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Pyometra in Cats

By: Dr. Cathy Reese

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Diagnosis In-depth

  • History. Your veterinarian will ask specific questions about your pet's appetite, activity level and attitude. Animals with pyometra are often depressed and lethargic. They may vomit or have diarrhea and often show no interest in food.

    Because of the secondary effects on the kidneys, pyometra can also cause increased drinking and urination. So, your veterinarian may ask about any changes in your pet's drinking or urination habits. You may also be asked if you have noticed any vaginal discharge from your pet. Open pyometra produces a pus-like vaginal discharge. Closed pyometra does not drain pus from the vagina.

  • Physical exam. Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam. This will include palpation of your pet's abdomen for an enlarged uterus and examination of your pet's vagina for discharge, tumors, or other abnormalities. Your veterinarian will also take your cat's temperature to check for a fever.

  • Radiographs (X-rays). X-rays are taken of your pet's abdomen to identify an enlarged, fluid-filled uterus. This finding, taken with your pet's other signs, can suggest a diagnosis of pyometra.

  • Ultrasound. Abdominal ultrasound is another way to identify an enlarged, fluid filled uterus and to rule out an early pregnancy.

  • Blood and urine tests. Blood tests are submitted to evaluate the white blood cell count, which is usually elevated with an infection. The number of red blood cells is checked to look for anemia.

    The function of the kidneys is evaluated through testing the blood as well as the urine. The urine is also tested for the presence of bacterial infection. The levels of electrolytes in the body are checked to determine the patient's hydration status and to help guide the type of fluid therapy.

    Therapy In-depth

  • Emergency stabilization. Initially, your pet is given intravenous fluids and antibiotics and treated for shock and dehydration, if necessary.

  • Surgical management. The treatment of choice is an ovariohysterectomy (spay). The pet is anesthetized and the ovaries and uterus are carefully removed. This treatment is curative and prevents recurrence.

  • Medical management. This method of treatment involves the injection of hormones, called prostaglandins, to change the environment in the uterus. Antibiotics are also given. Medical treatment of pyometra is not recommended.

    It takes two days for the hormone injections to take effect, during which the pet could die of infection or kidney failure. There is also a high incidence of recurrence of pyometra with medical management. Furthermore, not all pets respond to this therapy and require life-saving surgery after this therapy has failed.

  • Spaying an animal that has pyometra remains the best standard of care. This therapeutic course will unfortunately render a potentially valuable breeding animal sterile but it will likely save her life.

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