I’m sitting at my desk this week after treating an eight-year-old female West Highland White Terrier called Poppy, for a condition called Pyometra.
A common and very definitely life-threatening condition, it is, however, a little bit gruesome so the faint-hearted should perhaps skip straight to the last paragraph to learn how Poppy got on!
Firstly, what is Pyometra? The word comes from ancient greek, where ‘Pyo’ means pus, and ‘metra’ means uterus. This condition only affects entire (un-neutered) female dogs when the uterus becomes filled with a thick gloopy pus, and will expand to up to 10 times its normal size.
The infection commonly comes in the weeks following a season or a false pregnancy, and bitches become more at risk as they become older. Common signs are general malaise and lethargy as the toxins enter the blood stream and start to affect the whole body. The bitch becomes sicker, and the uterus becomes at risk of bursting within the body, releasing all of that pus inside the abdomen. Thankfully, most are recognised before that stage. Other symptoms include a smelly or coloured discharge from the vagina, an increase in thirst, and vomiting. Not all these symptoms are seen in all cases however.
We know that Pyometra occurs in up to 20 per cent of bitches at some stage in their lives.
How do we treat this condition? Well in Poppy’s case, I admitted her to the surgery and performed an ultrasound scan, which showed me the pus filled uterus and confirmed the diagnosis before starting intravenous antibiotics and fluid therapy to stabalise her, and finally performed surgery to remove the affected uterus.
Pyometra is preventable and, providing you do not want to have puppies from your bitch, neutering her at around six months makes it impossible for her to experience this condition.
Now back to Poppy. I’m very glad to report that she is back to firing on all cylinders, and she bounced in to see me at the surgery for her post op check. She had even followed my instructions and not chewed her stitches, which her mum was very pleased about because it meant she didn’t need to wear the dreaded ‘buster collar’.