Merton dog - pyo illo

Pyometra in dogs

Pyometra is a very serious infection of the womb, also known as the uterus.

It’s caused by the womb filling with pus and, if left untreated, it can lead to kidney failure, toxaemia, dehydration and, in some cases, death.

Usually the only cure once the pet has developed pyometra is emergency surgery to remove their womb.

Poor Lady had 2kg of pus removed from her womb when she had emergency surgery for pyometra - that's roughly the equivalent of two bags of sugar

It is usually seen in older, female dogs who haven’t been neutered, but can happen in any un-spayed bitches of any age.

Why do dogs get pyometra?

Pyometra is caused by a bacterial infection, most commonly E. coli, and often occurs a few weeks after a female has finished a season.

This is because being in season causes the animal’s body to go through hormonal changes which make the chance of infection much more likely.

What are the symptoms of pyometra in dogs?

Early signs may not always be obvious but your pet may be off their food, lethargic, or very thirsty. Sometimes pets have discharge from their vagina but not in all cases. 

As the infection gets worse your pet may be sick and become very unwilling to move. 

If you suspect that your pet may have pyometra contact your vet immediately – acting fast could save their life.

How is pyometra diagnosed in dogs?

A vet will first likely ask questions about when your dog’s last season was, whether she has been cleaning herself more often around her vulva, and how she has been acting recently.

They will examine your dog’s abdomen to check for swelling, and may perform an ultrasound examination.

How is pyometra treated?

Border terrier Chelsea needed an emergency spay operation when her womb became infected

A pyometra is a serious infection and requires urgent surgery to remove the infected womb.

The procedure is similar to a normal spay of a healthy womb, however there is a much higher level of risk that the infected womb may come apart during the operation and pus may lead to further infection.

The earlier an infected womb is removed, the greater chances of a dog’s survival. Sadly, pyometras and complications resulting from the risky operations may be fatal.

Pyometra is one of the main reasons why we recommend bitches are preventatively spayed.

How can I stop my dog getting a pyometra? 

About one in four older female dogs will suffer from pyometra but it can be totally prevented by neutering your pet.

Can a dog that has been spayed get pyometra?

Most bitches that have been spayed will not get pyometra. 

But, if your dog has only had part of her womb removed during neutering or part of the tissue has been left behind, this could become infected. This is called a ‘uterine stump pyometra’ and is very rare.

— Page last updated 22/05/2023