Infertility in the female dog

Last week, we dealt with chronic endometritis as an infection of the womb (uterus).  There is another condition which localizes itself in the womb, and which is actually life threatening.  It is called Pyometra, which translated literally, means ‘pus in the womb.‘  This condition does not begin as an infection in the uterus.

Continued from last week

Pyometra
The origin of this ailment is not to be found in a bacterial invasion (as in the chronic endometritis cases, which we described in last week’s TPC).  Pyometra is linked with hormonal disturbances.  It is only later (the groundwork having been laid for easy bacterial settlement) that germs invade, and we then have the picture of a huge ‘abscess’ in the uterus.

This hormonal imbalance could be coming from a problem the bitch or the female cat has genetically, or from some other unknown cause which created the hormonal imbalance.  Also, the injections of hormones into female dogs and cats could precipitate a pyometra.  For example, pet owners, not wanting their bitches to come in heat, request of the vet an injection/tablets to suppress (or delay) heat.  On other occasions, if there has been a mismating (some unwanted stray neighbourhood stud copulates with a pretty pedigreed home bitch), clients might demand a hormonal injection to stop the pregnancy.  In passing, I should mention that it has been documented in the literature that one can use hormone injections to also combat post-copulation infections.

Well, I am from the old school (or perhaps I have seen too many pyometra cases that resulted from hormonal intervention), so I advise often against the introduction of hormone injections, if they are not absolutely warranted.  Even then, it must be imperative that the owner keenly observes his/her ward – months after the hormone treatment was introduced.  Hormones are too basic a system within the animal’s body for us to manipulate, and create imbalances.  It is interesting to note that most bitches with pyometra are middle aged (around 6-8 years) and many have the history of never producing any puppies.

Pyometra can also occur secondary to an inflammatory process which may have developed in the womb after the bitch/she-cat has given birth to puppies/kittens.

Symptoms
♦  Pyometra raises its ugly head one to 12 weeks after the bitch/cat goes out of heat
♦  Loss of appetite
♦  Consumption of a lot of water (polydipsia)
♦  Frequent urination (polyuria)
♦  The animal shows signs of depression/lethargy
♦  (Vomiting)
♦  Weakness of hind legs
♦  Purulent discharge (pus) from the vagina, sometimes with tinges of blood.  Often the vaginal discharge would appear a few days and then disappear
♦  Abdominal (uterine) enlargement
♦  Dehydration
♦  A low grade fever
♦  The blood picture (if your veterinarian uses laboratory facilities to help his/her diagnosis) shows an increase in the white blood cell (WBC) count especially one type of WBC (the neutrophiles)

NB The symptoms listed above would not all exhibit themselves at the same time.

Treatment
Don’t mess around with antibiotics or any other type of conservative treatment.  This ailment is life threatening.  Only radical surgery, the removal of the whole reproductive tract (ovaries, oviduct, uterus) can save the animal’s life.  Even then, the animal could still die, especially since you might have only recognized the problem (or decided to do something about it) weeks after it had begun.  Your vet will advise you on the pre-and post-surgical management of the patient, so as to better ensure its survival.

NB Please do not at all use squibs or other explosives devices during holiday festivities, and definitely not near to dogs and other animals which have a keen sense of hearing.

Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals.  Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.

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