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Pyometra: What Is It?

Any number of pet sites claim one of the reasons for spaying queens is pyometra. A queen who comes in heat but is not bred are at risk from it.

  • Vaginal discharge and often lethargic attitude is a sign. 
  • When the cervix closes sometimes the discharge is ‘locked in’ the uterus. This causes swelling and if the bacterial infection takes hold without being treated it can have fatal results. Early treatment is advised – if untreated it can be serious enough to require an emergency spay in order to save her life.

This infection is less common from September to December due to a resting of the body from heat cycles.

Watch for several signs of something being wrong. With or without a vaginal discharge there can be lack of appetite, depression, vomiting, diarrhea and excessive thirst. If they drink excessively of course they will also urinate excessively.

Although it is an infection, pyometra can be connected to hormone changes. 

  • Progesterone levels remain high with heat cycles, but if several heats pass without pregnancy the lining continues to thicken. 
  • Cysts form and the lining secretes fluids that can allow bacteria an ideal medium to grow. 
  • It is most common in older cats but can occur in young to middle age cats as well. Typically signs will show up one to two months following a heat cycle.
  • It’s important to note that the discharge can only happen if the cervix is open. If it is not then the fluid is trapped in the uterus and results in a distended belly. 
  • They might have high levels of white blood cell counts in order to fight off the infection. The toxins overwhelm the kidneys just as it does with any infection.

Although the most common treatment is spaying some cases can be treated with use of prostaglandins that reduces the hormones and open the cervix, allowing the drainage needed to get the infection out of the body. However this is an early treatment, and once cats are ill it can be too late for such measures.

There is some success in treating it this way but some statistics show there is a 50-75% chance it will recur with an equal chance of a breeding being successful. Antibiotics and fluids can help treat the queen and the prostaglandin treatment is not without side effects.

Endometritis can be confused with pyometra in queens. A veterinarian check with a broad spectrum antibiotic can treat this, but it is also often the first sign of this vaginal infection. Queens with endometritis or pyometra are candidates for retirement from a breeding program, a spay and being a pet.

Although it is a serious condition and should be treated seriously as with any medical issue do not panic. Pay attention to your queens’ normal behavior and investigate if it changes. Catching problems when it’s small problems is much easier on the owner and the queen. 

If you can stomach it, this video shows a uterus that has been removed from an infected cat.

Need any advice now? Ask a vet online! 
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