Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spay Away Pyometra!

To spay or not to spay, that is the question.  The reasons in the no-spay column are precious few, except for situations in which the health of the pet precludes surgery or to breed a female that meets very specific criteria.  The reasons in the pro-spay column are too numerous to discuss in a single article, so I will focus on one specific reason: Pyometra.  A pyometra is a pus-filled uterus (affectionately referred to as 'pus puppies' by those of us in the field).

A pyometra starts as endometritis (an abnormal uterine lining) that is susceptible to infection.  Bacteria are introduced through the relaxed cervix during estrus (the heat cycle).  After estrus, the cervix closes, locking in the infection.  Now, the uterus becomes a big abscess which is often as large as a pregnant uterus and can weigh several pounds.

The signs of trouble are subtle for a few or even as long as several weeks.  Decreased activity and appetite, increased water consumption, and uveitis (inflamed eyes) are common symptoms.  Soon the body becomes overwhelmed and seriously ill.

Surgery to remove the infected organ is required and is performed as soon as the pet is stable enough to undergo anesthesia-usually within a few hours of admission to the hospital.  The fear is that the uterus will rupture and the infection will spread throughout the abdominal cavity.  If this complication occurs, the prognosis for recovery decreases.  The good news is that if all goes well, the prognosis is excellent, and the patients are often notably improved and even eating within hours of recovery from anesthesia.

The Lesson:  the routine procedure that was pooh-poohed at an early age (the ovariohysterectomy, or spay) has turned into a life-threatening emergency situation.  A routine spay costs around $325.  Pyometra treatment without complications costs $1300, and up from there if problems develop (including potential loss of your companion).  As I have said before Nike got it right, when it comes to spaying: JUST DO IT!!

Brian C. Ray, DVM

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