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Piometra, Castro-Castalia Bullmastiffs

PierreNodoyUna de Castro-Castalia

The word “pyometra” is derived from two Latin words: “pyo” (pus) and “metra” (uterus); the condition is caused by is abscessed, pus-filled, infected uterus. Toxins and bacteria once they build up in large quantities in a comfortable wet and warm environment as the uterus is, can leak across the uterine walls into the bloodstream causing life-threatening toxic effects (septicaemia). Therefore this is a life threatening condition, since death is inevitable if it is not properly and immediately treated.

Piometra, Castro-Castalia Bullmastiffs

Piometra Cerrada

It usually affects older females although more and more cases are seen to happen in young bitches, a couple of months after their first or second heat.

Often the form of presentation is what we colloquially call “open pyometra”, when the cervix is open and the purulent uterine contents drips out, causing a characteristic ugly smelling vaginal and greenish looking discharge to occur (many people will describe the smell as that of rotten fish). This form of “pyo” can be successfully treated with prostaglandins in many cases, although it can sometimes repeat after upcoming heats.

But there is another, more dangerous, form of pyo, which is often called “closed pyometra”, where there shall be no vaginal discharge and the clinical presentation is more difficult to diagnose. The affected females tend to be sicker than those with “open pyo” due to retention of the toxic uterine contents. And these cases can only be resolved by means of immediate surgery to remove the swollen uterine body and the ovaries, in what is called an ovariohysterectomy.

It must be outlined that after each heat cycle, the uterine tissue becomes thicker, whether there is a pregnancy or not and, eventually, when the uterine lining engorgement is persistent or excessive (a condition called “cystic endometrial hyperplasia”), or when the female body overreacts to its own sexual hormones, the lush glandular tissue can be prone to infection. Why does this happen? Because during a few days in the cycle, when the female is ovulating and ready for conception, the cervix opens wide and this permits the access of bacteria from the vagina, bacteria that would by no other means enter the uterus. These bacteria then remain locked in the uterus, as the cervix closes down again, and multiplies in this particularly comfortable environment (bacteria prefer warmth and a moisture-laden atmosphere such as this).

The main symptoms a female affected with either form of “pyo” are:

Smelly and greenish vaginal discharge (only in some cases)
Low abdominal cavity distension and pain,
Exaggerated salivating,
Exaggerated panting
Incapability to remain seated or to lay down,
Continued vomiting,
Depression and lethargy,
Low appetite
Exaggerated thirst
Rapid heart rate,
High body temperature,
Blueing of the gums and tongue and, ultimately,

One thing Bullmastiff owners must be very much aware of, is the fact that female Bullmastiffs can cope with high amounts of pain without showing any signs of discomfort and therefore most of the above symptoms will not be noticed until the bitch is very sick. It is a real emergency, if you notice one or more of the above symptoms, particularly if these happen from about 30 to about 60 to 75 days after a heat. Please make sure to rush to your Vet as soon as you perceive that something is wrong.

Pyometra proneness is suspected to be hereditary in some bloodlines and families, where females may be more sensible to their own progesterone levels, than others. Therefore it is important that when you are deciding to purchase a female puppy yu discuss this subject with the Breeder, asking for straight and honest answers.

It must be outlined that in most cases, the only possible cure for “pyo” is surgery, with the removal of the uterus (and ovaries) and it is essential that infected uterus contents does not spill out  and  no excess hemorrhage occurs during surgery to avoid the risk of septicaemia (massive blood infection), which would cause death.  Therefore this is a very challenging and dangerous surgery when performed to a “toxic” patient. It is especially important that the ovaries be removed at the same time (please check this with your Vet and make sure that a ovariohysterectomy is performed and not just an hysterectomy!) to ensure that there will be no future hormonal influence from any small stumps of uterus that might be left behind. If any ovary is left, the female will continue to experience heat cycles and will remain vulnerable to recurrence.

Some Vets and Breeders claim that there is an alternative to the removal of the uterus and ovaries in affected bitches, and yes, there is; in the late eighties a treatment protocol became available, to spare a valuable animal’s reproductive capacity.  In these particular cases, special hormones called “prostaglandins” are administered in form of injections, to cause the uterus to contract and expel its pus. Hospitalization may be necessary as some cramping discomfort and pain involved for approximately a week or so. Yet it must be outlined that this treatment is NO option in the event of a “closed” pyometra. It should also be mentioned that recurrence is often a risk in “open pyos”, so the pros and cons of this treatment should be duly evaluated by the Vet and the owner.

My personal advice would be to sterilise (spay) all those female puppies that will not be used for responsible breeding purposes, at the age of approximately eight months, before or after the first heat (depending on each individual case), by means of an ovariohysterectomy (the complete removal of the uterus and the two ovaries). This will not just avoid any further risks but also will ensure that there will not be unwanted pregnancies in the future. Other than this, early spaying is known to be the best prevention for the appearance of various types of tumours and cancer of the reproductive tract in elderly bitches.

Please bear in mind as a responsible owner and one who loves its Bullmastiff female, that early spaying represents the only sure and complete prevention for this condition and therefore it cannot be over-emphasized. All females will highly benefit from spaying at any age, the earlier the better. And the best approach to early spaying is to figure that pyometra will eventually occur if the female pet is left unsprayed: Also please note that any perceived risks of preventive surgery will be far out-weighed by the risk of a closed pyometra!

I may say that I have been fortunate enough not to see many of my females suffer this condition except one time. It happened to one of my females, “Garufa”, when she was four years old; I had taken her to Finland to be mated but because the male was old, an AI (artificial insemination) was chosen and performed by the owner of the stud. Unfortunately and to my disgust, this lady, although a consummated breeder, did not use sterile material to perform the AI. Several weeks later, at the end of gestation, “Garufa” suffered a severe uterine infection and had to undergo urgent surgery to have her uterus (filled with death foetuses) and ovaries removed. She recovered well, thanks to the good veterinarian practice, although she could no longer have puppies. Yet, fortunately, she had produced two previous and gorgeous litters for me, the “A” and “B” CASTRO-CASTALIA litters.

(Original text written by Christina of Lima-Netto and Federico Baudin specifically for this web page and protected with Copyright. Not even whole can be reproduced not partially by any way, without Castro-Castalia's express assent in writing)


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