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Pyometra in a dog

I have to admit, I have performed a large number of emergency hysterectomies in dogs with infection of the womb (pyometra) but this was the biggest one I have ever seen.

Helga, a breeding Siberian Husky, was presented out of hours at 10pm with what the owner thought was sudden swelling of the stomach and discomfort soon after eating a large meal. We were thinking possible gastric dilation/bloat when we saw the large firm swelling. The owner mentioned she had been in season approx 4 weeks ago and had never had pups. She was drinking more than normal.

The swelling did not have a hollow sound to it when we tapped it with out finger so the next thing we thought of was over-eating or possibly a large pyometra. X-rays showed a massively enlarged thickened loop of the uterus. Given the history and findings, we diagnosed a massive pyometra.

Because of the size of the pyometra, we decided to operate then and there to avoid it rupturing overnight which would have led to sudden shock and death. We placed Helga on an IV drip and gave an injection of antibiotics and pre-anaesthetic medications.

We anaesthetised her using Isoflurane and at surgery we found a 5.5kg (12lb) infected uterus which we removed. At midnight, we placed the final stitches in. Helga made an uneventful recovery over the next 24 hours and went home the next night.

Pyometra is a common problem in older un-desexed bitches. It normally presents as a draining infection from the vagina but in some dogs, like Helga, the cervix remains closed and there is nowhere for the pus to drain away. This is termed "closed" pyometra versus and "open" pyometra.

The risk of a pyometra infection, after hours callouts and emergency surgery are additional reasons why none breeding pets need to be desexed.

See also…
Advantages of desexing female dogs

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