Pyometra is an infection of the female cat’s reproductive system, specifically in the uterus. Bacteria infects the uterus and can cause life-threatening symptoms.
In most diagnosed cases of pyometra, the cat’s owner can be a bit baffled as to how an infection occurred, especially if their cat has never had a litter of kittens, or never even mated. But that’s the thing about pyometra, it’s actually tied to the cat’s estrus cycles (similar to a woman’s menstrual cycle), particularly in older cats that have never been pregnant.
What causes pyometra in cats?
In short, hormonal imbalances in the uterus are the cause of pyometra in cats.
With every estrus cycle the cat’s progesterone hormone levels increase to prepare the uterus for pregnancy by stimulating growth of the uterine lining. If pregnancy does not occur, the uterine lining will continue to thicken with each cycle until cysts begin to form, a condition known as cystic endometrial hyperplasia.
It’s these cysts that secrete a fluid that allows bacteria to grow and ultimately become pyometra. The infection usually occurs two to eight weeks after the last cycle.
Veterinarians have also noted that white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting off infections, often have trouble entering the uterus during the estrus cycle. This is because white blood cells have the potential to damage sperm that may enter the uterus during this crucial reproductive time, so in response the cervix constricts.
Drugs containing both progesterone and estrogen, whether synthetic or natural, can also affect hormone levels in the uterus, in turn leading to pyometra.
What are the most common symptoms of pyometra in cats that I should be looking for?
Symptoms of pyometra will vary depending on whether or not the cat’s cervix has constricted and closed or remained open. It may also take a few days to a few months for symptoms to appear.
What is the best treatment for pyometra in cats?
After the vet performs a physical examination, x-rays to determine if the uterus is enlarged, and runs a series of blood tests, they will be able to determine if your cat is suffering from pyometra. Surgery is the most common and effective treatment for pyometra in cats. As with a regular spaying procedure, the uterus and ovaries will be removed.
The earlier a cat is diagnosed and the surgery performed, the more successful the recovery will be. During recovery, the cat will need to take oral antibiotics for about two weeks.
If pyometra is not treated the infection can be fatal. The uterus can rupture, the kidneys can fail, internal organs can become damaged, and blood poisoning may occur. Medical treatment is always necessary for pyometra.
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