This article was originally published on October 12, 2012. The information is timeless and shows the importance of having your cat or dog spayed. Pyometra is completely preventable. Abby, the dog I used as an example in 2012, is still alive and in her forever home.
Pyometra is an infection of the uterus. If left untreated can lead to your cat’s death. I’d never heard the term before this past weekend, but have a story to share after giving some information about this potentially fatal infection.
Pyometra always occurs in cats who haven’t been spayed. Many times it occurs in older cats. Technically, it’s a secondary infection caused by hormonal changes in a female cat’s reproductive tract. Pyometra can also lead to a secondary infection of the urinary tract, making it even more dangerous as well as more expensive.
So the best way to prevent the infection is to have your female cat spayed.
Pyometra can be an open infection, where your cat will have pus (or sometimes blood) draining from the vaginal area or it can be a closed infection where there’s no visible drainage. Closed pyometra is more dangerous as the pus can build up on the uterus and has no outlet to drain. Either type can mean emergency surgery. This is NOT something you can treat at home. Nor should you wait and see if your cat gets better.
Symptoms of pyometra include:
- Vaginal discharge(warning-pet may “clean up” and discharge not be visible)
- Lack of appetite
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Lack of energy
- Drinking more water or urinating more often
Readers, please keep these symptoms in mind and get your cat to a vet immediately should you discover any kind of vaginal discharge. Especially if it’s bloody or has a foul odor. This not only isn’t normal, but your cat could also die if you wait at home for it to clear up. Keep in mind a cat may groom itself and no discharge may be present. So it’s best to go by overall symptoms rather than just what’s visible. If left untreated, Pyometra can lead to septicemia(the presence of an infection in the blood), shock or death. The inflammatory process alone is enough to kill your pet. Septicemia is similar (but not identical) to what people used to call “blood poisoning.” I’m only bringing that old term up so readers will recognize the seriousness of the situation.
Your vet will diagnose this condition by examining your cat as well as through blood work and x-rays. You may also be asked questions about when your cat was last in heat. One of the primary causes of pyometra is allowing a cat to go through a heat cycle where it doesn’t become pregnant. January through August are the months an unspayed cat is most likely to develop this condition since it’s less of a risk during the month’s cats typically don’t go into heat.
Pyometra usually develops shortly after a cat has been in heat (estrus). During heat, the cervix of a cat relaxes, allowing bacteria to enter the reproductive tract. Totally preventable by practicing birth control. No heat cycles mean the cervix isn’t open for the bacteria to enter.
Acting quickly is important if you suspect your cat has pyometra. Ninety percent of cats survive this infection if surgery and antibiotics are done in a timely manner. Some vets will place a cat on antibiotics for a day or so before surgery to stabilize her infection. In some cases an emergency spaying is necessary.
The best prevention and the cheapest is to have your cat spayed.
Our experience with this over the weekend
My daughter Laura is friends with our next door neighbor, who has a female purebred chihuahua named Abby. I’m not sure how old Abby is. Probably over 6 years old. On Sunday, it was noticed Abby was dripping a little blood from her vaginal area and was in pain. Abby had been in heat several weeks ago but not allowed to mate. My daughter did a little online searching and got on the phone trying to get a vet to meet Abby’s mom at the clinic. No vets would agree to come out. That’s typical for where we live. And emergencies always tend to happen on a Sunday.
My daughter talked to the vet clinic where we take our cats. The vet on call agreed it sounded like pyometra after Laura answered several questions. However, she wouldn’t agree to come out because she said she’d need a team in order to do a spay and couldn’t do it until Monday morning.
By the way, vets in my area make me VERY VERY nervous because of their unwillingness to come out after clinic hours. Between noon Saturday and 8 a.m. Monday morning, you’re on your own should anything go wrong with a pet. It’s scary.
Abby went to the vet Monday morning and was admitted to the clinic for testing. Her regular vet did an exam, blood work, x-rays and got a verbal history on Abby. All tests concluded Abby did, in fact, have pyometra and surgery was scheduled for Tuesday morning. This gave her time for the antibiotics to start working and Abby was also given something for pain. She’s doing well and will be home hopefully Thursday.
For those of you who believe a routine spaying is high, consider the cost this will run the family. I wouldn’t doubt the bill will hit $500 when you count three nights hospitalization, surgery, tests, and medication. This is way more expensive than routine spaying.
Spaying not only protects your female cat, it prevents major leakage from your wallet when preventable problems develop. We are so glad all of our females have been spayed. I never realized this life-threatening condition was out there.
I would like to say Abby was a very high risk for surgery. She only has half a bladder. Her bladder was severely damaged after eating dog treats made in China, which I did an article on a while back. I plan on doing an update on that story, tying it into the Purina recalls since the dog treats were also marketed by Purina. These products are still on the shelves killing our cats and dogs. I write on dog treats as I know my cats will play “kitchen hockey” with any kind of treat they think they can bat around. Abby’s family had hoped to have her spayed at the time of her bladder surgery, but her vet believed it would be too hard on her system.
Have any of the readers experienced pyometra with your female cat or dog? Please sound off in the comments.