Canine Uterine Infections

A terrier is whelping her puppies.
A terrier is whelping her puppies. (Image: Ingram Publishing/Ingram Publishing/Getty Images)

If your dog is spayed, you don't have to worry about canine uterine infections as she no longer has a uterus. If your female dog is still intact, she's vulnerable to two primary types of uterine infections: bacterial metritis and pyometra. The former generally occurs in dogs who have recently given birth to puppies. The latter can occur in any intact female dog; either can prove fatal if not treated promptly. If your dog displays any signs of a uterine infection, call your veterinarian immediately.

Canine Metritis

If your dog gives birth, keep a close eye not only on the offspring but on the condition of the mother's vulva. Metritis usually occurs due to bacteria -- generally E. coli -- inflaming the uterine lining. It's one reason you should count each placenta and ensure she expelled one for each puppy during birth. Retained placentas, as well as difficult deliveries can predispose a new mother dog to metritis. While pus or a mix of pus and blood emanating from the vulva is the primary symptom, suspect metritis if your dog spikes a fever, appears lethargic or ignores her puppies. Constant crying by pups who should be nursing indicates something is wrong with mom.

Metritis Diagnosis and Treatment

Your vet can diagnose metritis via blood tests, urinalysis, bacterial culture of the discharge and X-rays or ultrasound. While your veterinarian will administer the proper antibiotics to fight the particular infection, your dog likely will require intravenous fluids and stabilization in the veterinary hospital. Depending on the severity of the infection, your vet might recommend spaying, especially if a placenta -- or even a dead fetus -- is present in the uterus. You also will have to hand-feed the puppies until they are ready for weaning.

Pyometra in Dogs

While any intact female dog might develop pyometra, it's far more common in older canines. Usually, symptoms occur within eight weeks of the dog's last heat cycle. If your dog is given hormones for any reproductive purposes, your vet will warn you to keep an eye on her for any pyometra symptoms, since the infection appears triggered by hormonal changes. Early signs of pymotera mimic other conditions, and include lethargy, fever, appetite loss, vomiting and frequent drinking and urination. Pyometra occurs in two forms -- open and closed. In the former, your dog's vulva emits pus or a foul-smelling discharge from her vulva. In the latter, a closed cervix traps the infection within, causing abdominal distention. Dogs with the closed form are more likely to become toxic and die suddenly.

Pyometra Diagnosis and Treatment

Your vet will conduct an ultrasound or X-ray of your dog if she suspects pyometra, especially the closed variety. Pyometra quickly can become fatal. Affected dogs generally are spayed as soon as possible. In addition, dogs receive antibiotics and intravenous fluid therapy. If your dog has significant value for future breeding, you can discuss the possibility of prostaglandin treatment instead of spaying. While the success rate of treating dogs medically rather than surgically is fairly successful for open pyometra, it's significantly less so for the closed type.

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