By Elayne Ravji Ablamor Bullmastiff Kennels
From the commencement of their first season, all bitches regardless of age are at risk of contracting this serious uterine disease.
Pyometra is an infection within the uterus, and can occur anytime during and up to 12 weeks, after the bitch has visibly finished her season. Two forms of Pyometra exist - Open cervix & closed cervix. Open is easier to detect because of the often-unpleasant discharge coming from the vagina. Closed on the other hand can be harder to diagnose and is more life threatening, because the cervix is closed and no discharge can be seen.
A bitches vagina plays host to a number of bacteria at any one time. Under normal circumstances a healthy uterus is naturally sterile, and can fight off any bacteria originating from the vagina. Pyometra occurs due to hormonal changes, this in turn changes the environment within the uterus. These changes may come in the form of small cysts. When this occurs the uterus can no longer ward off bacterial infection. E-coli is one of the bacteria, commonly found in the uterus of bitches with Pyometra.
Studies indicate many bitches with Pyometra have suppressed immune systems. While no single cause can be attributed to Pyometra, there are however a few factors which may influence susceptibility.
- Drug treatment to suppress seasons, if given at a particular time during the cycle. Bitches who have been regularly given these drugs and then taken off them, but not bred from, may also develop Pyometra.
- Administering some misalliance (mis-mating-estogens) injections increases the risk of Pyometra after the season.
- The administration of antibiotics for an unrelated aliment, prior to, during or shortly after, visible signs of the season have ended. (Antibiotics can mask the signs )
Clinical signs can vary and may cause some confusion. In some cases of which there are a few, many of the clinical signs are absent. However, drinking or urinating excessively, seem to be present in most cases. The classic signs are: Anorexia, Vomiting, Increased thirst/urination, Lethargy, Vaginal discharge, enlarged belly & fever. In some cases the bitch can show signs of back pain and loss of function in the hind legs. Older bitches may exhibit: Reduced appetite, Lethargy, Reluctance to excerise, Poor coat, and possibly a mild discharge after every season, which over time, gets progressively worse.
Bitches who have been mated or have just whelped are also at risk, of contracting Pyometra. Bitches who have previously had pyometra will have a re-occurrence if not bred from, the following season. Putting bitches on good antibiotics such as Baytril, pre-breeding can also make them more prone to infectious disease, by killing off normal organisms.
Treatment involves administration of various therapies as well as spaying. If the bitch is very ill the toxins may also affect her kidneys & liver.
While spaying will prevent Pyometra in all bitches, from a breeder's point of view, it is not a practical option. Although the following suggestion will not prevent a bitch from contracting pyometra it may reduce the risk. As stated above, it appears that bitches that contract Pyometra have suppressed immune systems. So ideally for a bitch to fight off any infection, a healthy immune system has to be maintained, especially from the onset of her season until 12 weeks afterwards.
We have looked at a number of natural therapies; the one that seems to offer the most benefits is Colostrum. Colostrum supplies growth factors and contains immunoglobulins, which generate antibodies. Being a natural product it is safe to use even on a bitch who is due to be mated or has had pups. If you would like to find out more about Colostrum, visit this NZ site www.lovelyhealth.com
CURRENT ISSUES IN CANINE REPRODUCTION by Dr. Robert Gilbert, Associate Dean of Clinical Programs and Professional Services, Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine. Oct 10th 1998.
CHARACTERIZATION OF ESCHERICHIA COLI STRAINS ASSOCIATED WITH CANINE PYOMETRA.
Wernicki A, Krzyzanowski J, Puchalski A. Pol J Vet Sci. 2002;5(2):51-6.
IMMUNOSUPPRESSION IN BITCHES WITH PYOMETRA
Faldyna M; Laznicka A; Toman M Vet Res Inst; Hudcova 70; CS-62132 Brno; Czech Republic; Clin Jaggy, Brno, Czech Republic J Small An Prac Jan 2001; 42 (1) : 5-10.
THE AGE AND STAGE OF ESTRUS IN BITCHES WITH PYOMETRA. STATISTICAL INQUIRY AND INTERPRETIVE STUDY OF THE UNDERSTANDING OF VARIABILITY Blendinger K, Bostedt H. Tierarztl Prax. 1991 Jun;19(3):307-10.
PYOMETRA -Karyn Colman B, Vet Med M.R.C.V.S
PROCEEDINGS OF CANINE THERIOGENOLOGY SHORT COURSE: August, 1993 / American College of Theriogenologists and Society for Theriogenology. Published: Hastings, NE (2727 W. 2nd, P.O. Box 2118, 68902-2118) : Association Offices,  Reproductive physiology of the bitch / Patrick Concannon -- Diagnostic approach to infertility in the bitch / Beverly J. Purswell -- Canine vaginal flora / Patricia N. Olson -- Vaginal cytology (canine) / Patricia N. Olson -- Progesterone testing and breeding management in the bitch / Shirley Johnston -- Vaginal & surgical intra-uterine deposition of semen / Robert V. Hutchison -- Breeding soundness evaluation of the stud dog / Mushtaq A. Memon -- Mismating options / Vicki N. Meyers-Wallen -- Early neutering in the dog & cat / W. Preston Stubbs -- Pyometra / Walter R. Threlfall -- Pregnancy diagnosis in the canine / Frances O. Smith.
CANINE REPRODUCTION SEMINAR January 8th 2002 Dr Robert Van Hutchison & Veterinary Information Network.
AEROBIC BACTERIA OCCURRING IN THE VAGINA OF BITCHES WITH REPRODUCTIVE DISORDERS.
Bjurstrom L. Acta Vet Scand. 1993;34(1):29:34