PET HEALTH

Pyometra in Dogs: Here's What You Need To Know

Four Minutes
Apr 16, 2024

Caring for female dogs means remembering they sometimes face unique medical risks. One of these risks is pyometra, which is a dangerous, potentially life-threatening uterus infection that affects intact female dogs. Let’s take a deeper dive into canine pyometra, its causes, symptoms, and potential treatment options.

What Is Pyometra in Dogs?

Pyometra is a uterine infection of intact (unspayed) female dogs and a medical emergency.1 The condition usually develops following a female dog’s regular hormonal cycle, which is called estrus, but is commonly known as “being in heat.” The estrus cycle is essentially a dog’s period.

Once the dog enters the “diestrus” phase following heat, hormonal changes will cause the levels of progesterone in the dog’s body to increase.2 With the rise in progesterone, the uterine lining will thicken to prepare for a potential pregnancy.1

However, if multiple estrus cycles occur without a pregnancy, the uterine wall and lining may continue to thicken.1 The thickened lining may then develop cysts called cystic endometrial hyperplasia (CEH). These cysts leak fluids, creating an environment where bacteria — notably E. coli — can thrive.2 The resulting bacterial infection is pyometra, and most unspayed female dogs face a risk of this condition.

What Types of Dogs Get Pyometra?

Any unspayed female dog can develop pyometra, and the condition typically affects middle-aged dogs. It also may be more common in dogs that have never had puppies.1 Additionally, some dog breeds may be more susceptible to the condition than others, including:3

Can spayed female dogs develop pyometra?

Some spayed females can also develop a condition called stump pyometra, where infection develops around remaining tissue that wasn’t removed during your dog’s spaying surgery.2

A MetLife Pet Policy May Help Cover Pyometra Costs 

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What Are the Signs of Pyometra in Dogs?

While symptoms of pyometra can vary, they may include:2

Pyometra will usually appear as either an “open” or “closed” form, which may affect the severity of the symptoms. An open pyometra occurs when the female’s cervix is open, while a closed pyometra involves a closed cervix.2

In a closed pyometra, fluid and pus from the infection accumulate in the dog’s abdomen and cause distention. The dog’s circulation may then absorb the bacteria. In this case, the dog’s symptoms often appear rapidly and are usually quite severe.2,4 In an open pyometra, vaginal discharge occurs.2 The discharge may have a foul odor, which could smell like fish. You may find discharge under the dog’s tail or in areas where your dog sits or lies.4 Of course, if your dog begins to exhibit signs of potential pyometra, seek veterinary assistance as quickly as possible.

How to Prevent a Uterus Infection in Dogs

You can prevent pyometra if you have your dog spayed before infection can develop.2 During surgery, the veterinarian will remove the dog’s uterus and ovaries, which eliminates the space where pyometra can develop.

If you have MetLife Pet Insurance that includes a Preventive Care add-on, your policy may help cover the costs of your dog’s spay surgery. Often, spaying your dog while they are younger and healthy is a better way to avoid the potential problems and costs that may arise from a serious pyometra later.2

Can a Dog Survive Pyometra?

The short answer is yes, dogs can survive pyometra with medical treatment.1 Without veterinary care, however, pyometra can cause multiple issues that may prove fatal.4

For example, bacteria from the infection will often release toxins that may affect the dog’s kidneys, cause increased urination, and impact the way the dog’s body retains fluid.4 The dog may also develop sepsis and extreme infection.2,4

If they suspect pyometra, the vet will likely order diagnostic tests, like:2

Treating Pyometra in Dogs

Vets usually treat pyometra with an ovariohysterectomy (i.e., by spaying the dog). Your dog may also require IV fluids and antibiotics following the operation.2

In limited cases, your vet may be able to treat the dog with injections of the hormone prostaglandin, along with fluids and antibiotics. However, this course isn’t available for severely ill dogs or those with a closed pyometra. Moreover, your dog may still need surgery if this treatment doesn’t succeed.2

Naturally, diagnosing and treating your dog’s pyometra will come at a cost. Fortunately, if you have pet insurance from MetLife Pet, your policy may help cover some or all of the necessary treatment costs.

What are some of the costs of treating pyometra?

The emergency costs of treating your dog’s pyometra may vary. Below are a few examples of what these costs could look like:

Type of Service

Cost

X-ray

$150 – $250

Ultrasound

$300 – $600

Emergency surgery

$1,800 – $5,000

Vaginal cytology6

Around $40

Blood work

$100 – $200

Antibiotics

May vary depending on the medication

Keep in mind, these costs may depend on factors like your dog’s size, where you live, the severity of their pyometra, and other factors. However, being able to use dog insurance at this time may help you alleviate some of the strain on your wallet.

MetLife Pet May Help You Cover Pyometra Costs

If your dog has pyometra, you don’t want to spend time worrying about costs instead of taking care of your pet. Fortunately, pet insurance may help you cover many of the costs related to treating this condition. Take, for example, the story of Bailey, a 4-year-old mixed breed who underwent surgery for pyometra. Bailey’s MetLife Pet policy was able to cover $1,130 of the cost of her $1,400 claim, leaving Bailey’s parents free to focus on her recovery instead of the vet bill.7

Your dog insurance policy from MetLife Pet may be able to help you reduce your veterinary bills in much the same way. Learn more about how pet insurance works, then get a free quote to see how much it costs.

We Can Help Cover Vet Bills While You Focus on Your Dog’s Care

855-270-7387

**As with any insurance policy, coverage may vary. Review our coverage and exclusions.

 

1 “Infection in Dog’s Uterus Is Serious Business,” University of Illinois Urbana Champaign College of Veterinary Medicine, https://vetmed.illinois.edu/pet-health-columns/pyometra-infection-dogs-uterus

2 “Pyometra,” Cornell Richard P. Riney Canine Health Center, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments/riney-canine-health-center/canine-health-information/pyometra

3 “Pyometra in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment,” BetterVet, https://bettervet.com/resources/pet-diseases/pyometra-in-dogs

4 “Pyometra in Dogs,” VCA Animal Hospitals, https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/pyometra-in-dogs

5 “Canine Vaginal Cytology: A Revised Definition of Exfoliated Vaginal Cells,” National Institutes of Health

6 “Diagnostic Services Laboratory Price List,” Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine

7 All claims paid amounts are based on MetLife Pet internal claims data from October 2022. Story altered for illustrative purposes.

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, and Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85454. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota) and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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