Village Veterinary Clinic of Hamburg’s Pet of the Week!
Boo is a 5 year old intact (not spayed) German Shepherd that came in for a sick visit after her owners noticed she was acting abnormal. She had just finished a heat cycle and it seemed that she was panting more and restless. She was still eating and drinking and her activity level remained the same. Her owners noted that she was having some discharge, as if she was still in heat- but this was different.
When she came in the doctor did a physical exam. We noted she was uncomfortable in her abdomen. Her eyes and ears were normal, heart and lungs also sounded normal. We were suspicious of a few diagnoses, but to understand what could be occurring with Boo we needed further diagnostic tests.
After completing our tests, we discovered that she had a “pyometra”, or severe infection of the uterus.
Pyometra’s are considered a life-threatening emergency and needed to be treated immediately. Luckily, her owners recognized she was not feeling well and brought her in. Pyometra’s only occur in intact dogs (or cats). After many years of estrus (“heat”) cycles without pregnancy, the uterine wall undergoes changes. These changes then promote the disease.
How do you get a pyometra? Pyometra is a secondary infection that occurs as a result of hormonal changes in the female’s reproductive tract. During estrus (“heat”), white blood cells, which normally protect against infection, are inhibited from entering the uterus. This allows sperm to safely enter the female’s reproductive tract without being damaged or destroyed by these immune system cells. Following estrus (“heat”) in the dog, progesterone hormone levels remain elevated up to two months and cause thickening of the lining of the uterus in preparation for pregnancy and fetal development. If pregnancy does not occur for several consecutive estrus cycles, the uterine lining continues to increase in thickness until cysts often form within the tissues. The thickened, cystic lining secretes fluids that create an ideal environment for bacteria to grow in. Additionally, high progesterone levels inhibit the ability of the muscles in the wall of the uterus to contract and expel accumulated fluids or bacteria. The combination of these factors often leads to infection.
How do bacteria get in? The cervix is the gateway to the uterus. It remains tightly closed except during estrus (“heat”), when it relaxes. During this time bacteria normally found in near the vulva can enter the uterus. If the uterine wall is thickened or cystic, perfect conditions exist for bacterial growth and the muscles of the uterus wall cannot expel the bacteria.
Pyometra’s can be considered “open” or “closed”. Open meaning the infection is able to come out, or closed it is trapped in the uterus. Fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and not eating are all typical signs. If the pyometra is closed the symptoms usually worsen because the bacteria release toxins into the bloodstream and they become ill more rapidly.
We were able to diagnose Boo’s pyometra via an x-ray. She had an open pyometra. We could see her enlarged uterus on x-ray. With open pyometras, the infection is not trapped and antibiotics have a possibility of helping; but surgery is still the best course of treatment.
Boo’s owners agreed and decided the next day to have surgery. We did bloodwork to see if her white blood cell count was elevated to indicate how severe the infection was. She did have quite an elevated white blood cell count, so her infection was substantial. We also wanted to make sure she was not dehydrated or that her kidneys were not being affected with the toxins building up in her system- they were also not.
The treatment for Boo was to get her spayed. These surgeries are more complicated than your average spay because of the infection and all the alterations that body has made to the uterus and ovaries, but Cookie did very well during and after surgery. All surgical patients are closely monitored by one of our team members who are on premise 24/7 to provide round the clock care. We also have monitoring machines that monitor parameters such as heart rate, EKG, oxygen saturation of the blood, exhaled carbon dioxide levels, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. Patients receive IV fluids for proper regulation of blood pressure and to support kidney and other organ function. Their temperatures are monitored closely as well and we provide heating sources to them during and after surgery. We make sure that everyone is all snuggled and warm while at the hospital.
She was kept on IV fluids for the overnight and into the next day. We gave her antibiotics to help combat the infection that was occurring. We also gave her medications to help relieve her pain.
Boo did very well and is continuing to get better every day!
Village Veterinary Clinic of Hamburg! We are open 7 days a week, 365 days a year (Doctors available daily until midnight. Veterinary technicians available daily 24/7 for phone support and patient monitoring)! 716-646-4023!