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Pyometra in Cats

By: Dr. Cathy Reese

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Pyometra is the medical term used to describe an infected uterus. This infection can be open (draining pus from the vagina) or closed (pus is contained in the uterus by a closed cervix).

Pyometra can be a life threatening infection and may even require emergency surgery. A closed pyometra is more of an emergency than an open pyometra, since there is no drainage of pus in a closed pyometra. If left untreated, cats become very ill and some may not survive. With early treatment, about 90 percent of affected cats recover.

Since pyometra is an infection of the uterus, all unspayed cats are susceptible. Pyometra is uncommon in cats from September to December, when their heat cycles are at rest.

What to Watch For

  • Vaginal discharge
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drinking excessive amounts of water and urinating often

    Diagnosis

    In order to diagnose pyometra, your veterinarian will begin by asking you many questions to develop a complete history of the course of the disease. These questions may include:

  • When did the problem start?
  • When was your pet's last heat cycle?
  • Have your pet's drinking and urination habits changed recently?
  • Has there been any vaginal discharge and what did it look like?
  • What have your pet's appetite and demeanor been like?

    After obtaining a medical history, your veterinarian will examine your cat completely, including checking for a fever, palpating her abdomen, and performing a vaginal exam to check for tumors or other abnormalities.

    Blood tests are often submitted to look for abnormal white cell counts, which could indicate the presence of an infection and abnormalities in kidney function, which can develop secondary to a pyometra. Urine tests are also submitted to check the patient's kidney function and look for a urinary tract infection.

    X-rays (radiographs) of the abdomen are taken to look for a fluid filled uterus, which is suggestive of a pyometra and an abdominal ultrasound to look for a fluid filled uterus and also to rule out an early pregnancy.

    Treatment

    The ideal treatment for pyometra is an ovariohysterectomy (spay). Before surgery is performed, some patients may require emergency stabilization in the form of intravenous fluids and antibiotics, especially if septic shock or kidney failure have developed.

    Medical therapy alone is not recommended. There is a high recurrence rate with hormonal treatment, and there is a two-day delay in its effectiveness, which could risk the patient's life.

    Home Care and Prevention

    There isn't any home care for pyometra. Once treated, monitor your cat's appetite, demeanor, drinking and urination habits so that you will notice any changes. If surgery was performed, monitor the incision for normal healing.

    The only way to prevent pyometra is to have your cat spayed.

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