Pyometra: A Life-Threatening Infection

Pyometra imageEvery morning at about 5 am, the overnight team of ER doctors at the Animal Medical Center sends an email with the list of the overnight admissions. Last week, two canine patients were listed as being admitted with a diagnosis of pyometra. Both dogs were so sick they underwent emergency surgery in the middle of the night to treat their pyometra.

What is pyometra?

Pyometra is a bacterial infection of the uterus. The most common bacterium identified in pyometra is E. coli, which probably originates in the stool and ascends into the uterus. It often occurs about one month after a dog or cat has been in heat. In both dogs and cats, middle-aged females are at risk. About 25% of unspayed dogs will develop pyometra before age of 10. Oriental purebred cats have a higher risk of pyometra than non-purebred cats. Oriental purebred cats and Sphynx, Siberian, Ocicat, Korat, Ragdoll, Maine Coon and Bengal develop pyometra at a younger age than the general cat population. If your cat is an unsprayed female of a high risk breed, the next paragraph is a must read.

How would I know if my dog or cat has pyometra?

Early in the course of pyometra, there may not be any clinical signs. As the infection worsens, dogs may stop eating, act lethargic, vomit, drink lots of water and urinate excessively.

You might notice a white or bloody vaginal discharge. As the uterus fills with pus, your dog’s tummy might look bloated. If these clinical signs are missed, the infection progresses and can spread throughout the bloodstream. Ultimately, your veterinarian will make the diagnosis based on an abdominal x-ray or ultrasound. An x-ray of a dog with pyometra is shown above.

Because cats are not simply little dogs, pyometra looks different in the cat. Female cats are much less likely to act sick when they have pyometra until the infection is advanced and the uterus is very large. Because of the fastidious nature of cats, vaginal discharge is easily missed. Cat or dog, pyometra can be so serious that emergency surgery is required and your pet could end up in ICU.

How is pyometra treated?

The short answer to this question is surgical removal of the uterus. But the severity of illness may require extensive treatment prior to and following surgery. Pets with pyometra are frequently dehydrated, febrile and may have low blood sugar that must be corrected before surgery. In preparation for surgery, intravenous fluids, antibiotics and glucose may be administered. Veterinarians reserve non-surgical treatment of pyometra for valuable breeding animals.

Will my pet recover from pyometra?

Despite the urgency of surgery to remove the infected uterus from a critically ill pet, nearly all will make a full recovery. Fatalities in dogs tend to occur when the uterus is leaking pus into the abdominal cavity.

Since pyometra is a uterine infection caused in part by the normal reproductive cycle of cats and dogs, one of the advantages of spaying your female cat or dog is prevention of pyometra.

Pyometra can be found in many species, including this recent report about a white Bengal tiger who was successfully treated by veterinarians at Oregon State University.

Lifestyle Factors Related to Feline Obesity

Buster Brown

June is Adopt-A-Cat Month and every blog post in June will focus on some aspect of our furry feline friends. Today’s topic is obesity.

I saw one of my favorite patients the other day. Okay, I admit, all my patients are my favorite. Buster Brown is a mink-coated Tonkinese cat, just a bit over one year of age. Because he is young and healthy, I haven’t seen him since before he was neutered and was a bit shocked when I put him on the scale. He had gained three pounds during the five months since I had last seen him. When his family saw the numbers on the scale, they asked, “How did this happen?” Below, I have outlined a few of the contributing factors to feline obesity that cat families can use to keep their furry friend at an ideal body condition.

But My Cat is Big-Boned
You are right, the significance of weight gain depends somewhat on the size of your cat. A slinky Siamese can gain less weight and still have a good body condition than the king of cats, the Maine Coon, but adding three pounds is probably too much for just about any cat. When I assessed Buster B’s body condition score, a scale which looks at a cat’s distribution of fat in various parts of the body, he scored 8/9, which is considered obese for a cat of his size.

Fixing Him, Even Though He’s Not Broken
Although Buster B is extremely handsome, he is a pet and was not going to make babies. Thus, he was neutered before he had a chance to start spraying urine on the furniture or drapes. Male cats that have not been “fixed” have very stinky urine and for that reason, pet cats are typically neutered. Neutering is a known risk factor for obesity in cats and portion control is a good practice after neutering. Decreasing a cat’s food intake by approximately one-third after neutering surgery is a good rule of thumb to prevent unwanted weight gain.

He Likes Crunchies and I Hate Those Smelly Cans in the Fridge
I am with you on this point. Cats like what they like and I find those little cans of congealed salmon and tuna pate revolting sitting next to my kale and organic chicken breasts. But, a diet of more than 50% dry food has been shown to be associated with obesity. If you feed your cat dry food fed free choice, without regard for portion control, your kitty can pack on the pounds. Ditto for treats; limit how many your cat consumes per day since snacking predisposes cats to obesity.

Kitty Gymnasium
In a recent scientific study published in Preventive Veterinary Medicine, risk factors for obesity in cats at two years of age were identified. Cats kept indoors were more likely to be overweight or obese. I suspect this is related to exercise or the lack of it in a confined space like your apartment. While research indicating cat calisthenics helps to keep weight off is lacking, exercising your cat with a laser light, fishing pole toy or encouraging them to run up and down the stairs can’t hurt. Better yet, provide a cat tree for climbing as cats love to be up high.

One third to one-half of American cats are considered overweight or obese. Be proactive and keep your kitty slim and trim by controlling his food portions, including some canned food in his diet, and making sure he gets plenty of exercise.