and infected uterus will need to be removed.

Most dogs make a full recovery after surgery, but the risks of operating on a sick pet are far greater than operating on a healthy one. They may need fluid therapy, antibiotics and pain relief, but generally the chances of success are far higher when the condition is caught early.

Preventing pyo – does spaying help?

A successful spaying procedure will remove the uterus and ovaries entirely — eliminating the risk of infection altogether.

If you don’t plan to breed from your bitch, we strongly advise that you have her spayed at a young age. This will reduce the risk of several infections, illnesses and of course, unwanted pregnancies!

Read more: Dog neutering: what you need to know.

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Need more info? 

For more help and advice on womb infection in dogs, the benefits of neutering or any other aspect of your dog’s welfare, have a chat with your local vet. Remember, members of Pet Health Club receive a significant discount on the cost of the neutering/spaying procedure.

Find your nearest vet using our find a vet page, or speak to a vet online using our video vets service.

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