Dr. Lons' Case of the Week

posted: by: Dr. Tammy M. Lons, DVM Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

*Names & breeds have been changed due to privacy.  

Tiny is an 8 year old Yorkie presented for lethargy and inappetence for five days.  She wasn't vomiting but just was not interested in food.  She also had a low grade fever.  Bloodwork showed a mild anemia with a white cell elevation. Radiographs showed an enlarged uterus. It was determined that Tiny had been in heat one month ago. The ultrasound showed a fluid filled uterus, not puppies.  Tiny had a pyometra. Tinya had surgery to be spayed and she recovered well with surgery & medications  

What is pyometra? The word pyometra is derived from Latin "pyo" meaning pus and "metra" meaning uterus. The pyometra is an abscessed, pus-filled infected uterus. Toxins and bacteria leak across the uterine walls and into the bloodstream, causing life-threatening toxic effects. The uterus dies, releasing large amounts of pus and dead tissue into the abdomen. Without treatment, death is inevitable. Prevention of this disease is one of the main reasons for routinely spaying female dogs.  

How does this infection happen? With each heat cycle, the uterine lining engorges in preparation for pregnancy. Eventually, some tissue engorgement becomes excessive or persistent (a condition called cystic endometrial hyperplasia). This lush glandular tissue is ripe for infection (while the inside of the uterus is sterile, the vagina below is loaded with bacteria). Bacteria ascend from the vagina and the uterus becomes infected and ultimately filled with pus. Hormonal effects on the uterine tissue accumulate with each heat cycle, which means pyometra is much more common in older females because they have experienced many hormonal cycles.  

While pyometra surgery amounts to the same end result as routine spaying, there is nothing routine about a pyometra spay. As noted, the surgery is challenging and the patient is in a life-threatening situation. For these reasons, the pyometra spay typically costs five to ten times as much as a routine spay.