Pyometra is a life-threatening bacterial infection in the uterus of dogs.
Miku is a female Akita, about seven years old. My friend is “babysitting” her. Kind of. The exact circumstances aren’t that important.
The whole story started with my friend asking how long a heat cycle should last.
I have to admit I know very little about these things because I never had an intact dog. And given our plan to only adopt or foster adult dogs from now on, the odds of having one in the future are low.
Generally, the heat cycle lasts between 2-4 weeks. That’s all I know, and I had to look it up.
I asked the friend why she wanted to know.
“I think she’s bleeding longer than she should,” the friend replied.
Since it hasn’t been over 4 weeks yet, the friend was satisfied that it might still be normal.
Another week later, I got another inquiry about Miku. She was becoming increasingly picky with her food and would accept only the most attractive items. I was asked whether it could still be from the not feeling well due to the cycle.
While I suppose that could be possible, I felt that the heat should have been over by then.
I noted that a dog that doesn’t want their food is usually a concern to me.
Even though Miku had some history of being a finicky eater, this was a turn for the worse even from that. I recommended the owner be notified and Miku brought in to a vet for a good “look over” and some labs.
The owner, however, didn’t believe there was a problem.
A few days later Miku not only didn’t want to eat but wasn’t even interested in anybody coming out to see her.
Miku was always inside out every time anybody showed up.
But now she wouldn’t come up to greet. This time I really insisted something was wrong for sure and Miku needed to be seen.
The most dangerous thing that can make a dog start acting sick after coming out of heat is an infection of the uterus, pyometra.
“I do not want to scare you,” I said, “but this would be my primary concern. And I explained to her what pyometra is. “I hope I’m wrong, but Miku should really see a vet to at least rule this out.”
Pyometra can be life-threatening. If that is what’s going on, it calls for prompt action.
It took Miku becoming severely lethargic for her owner to finally take her into a clinic.
Later that day my friend reported that the vet said it was a minor infection and Miku got sent home with antibiotics.
A mild infection? Of what? Having three degrees of separation between myself and the vet, I wasn’t going to be getting more detailed information. Surely the vet would have thought of and ruled out pyometra before just sending Miku home with a bottle of antibiotics?
I figured I was wrong about it which would have been great.
Once on the antibiotics, Miku did start looking better. Maybe it was some kind of a “mild infection” whatever that kind of diagnosis meant. Though I did find it very strange for a dog to act so sick just because of a mild infection.
Miku finished her medications a seemed to have been in better shape. She even got more interested in food.
Yet another week later, it turned out she was still discharging.
And her appetite and energy level were sinking again. “The owner is taking her back to the vet to be spayed,” my friend updated me.
Miku was dropped off in the morning for her surgery, expected to return home the same day.
Instead, she remained in the hospital for IV and intensive care.
“Her uterus was twice the size of a normal one,” the vet relayed, “I’ve never seen uterus this big.”
Funny; I have. Though, fortunately, only on photos and videos. I’ve seen uteri much larger than twice the normal size; full of pus.
Miku was suffering from pyometra after all.
I so hate being right. But I’m glad that Miku finally got the intervention she needed. I’m glad I kept pushing the matter.
Miku did recover, and she’s doing better now than ever.
How close did she get to getting deathly ill?
Pretty damn close.
While I do believe that dogs should not be spayed or neutered as early as many vets still promote, I also believe they should definitely get “fixed” by the age of two or less, depending on the breed. Unless science comes up with a reason why they shouldn’t be “fixed” at all.
Most importantly, though, please remember this:
If your intact female dog starts acting sick after the end of the cycle, please, think pyometra.
If it’s not, the better. But if it is, acting early can be life-saving.
“I can’t believe she’s still alive,” Miku’s vet said.
I can’t believe the vet didn’t suspect pyometra the first time Miku was in her clinic.
All is well that ends well, though if everybody did things just a little differently, it could have saved Miku quite a long time of suffering.
Pyometra in Dogs: Phoenix’s Lethargy and Loss of Appetite
Pyometra in Dogs