Enlarged belly, vaginal discharge, excessive drinking, and frequent urination are common signs of pyometra in Labradors. The risk is the most for unspayed, older female dogs who have not given birth to puppies. The name pyometra was created by adding the medical terms “pyo” (pus) and “metra” (uterus or womb).
Pyometra is a life-threatening uterine infection characterized by the enlargement of the uterus following the accumulation of infective fluids and pus. Dogs with pyometra need immediate treatment.
Here are some important things you need to know about canine pyometra.
#1: Two Types of Pyometra in Labradors
There are two types of Pyometra that can affect a female Labrador.
The cervix of the dog remains open. This lets the pus inside the uterus come out and excrete through the vulva. The color of the pus may be cream, yellow, greenish, or bloody.
A dog’s cervix is closed resulting in the uterus being filled with pus. This type of canine pyometra is more dangerous than the open type. Since the infected fluids and pus cannot get out of the uterus, the infected dog may develop toxemia or poisoning of the blood. Left untreated, it may lead to dehydration, blood poisoning, kidney failure, and death.
#2: Pyometra in Labradors Causes Fatal Blood Infection
When your Labrador Retriever has pyometra, her uterus is filled with fluids and bacteria. If her cervix is open, the pus may come out through her vulva. But if the pus does not come out, the uterus can increase in size and cause the tummy to expand. When this happens, your Labrador’s rear legs become weak making it hard for her to stand up and walk.
As the infection gets worse, the bacteria inside the uterus release toxins that are then absorbed into the blood. This results in blood infection and can your Labrador very sick. She may refuse to have food, suffer from vomiting and fever, become depressed, and look sleepy. A blood test shows an increase in the white blood cell count.
Without proper treatment, toxins produced by the bacteria may damage the kidneys of your Labrador. There may be renal dysfunction as kidneys are unable to retain fluid – causing her to pee more frequently than she should. As your Labrador’s condition gets worse, she may suffer from kidney failure and die.
#3: Multiple Factors Responsible for Pyometra in Labradors
Hormonal Changes and No Pregnancy
Your female Labrador experiences hormonal changes when she goes into heat. This is necessary to make her body able to carry and give birth to puppies. After the dog’s estrus period – the heat cycle stage wherein she is at the peak of her fertility – the progesterone hormone rises and stays elevated for up to two months, causing the uterine lining to thicken and aid in pregnancy and fetal development.
If your Labrador does not become pregnant after many consecutive cycles, her uterine lining may become too thick. Cysts may start to grow within its tissues. This condition is called cystic endometrial hyperplasia. The cystic and thick uterine lining then produces fluids that make the uterus a breeding ground for bacteria.
Restriction of White Blood Cells from the Uterus
When a Labrador Retriever goes into heat, her body stops white blood cells from entering the uterus. This makes it a safe environment for sperm cells to promote conception. During the estrus stage, her cervix remains open. This is to allow sperms to enter the uterus – promoting pregnancy. With the cervix open, bacteria can enter your pet’s uterus.
The absence of white blood cells in the uterus coupled with the thickened and cystic lining that produces fluid and the open cervix may allow harmful bacteria to enter the uterus, multiply inside, and cause severe infection.
If your Labrador’s body is fit and healthy enough, it can resist the infection and expel the bacteria on its own. But if your Labrador has uterine issues or high levels of progesterone, the uterus may not contract properly.
#4: Hormone Therapy May Cause Pyometra in Labradors
Often breeders use hormone therapy on their dogs for successful breeding. This can result in pyometra-type infections, as the use of progesterone-based drugs can increase the likelihood of uterine thickening.
#5: Spaying Most Effective Way to Treat and Prevent Pyometra in Labradors
Most veterinarians recommend spaying to prevent or treat pyometra. The procedure is done by removing the ovaries and the pus-filled uterus. It is the fastest way to deal with the disease and it removes the chance of reoccurrence. However, there are risks involved when spaying an already sick dog.
#6: Pyometra in Spayed Dogs is Very Rare
A rare type of pyometra also happens to spayed dogs. It is called “stump pyometra” and happens to females who were spayed but left with small parts of the uterus. Because the remaining part of the womb is small, this type of pyometra leads to less-serious infections. But treatment is still necessary.
#7: Non-Surgical Methods Too Used to Treat Pyometra
There are also non-surgical methods used to treat pyometra in Labradors. However, they can be painful for the dog. As spaying permanently removes the chance of pregnancy, some owners – especially breeders – seek other treatment options. This often happens when the sick Labrador’s line and pedigree are very important. If the dog suffering from Pyometra is younger than 2 years, spaying is not an option. In such cases, veterinarians recommend using prostaglandins, aglepristone, or a combination of the two hormones.
One method that showed promise is the administration of synthetic hormones using the transcervical endoscopic catheterization method. It has shown promise in treating both open and closed pyometra. With this method, prostaglandin F-2a is infused into the uterus. This causes the organ to contract and expel bacteria, fluids, and pus. An ultrasound must be done two days after the procedure to check if the fluid is still present. If the fluid is still detected, the same treatment is repeated. Transcervical endoscopic catheter is traditionally used for intrauterine insemination.