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  • Writer's pictureDr Mike Groombridge MRCVS

Spotlight on: Pyometra

Ultrasound showing a uterus distended with pus

To tie in with the acquisition of our new ultrasound machine, this weeks medical spotlight series is on 'Pyometra'.

Pyometra means 'pus in the uterus' and can occur in un-spayed bitches (and more rarely in cats) in the months following a season. In fact it has been found that up to a quarter of un-spayed bitches will suffer from pyometra by the age of 10 years old.

Bacteria and toxins build up within the uterus and if left untreated the consequences are usually life threatening.

Signs of an infection:

There are two types of pyometra which are characterised by whether the cervix is open or closed. A closed pyometra is more serious as the pus cannot escape from the uterus and there is a risk of it rupturing.

Signs you might notice:

- lethargy

- eating less

- drinking a lot

- vomiting

- smelly discharge from the vulva (only with open pyometra)


The best way to confirm a suspicion of pyometra is with an ultrasound scan. This will show a distended uterus filled with fluid (see the picture).

Blood tests will be consistent with widespread infection and swabs of the vulva will show bacteria and white blood cells.


The best way to treat pyometra is surgery to remove the infected uterus, coupled with a course of antibiotics. Often a few days in hospital are required for monitoring and recovery.

Medical management can be attempted in certain circumstances (for example it cannot be used with closed pyometra) using injections that reduce the levels of progesterone in the dog. This treatment is not without side-effects, is often unsuccessful, and the rate of recurrence of pyometra at the next season is high.


The only way to be completely prevent pyometra is by spaying your dog (or cat).

There are pros and cons to spaying your pet and I would advise you to get in touch with us if you are unsure and would like to discuss it further

Anatomy of the reproductive tract in female dogs

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