Canine Pyometra Symptoms

Written by cate burnette
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Canine Pyometra Symptoms
Older, intact female dogs are prime candidates for pyometra. (sleeping dog image by Samuel Birkan from

Veterinarians recognise pyometra as a bacterial infection of the uterus most commonly found in intact (unspayed) dogs four to eight weeks after their last heat cycle. The American College of Veterinary Surgeons believes that a high concentration of progesterone, a normal hormone in female dogs, leads to formation of the disease that can be classified as either "open" or "closed," depending upon the condition of the animal's cervix. Open pyometra symptoms present in the early stages of the disease; closed pyometra occurs once the cervix becomes so inflamed and enlarged it closes and seals the infection inside the uterus. Learning the symptoms of both types of pyometra can save your pet's life---untreated pyometra inevitably results in kidney failure and death.

Vaginal Discharge

In dogs with pyometra, liquid-containing cysts form in the uterine lining, thickening the walls of the uterus and secreting fluids and pus into the organ's interior, says Dr. Marty Smith of As the uterus enlarges with pus, the fluid seeps out of the animal's vagina as a bloody or yellowish-looking discharge. Many bitches will lick at the area in an attempt to clean themselves. In open pyometra, bacteria continues to enter the uterus through the animal's cervix, and the body's immune system sends more white blood cells into the uterus to combat the infection. This results in a continuing discharge until the cervix closes, sealing off the infected organ.


Because the increased toxins released by the bacteria enter your dog's bloodstream, her kidneys can become damaged and unable to function at normal levels. The kidneys lose their ability to retain water and this causes your dog to have what veterinarians call "polyuria"---excessive urination. The over-urination results in "polydipsia," or increased water consumption to compensate, and can occur in both closed and open pyometras, state the vets at Mansfield Animal Clinic in Mansfield, Texas.

General Ill Health

An overwhelming infection like pyometra typically results in a feeling of generalised ill health in your dog, says Dr. Alleice Summers in "Common Diseases of Companion Animals." She may be suffering with a fever and show signs of depression and lethargy. She may not be able to eat and have vomiting and diarrhoea. Dogs with extremely extended abdomens and closed pyometra may be in pain and unable to walk.

Radiographic Evidence

Bitches with pyometra sometimes present with enlarged abdomens due to the inflammation of the uterus. Because this can be confused with pregnancy in an intact female, veterinarians often suggest either radiographs (X-rays) or an ultrasound examination of your dog. Radiographs will reveal an enlarged uterus and an ultrasound indicates trapped fluid in the organ, ruling out pregnancy, states Dr. Cathy Reese of


A complete blood count (CBC) on a dog with pyometra typically shows leukocytosis and neutrophilia (increase in white blood cells), which indicate systemic infection. It will also usually show evidence of dehydration due to excessive urination and fever. Serum chemistries of the blood may indicate increased alkaline phosphatase and serum protein levels due to liver damage and systemic infection, with increased blood urea nitrogen pointing to kidney damage. A microscopic check of the cells in the vagina usually reveals degenerated white blood cells, bacteria and dying skin cells, maintains Dr. Summers.

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