What is Pyometra in Cats?
At some point in their lives, your pet cat will get sick. There’s only so much that you can prevent actively, but as long as you do your best to keep your cat properly nourished, hydrated, and exercised, your cat should be okay. However, there are some illnesses that just happen on their own volition regardless of how much you try to prevent them. In addition, there are diseases out there that you probably don’t even know about. Some of these can be quite deadly, and one example of this is pyometra.
If you’ve never heard of pyometra before, you’re not the only one. Many cat owners are oblivious to this possibly fatal infection. This is probably due to the rarity of the condition. Although it may be rare, it’s important that all cat owners, especially of female cats, are aware of pyometra and its symptoms in case it does happen.
How does pyometra develop?
A female cat typically goes into heat every two to three weeks. This heat period will last for two weeks generally. During this time, the progesterone hormone increases dramatically, which allows the uterine lining to thicken. All of this happens to allow the cervix to open to prepare the cat for pregnancy when a sperm enters the uterus. Even after a cat’s heat cycle ends, the level of progesterone remains high, keeping the physical aspects the same. When this happens several times without impregnation, the lining of the uterus that has sustained thickening over the course of many weeks begins to develop cysts.
Since the cervix remains open during this period, it becomes easier for bacteria to make its way from the vagina into the uterus. And since white blood cells stay out of the uterus while the cat is in heat to allow the sperm to live and fertilize, the uterus becomes a breeding ground for infections.
Pyometra has two sets of symptoms that will vary depending on whether the infection happens when the cervix is open or close. If it happens when the cervix is open, you can expect pus or bloody discharges to come out of the cat’s vagina. Any stains in the bedding can be evidence of this. If the infection happens while the cervix is closed, you won’t see any discharge because the infection will be trapped inside the uterus. The symptoms you’ll see are more outwardly. Your cat may develop a loss of appetite, severe lethargy, depression, excessive drinking, and excessive urination.
If you’ve got a cat that’s drinking tons of fluid and has a swollen or painful abdomen is likely to have pyometra. In order to diagnose it completely, your vet will collect blood and vaginal discharge for testing. This is to see whether bacteria are present. An x-ray will also be performed to take a look at the cat’s uterus. If the uterus is not visible through the x-ray, an ultrasound may then be performed.
If you suspect in any way that your cat might have pyometra, don’t sit on it for another day. Take your cat to the emergency clinic right away. The infection already has to build up in order for your cat to present symptoms. Waiting even just a few hours more will only give the toxins in the body a greater chance to build up in the bloodstream and cause even more serious conditions such as acute renal failure. In addition, other complications can also occur. Your cat’s uterus can rupture, and when that happens, the infection will spill and spread into the abdominal cavity. This can then cause fatal peritonitis.
The most common treatment for pyometra is spaying. When cats are brought to the emergency clinic for pyometra, there’s a large possibility that an emergency spay will ensue. If the cat is completely unstable and very sick when it gets to the clinic, the vet might have to stabilize the cat first with IV fluids and antibiotics. If the cat is too unstable, it might not be able to handle the surgery. While spaying is the most common treatment for pyometra, you should know that pyometra has been observed in spayed cats before. This can happen when spaying is done incorrectly or when it’s done too late in the cat’s age. It’s better to have your cats spayed before the age of six months. If there’s any uterine or ovarian tissue left in the cat’s body at all, there will always remain a chance that the cat will develop pyometra. There’s no way of knowing if this is the case for your cat, so your best defense against pyometra will be to be aware of its symptoms and act appropriately if those symptoms ever present themselves.