Sheisha, a 5 year old unsterilised female Staffordshire bull terrier was brought in to Vetwest Clarkson recently by her worried owners. They had taken Sheisha to an emergency veterinary centre during the night as they were concerned that her appetite had reduced over the last 2 weeks and she was becoming more and more lethargic. Sheisha’s owners had also noticed some blood was coming from her vagina, despite her last season finishing about 3 weeks prior.
Upon physical examination at Vetwest Clarkson, Sheisha was found to be severely lethargic with an enlarged abdomen and very pale gums (mucous membranes). She could hardly move without assistance. The emergency centre had diagnosed Sheisha with a condition called pyometra, based on the results of an ultrasound of her abdomen.
Pyometra is a serious, potentially life threatening condition that occurs in non-desexed female animals. The uterus becomes infected and filled with pus as a result of hormonal changes in the reproductive tract. Following oestrus ("heat") in the dog, progesterone levels remain elevated for eight to ten weeks and thicken the lining of the uterus in preparation for pregnancy. If pregnancy does not occur for several oestrus cycles, the lining continues to increase in thickness until cysts form within it. The thickened, cystic lining secretes fluid that creates an ideal environment in which bacteria can grow. The condition can progress rapidly, leading to rupture of the uterus, sepsis (blood infection) and other life-threatening problems.
Immediately after being admitted to hospital at Vetwest, Sheisha was placed on IV fluids, given intravenous antibiotics and pain relief and promptly prepared for surgery. A blood sample was also taken to assess the health of her internal organs and her white and red blood cell parameters. Once stable, Sheisha was anaesthetised and closely monitored by experienced veterinary nurses during her surgery.
The surgery involved removing the entire uterus and both ovaries (called an ovariohysterectomy) – which under normal circumstances is relatively straight forward. However, when an animal has pyometra, the uterine horns are distended with purulent material and the uterine wall is stretched and fragile. Extreme care needs to be taken throughout the surgery to prevent the uterus from rupturing and to minimise blood loss.
Sheisha’s surgery went very well. And thankfully because she responded so well to the intensive medical and surgical treatment she had been given, she was able to go home that evening under the close supervision of her owners. She was discharged from hospital with medications to clear up any residual infection and some very strong pain relief to help her remain comfortable as she continued to recover from such a major emergency surgery.
Sheisha returned to the clinic regularly over the next few days to ensure a steady recovery and no post operative complications developed. At 11 days post surgery, Sheisha’s incision line had healed and her stitches were removed. Her owners report she is now back to her old happy self. They are very happy with the outcome and have since been telling their friends of their experience and advising them all to have their female dogs sterilised to prevent this very serious condition known as pyometra.