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What’s a “Pyo” and Why Should I Be Concerned

November 1, 2016


“Pyo” is how some veterinary staff refer to a pyometra, an infection of the female’s uterus.  Today, I tentatively diagnosed two of these infections – both older female dogs that had not been spayed.  The diagnosis is said to be tentative because prior to surgery, you can only observe the preponderance of symptoms (with test results that are consistent with but not diagnostic of infection) and conclude that it’s most likely a pyometra.

What are the symptoms?  Not every pet will display the same symptoms, and the symptoms are general enough that they could be signs of other illnesses and diseases as well.  Many dogs will be brought in because the owners see a vaginal discharge, but there does not have to be a discharge present in every dog that has an infected uterus.  Most dogs will be lethargic with decreased appetites, some will have vomiting and diarrhea, and others will also have excess urination and/or thirst.  (Note that the discussion is focusing more on dogs, since we rarely see female cats with a diagnosis of pyometra.)

What do we do when we suspect pyometra as one of the possible diagnoses?  At West Kendall Animal Hospital, we’ll perform a basic work-up: a CBC (complete blood count), blood chemistries and Xray, and sometimes a urinalysis.  While a normal CBC does not rule-out a pyometra, many times we’ll see an abnormal white blood count.  Blood chemistries usually show elevated kidney and possibly elevated liver enzymes.  On Xray, we’ll possibly see an enlarged uterus.

So how do we treat a pyometra?  While only rarely can there be a medical (i.e., non-surgical) solution for pets that are “reproductively valuable,” surgery is almost always the preferred treatment.  For most dogs the surgical procedure is a spay (ovariohysterectomy, or removal of the female reproductive organs).

How can I prevent my dog from having this problem?  Spaying your dog at a young age (I recommend between 6 and 12 months) is the best way to avoid an infected uterus in the future.  Spaying at this age will also help protect your dog from breast cancer later in life.  There are very few good reasons to not spay your dog.  Your dog does not need the experience of having a litter of puppies to be a happy, loving family member.  Some people worry that their dog will become fat and lazy after being spayed, but that does not have to happen with a healthy life style that includes an appropriate diet as well as exercise. Are you concerned about your pet undergoing anesthesia?  Yes, spaying your dog is a surgical procedure that, like all surgical procedures, has an element of risk.  At West Kendall Animal Hospital we manage the risk by careful monitoring during surgery as well as in recovery.  Is cost a concern, too?  There are free spay (and neuter) clinics that are offered by Miami Dade Animal Services for healthy pets.

It’s nearing the end of our day.  One of the two dogs is scheduled for surgery tomorrow; the other owner is not pursuing either additional diagnostics or treatment at this time.  I’m very optimistic about the outcome for the dog that’s scheduled for surgery, and I’m very concerned about the other one.  But tomorrow is another day, and maybe we’ll be able to persuade the more-reluctant pet owner to provide some follow-up.  That’s all we can do…






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