Bitch metritis or pyometra: symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention

Metritis, also called pyometra, is a serious infection of the uterus, the germs of which are usually of urinary origin. This infection affects unsterilized females, and can quickly be life threatening. It is therefore important to know how to recognize the first symptoms, in order to act quickly to save your dog’s life.

Symptoms of metritis

There are two types of pyometra, both of which can trigger three to eight weeks after the bitch is in heat, but they each have their own symptoms that manifest in different ways:

The open neck pyometra

In this case, the cervix will be open, discharge of pus from a milky white to a greenish brown sometimes accompanied by blood, can be observed: therefore, they can easily be confused with the losses which can naturally occur during the heat of a bitch. It will therefore be necessary to be vigilant, check the color of the discharge and make the connection with the date of the onset of the bitch’s heat. This is where the infection is called metritis.

Closed neck pyometra

The infection is here much more difficult to detect, because no discharge can be observed. Other symptoms, also present for open-necked pyometra, may be noted, but they will be less obvious than discharge, so it will be necessary to be all the more attentive. The bitch will be very tired and almost amorphous, she will eat very little. However, she will hydrate and urinate a lot. You may notice a red, swollen vulva, as in a hot period, and sometimes swelling of the abdomen. All of these symptoms can, in some cases, be accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea, as well as fever.

The aggravating factors of metritis

Metritis can start at any age, but it is especially from the age of six that real risks exist. If the dog regularly receives hormonal treatment against heat (contraceptive pill), the risks will be increased. Immune deficiencies, caused by diabetes mellitus, as well as frequent use of corticosteroids, can also promote infection.

Certain breeds would also be more affected by this infection, such as the Cavalier King Charles, as well as the Golden Retriever.

Diagnosis and treatment of metritis

If there is no discharge, the vet will need to have blood tests and imaging tests (x-ray and ultrasound) to diagnose metritis. Once the diagnosis is made, there are two options:

Drug treatment for metritis

This treatment is based on taking very heavy antibiotics to treat the infection, along with progesterone or prostaglandin, drugs that are used to empty the uterus, and thus limit the rupture of the latter, or even the onset of peritonitis or sepsis if the germs mix with the blood.

This method is only used in cases where the bitch’s state of health has deteriorated little, and if it is desired that she can remake young. However, this treatment is still largely discouraged, because it is ineffective in most cases. There is a 70% recurrence rate with drug treatment.

Surgical treatment of metritis

This is the most recommended treatment because it will cure the infection without risk of recurrence. Likewise, if the infection was reported too late, this will likely be the only way to save the dog. However, the operation is quite expensive (from 500 to 800 euros on average). This will be an operation during which the reproductive system (ovaries and uterus) will be removed.

The added benefit of this process is that it will drastically reduce the risk of breast tumors and nerve pregnancies.

For this operation, the bitch will be under general anesthesia. The bitch will then be recovering for quite a long time, this can last from a few days to several weeks, and will often be kept for observation by the vet. You should know that if the operation is done too late and the animal is too fragile, there is unfortunately a risk of death.

Prevention of metritis

There is only one way to prevent this infection: sterilization of the bitch as soon as she is old enough to be done.

In conclusion, I can therefore only advise you to have your bitch sterilized as soon as you can, and if this is not done, be very attentive during the periods of heat of your bitch. The sooner metritis is detected, the more likely it is to be cured.