If you think you have been taking well care of your dog, think again!
When is the last time you kept track of their reproductive health?
Dogs of all ages can get infected with various diseases in their life span. It largely depends on their routine, diet, environment, age and various other factors. Among many identified diseases in dogs, Pyometra disease is very common. Now, what exactly is Pyometra?
Pyometra in Dogs:
While other diseases may be taken care of, most people neglect the reproductive health of their dogs and other animals. Dogs can also get infected and have some deficiency that leads to reproductive health issues, especially in female dogs. It is said that one-fourth of all female dogs have pyometra after the age of ten.
Just like human beings, dogs also go through hormonal changes after a certain age and time, and if these hormonal changes do not meet their need, it can cause a secondary infection. A hormone called ‘progesterone’ in the female dogs’ body becomes elevated and causes the lining of its uterus to thicken. This happens naturally as a preparation for pregnancy in female dogs.
Types of Pyometra:
Pyometra is classified into two types; closed cervix and open cervix.
Closed cervix pyometra is primarily dangerous and has severe conditions, while open cervix pyometra is mild.
What causes pyometra in dogs?
Naturally, dogs go through a heat cycle after a certain age. As the female dog’s age, the hormonal changes in the reproductive system bring changes to the uterus, it becomes thicker and creates a potential for pregnancy. Suppose these hormonal changes keep happening without any examination and solution. In that case, the uterus can change permanently over the years, excess tissues get formed inside, and that is when the risk of infection arises.
How do the bacteria enter the uterus?
The bacteria enter the uterus through the cervix. Although It remains tightly closed except during oestrus, when it opens, the bacteria present in the vagina can enter the uterus rather easily during this time.
In case the uterus is normal, the bacteria are unlikely to survive and die on their own. When the uterine wall is thickened and cystic (pyometra condition), perfect conditions exist for bacterial growth because the uterus muscles cannot contract properly, the bacteria cannot be expelled.
This happens either due to the thickening of the uterine wall or the high levels of the production of the hormone progesterone. It shows that the bacteria that enter the uterus and fluids that have accumulated cannot be expelled.
In the estrus period, white blood cells, which would usually protect against infection by eliminating bacteria, are blocked from entering the uterus to perform their job. All these factors can cause the infection to occur.
Factors involved in causing pyometra:
Age is the most obvious factor contributing to pyometra in dogs. Most female dogs get infected with pyometra in middle or old age. It has been mostly observed to occur around the age of six.
Although pyometra can occur at any stage of the oestrous cycle, it has mostly been observed to occur within the 8 weeks of the last cycle.
This is the biggest cause leading to pyometra. The hormone called ‘progesterone’ starts producing at a high level if the dog is not spayed.
While dogs of all breeds can get infected with pyometra, Saint Bernard, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd and Chow Chow have shown most cases of the disease.
When a dog begins to develop an internal infection, the white blood cells rush to that area to fight the infection as per their job but, when a dog is going through the phase of heat, this response is inhibited. The white blood cells rushing to the uterus could potentially kill sperm and prevent pregnancy in this case.
What symptoms indicate pyometra (heat)?
- Vomiting is one of the most indicated symptoms in dogs whenever there is an infection or disease.
- Dogs have often observed to be drinking water more than usual in this condition.
- Their abdomen feels bloated.
- They usually stop or decrease their diet.
- Some dogs have been observed to collapse as well.
- Pyometra in dogs causes weakness, and they become lazier than usual.
Can pyometra in dogs be prevented?
The answer is yes! But, the only way this disease can be prevented is to have your dog spayed. Spaying dogs mean getting their uterus or ovaries removed. This stops the hormonal changes in the reproductive system that cause pyometra. It is the safest prevention than opting for surgeries later when there is a higher risk.
Treatment and diagnoses of pyometra disease:
Most cases of pyometra are generally identified with their symptoms but lab testing is always performed to be sure. If a dog has the above-listed symptoms, it’s a sign that they most probably have the disease but following tests like some X-rays and blood cell testing is performed. The ultrasound helps in examining the condition of the uterus and what is wrong with it.
Initially, some hydrating supplements are given and some antibiotics to help improve the condition. In mild cases, regular medication advised by the veterinarian helps the case and surgery is not required but, in severe cases, surgery is the only way out.
When the condition of the uterus is not well, the dog is taken into surgery and the infected uterus is removed. Pain medications and instructions for later follow this. In this surgery, the uterus is removed but the ovaries too, because if left behind, the ovaries have the potential to make hormonal changes. After the surgery, most dogs feel way better quickly as the infected organs and their source of pain and discomfort have been removed.
As one of the symptoms of pyometra is depression and weakness, along with the medical treatment, the dog also needs the emotional availability of the owner. The infected dogs must be given extra care regarding their diet, time, and environment must be taken care of.
Study of statistical analysis :
Earlier, a factual study-based research was performed in the world of medicine using records from many female dogs diagnosed with pyometra disease. This took place around the year 2007 at a Swedish university. The total number of female dogs was three hundred and fifty-six, out of which 315 were treated surgically (removing the uterus and ovaries). Nine of them could be medically treated. The rest of the thirty-two dogs were treated without medicine.
In the surgeries, the most observed outcome that most of the dogs had UTI (urinary tract infection), and some had wound infection. This proved that most conditions had been prolonged and that made their condition worsen and lead to surgery. The rest of the dogs’ condition was not much prolonged and could be treated without performing surgery.
Can pyometra be deadly?
Pyometra disease in dogs has proved to be deadly if left untreated. As the condition makes the lining of the uterus thicken, it can prove to be deadly for the infected dog if that is prolonged. The pyometra disease infects the uterus, but various other functions of the body are compromised because of this. The infected dogs become dehydrated and depressed. They often refuse to eat food. In that condition, if the body becomes dehydrated for too long, other conditions can be caused and lead to the dog’s death.
Other factors that cause changes in the uterus:
It is said and observed that progesterone-based drugs can also cause changes in the uterus similar to the estrus cycle. The estrogen drugs increase the effects of progesterone on the uterus, which can lead up to changes. Estrogen and progesterone are sometimes used to treat certain conditions of the reproductive system in other treatments. Hence, any dog receiving hormone drugs must be carefully monitored for the chance of development of pyometra and its prevention.
People often have breeding concerns such as:
Pet owners often do not want to opt for surgery as the breeding of their dogs is valuable to them.
There is an availability of a medical approach to treating pyometra. Still, the success rate is highly variable in this process and not without considerable risk and potential long-term complications.
Another hormone called ‘Prostaglandins’ helps lower the level of progesterone in the blood vessels of the dog or other animals. It helps relax and open the cervix and cause the uterus to contract, therefore expelling the bacteria and pus. This method can be used as an alternative, but the results have not often been positive.
It is observed that the hormone ‘Prostaglandin’ can cause side effects which include symptoms like:
- abdominal pain.
These are almost the same symptoms that happen during pyometra disease. This means that even after this treatment, the dog might suffer in pain and be in the same state.
These symptoms can occur within minutes after administration and can last for long. But, the good news is that the pain may be decreased by walking or exercising the dog regularly, as advised by the veterinarian.
Another side effect is that there is no clinical improvement for about initially. Hence, this method cannot work for severely ill dogs as they need urgent treatment but, this may work in mild cases.
The hormone prostaglandin can indeed cause the uterus to contract. This creates a possibility for the uterus to rupture and spill infection into the abdominal cavity resulting in another severely life-threatening condition known as peritonitis which happens with the cervix closed situation.
The use of this hormone has proved to show different results in different cases. People have often been able to treat a mild case of pyometra without surgery through this. The only best advice you can get about your infected dog is through your veterinarian, as they will perform tests and X-rays to see the situation and treat it accordingly.
Cost of pyometra treatment in dogs:
Generally, the cost of the surgical treatment of pyometra is around the range of $2,000-$3,000. This is not a fixed price as it will vary depending on regional price variations, the size of your dog, and the condition and severity of the disease when she is taken to the veterinarian. Severe cases need more period of hospitalisation after and before the surgery, which increases the cost.
And the cost of other medication therapy also has different prices depending on the dog’s size as the bigger dogs’ treatment costs more than smaller in size and the condition of the disease. The exact price of the treatment will only be conveyed to you by the veterinarian as their prices vary according to their experience in the field of medicine and the type of clinic.
As the study suggests, the reproductive health of dogs should be taken care of before there is an occurrence of any infection or disease. In case of any health issues or not, there must be a routine of regular visits to the veterinarian and regular lab tests so that no prolonged condition may occur. It is also equally important in the case of pyometra, that no decision must be taken without the advice and examination of the veterinarian and the suggested treatment must be provided to the dog.
In conclusion, surgical treatment has often proved to be a better success for dogs’ health than any other medicine, including the use of antibiotics or another drug. This is backed by research, and since this is the only way that completely removes the cause of the disease, dogs have been observed to do much better immediately after the surgery process.
Remember, one can only be a good pet owner when they treat their pet as a family member and not as a source of entertainment.