Sweet dog survives deadly womb infection thanks to emergency help

Border Terrier Chelsea wears an Elizabethan collar

A dog’s life has been saved from a deadly infection thanks to quick-thinking Blue Cross vets.

Border terrier Chelsea hadn’t been feeling herself for a couple of days, so her worried owner booked her in to our Merton animal hospital for vet help.

The five-year-old dog had been off her food, was being sick, and had an upset stomach. These simple-on-the-surface symptoms could have indicated any number of illnesses, and our veterinary experts needed to investigate further to decipher the mystery cause.

“Our vet asked whether Chelsea was neutered, and when we found she wasn’t, we needed to know when her last season was”, explained Elise Smith, Blue Cross Veterinary Nurse. “Her owner explained Chelsea had been cleaning the area around her vulva more often, so we began to consider a pyometra.”

Pyometra is an infection of the womb – also known as the ‘uterus’ - which can occur in any dog (or cat) that has not been spayed. It is caused by the womb filling with pus and is extremely serious, and sadly can be fatal, if not recognised and treated quickly.

Signs are not always obvious but usually occur a few weeks after a female dog’s season has ended. They include being off their food, lethargy and in some cases discharge from the vagina. As the infection becomes worse, bitches may get sick and become unwilling to move.

An ultrasound of the uterus, following an examination of her swollen belly, confirmed that Chelsea was suffering from an infected uterus.

When an animal is already debilitated – as Chelsea was in this case – the body is less able to cope with an anaesthetic as well as a healthy dog would. Elise Smith, Blue Cross Veterinary Nurse

Race against time

Blue Cross vet team assists dog Chelsea's spay
Our Merton animal hospital team prepares Chelsea for her operation

Treating pyometra is a race against time. The condition can progress quickly, and without treatment, is life threatening.

Elise added: “Other treatments such as hormones may help, but they are not without risk. Prolonged infection can make an animal’s general health deteriorate, and if the cervix is closed, the uterus may fill so much with pus that it bursts, which is incredibly serious.

“Really the best and most curative course of action is removing the uterus itself. This is what we did for Chelsea.”

Risky procedure

The basic procedure for removing an infected womb is very similar to the one used to spay a healthy dog, but the risks involved are far greater, as Elise explains: “Firstly, when an animal is already debilitated – as Chelsea was in this case – the body is less able to cope with an anaesthetic as well as a healthy dog would.

"There is also a risk that the uterus - which is under pressure and strain - will rupture and spill pus into the abdomen, which can cause nasty infections.”


A pyometra operation
Pyometra is an infection of the womb – also known as the ‘uterus’ - which can occur in any dog (or cat) that has not been spayed

The wait to learn whether your dog will be ok while they undergo surgery is an extremely nerve-racking and emotional time for owners, and pyometra is preventable through neutering.

Blue Cross recommends dogs (and cats) are neutered when young to prevent the need for emergency surgery for pyometra when their bodies are older. There are other benefits too; including lowering the risk of some cancers, preventing behavioural changes due to false pregnancies, and avoiding unwanted pregnancies.

Earlier this month, Chelsea underwent emergency surgery to remove her infected womb – and we’re thrilled to say it was a success.

We gave her several does of antibiotics – both through a drip and by an injection – and plenty of pain relief too to help her recover. Her worried owner was delighted to take her home.

We’ve since seen Chelsea for her check-ups, and we’re pleased to report it didn’t take too long for her to get back to her normal self.

Blue Cross has four animal hospitals for sick and injured pets belonging to owners who cannot afford private veterinary fees, and also offers help towards the cost of emergency treatment to owners of pets who live outside our catchment areas. We are a charity and rely totally on donations from the public to fund our vital services, and we are extremely grateful to everyone who has helped us to help pets like Chelsea.

— Page last updated 28/02/2017