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Uterine inflammation (pyometra) in dogs

Uterine inflammation (pyometra) is one of the most common diseases that mainly affects middle-aged and older female dogs. Here you can read about the symptoms, treatment and surgery of uterine inflammation.

Increased thirst can a symptom of uterine inflammation

Which dogs suffer from uterine inflammation?

Uterine inflammation is one of the most common diseases in middle-aged and older female dogs of all breeds. A research study that analysed data from dogs insured with Agria showed that on average one in four females contracted the disease before they turned 10 years old. Young females can also get uterine inflammation, although it is more rare.

How do I know if my dog has uterine inflammation?

The symptoms of the disease usually appear two to three months after being on heat, but can occur at any time in the menstrual cycle. Affected bitches can quickly become impaired and the disease may require urgent treatment. In some cases the disease can also have a slower gradual development with increasing symptoms.

Symptoms of uterine inflammation

  • Persistent, brown-red, foul-smelling discharge (in case of open pyometra)
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Lowered general condition
  • Pain in and swollen abdomen
  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting, diarrhoea

The cause of uterine inflammation

The triggering factor for uterine inflammation is not clear, but the theory is that the uterus reacts abnormally to hormone levels, which in turn makes it susceptible to infection. Bitches have high levels of progesterone (pregnancy hormone) after each heat regardless of whether they are pregnant or not. Among other things, progesterone has the function of suppressing the immune system so that it does not reject the foetus. E coli is the most common bacterium and its toxins give rise to several of the common symptoms of uterine inflammation (pyometra).

Open or closed pyometra

Open pyometra, which is the most common, means that the cervix is ​​open and brown-red, foul-smelling discharge comes out of the vulva. Closed pyometra also occurs. This is when the cervix is ​​closed, which means that discharge is not seen.

How is uterine inflammation diagnosed?

To confirm the diagnosis of uterine inflammation, the veterinarian examines the bitch's abdomen with ultrasound or x-ray. There you can see the fluid-filled and changed uterus. The vet also takes blood samples to check how the body's other organs function and whether they are affected by the disease.

Surgery is the most common treatment

Uterine inflammation is a disease that must always be treated. Surgery to remove the uterus and ovaries (ovarian hysterectomy) is the most common treatment. Antibiotics may be given if the general condition is severely impaired and then usually only in connection with the operation.

After the operation, the lack of hormone production can lead to unwanted consequences. These can be weight gain with the same food intake, increased appetite, changed fur quality and in 10 percent of cases the bitch suffers from urine leakage (incontinence). To avoid weight gain, a different feed may need to be given and if the bitch suffers from incontinence, medicine can be given.

Medical treatment for uterine inflammation

If there is a very strong desire to use the bitch for breeding, it is possible to treat the disease medically, if the cervix is ​​open and the bitch's general condition is good. In medical treatment, agents are used that both open the cervix and contract the uterus so that the vessel is emptied. The recommendation is then to mate the bitch at the next heat due to the risk of relapse.

Is uterine inflammation hereditary?

Uterine inflammation is to some extent hereditary. The same research study mentioned above also showed large breed differences, which makes it likely that genetic factors influence the development of the disease. You should therefore take this into account if you are considering continuing to breed an affected female.

How do I take care of my dog after surgery?

After the operation, they can often come home the same day or the day after the operation. If the general condition has been impaired, they may need to be hospitalised for a few days. They may continue to have discharge and increased thirst for a short time after the operation. Use a collar or protective suit until the wound on the abdomen is healed, which usually takes about 10 days.

By Catarina Eliasson, Leg. Veterinary. Specialist competence in dog and cat diseases

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