What Is Pyometra In Dachshunds?

dachshund female pyometra

Do you have a female dachshund and want to learn more about pyometra? Are you trying to find out how to prevent a pyometra infection from happening? Here’s everything you need to know about female dachshunds and pyometra.

What Is Pyometra In Dachshunds? A pyometra is a bacterial infection that develops inside the womb (or uterus) of an intact female dachshund that hasn’t yet been spayed. While older dachshunds are at greatest risk, pyometra has been reported in dogs as young as four months and as old as 16 years.

Read on to find out why dachshunds get pyometra, what the signs and symptoms to look out for are, how to prevent it from happening and what treatment options are available.

This article is based on research and personal experience as a Dachshund owner of 10+ years. I’m not a Vet, qualified dog trainer or dog behaviourist.

What Causes Pyometra In Dachshunds?

Pyometra can be caused by one or a combination of different things. One of the leading causes comes from the higher level of progesterone, following the end of a female dachshund’s heat cycle.

This increase in progesterone can carry on for up to two months, and causes the lining of the uterus to thicken, ready for a pregnancy. But, if your dachshund has several seasons without becoming pregnant, that lining continues to get thicker.

Cysts can then start to form within the tissues of the uterus, causing a condition called cystic endometrial hyperplasia. In turn, the now very thickened lining begins to secrete fluids. 

Now, when a dachshund is in season, their cervix relaxes to allow sperm to enter the uterus, but this also provides access to bacteria. Usually, the bacteria would die very quickly, but when the uterine wall has become thickened, or cysts have developed, it creates the perfect environment for the bacteria to grow.

White blood cells would normally come into action at this point and, in their role as immunity defenders, they’d eliminate the bacteria. This would then prevent the infection from developing.

However, when a female dachshund is in the mating stage of her heat cycle, white blood cells, are prevented from entering the uterus. This has to happen, as otherwise, they’d damage or destroy the sperm as it entered the female’s reproductive system. 

Another issue is that the dachshund’s uterus is now unable to contract effectively due to the thickened uterine wall and high levels of progesterone. This then means the bacteria and fluids that have begun to accumulate can’t be expelled from the body.

So, now there’s a combination of bacteria growth, no white blood cells, and the inability of the uterus to contract effectively. The situation that this creates leads to the life-threatening infection, pyometra.

When Are Dachshunds Most At Risk Of Pyometra?

Female dachshunds are most at risk of a pyometra infection between two and eight weeks after their last season. The risk for intact females increases with every heat cycle.

Treatment usually requires emergency surgery to remove the womb. And, the sooner the dachshund is treated, the better their chance of survival and recovery. 

Dachshund female in heat

Are Dachshunds At High Risk Of Pyometra?

Dachshunds seem to have a slightly lower risk of pyometra compared to other dog breeds. However, this is one of the most serious and life-threatening conditions for ANY female dog. That means it’s essential you’re aware of the signs to look out for and know when to take action to get treatment. 

How Can I Tell If My Dachshund Has Pyometra?

There are two different scenarios for pyometra.

Open Cervix Pyometra

The first scenario is when the cervix is open, which allows the pus to leave the uterus through the vagina to the outside.

In this case, you’ll see the pus discharge on your dachshund’s skin or hair under the tail. It’s also likely you’ll see pus on their bedding or furniture or anywhere they’ve recently been laying. 

They may also show the following signs but do remember they’re not always present:

  • Fever
  • Little energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Grayish colored gums
  • Increased need to drink water

Closed Cervix Pyometra

The second scenario is when the cervix is closed. This then means that, even though the pus is forming, it’s not able to drain to the outside. As a result, the infection collects in the uterus and causes your dachshund’s stomach to swell.

In this situation, your dachshund will become seriously ill very quickly. Bacteria in the uterus will begin to release toxins, which then enter the bloodstream, and this can affect the ability of the kidneys to retain fluid. This makes your dachshund want to wee more often.

Additional signs which might be present include:

  • Increased need to drink water
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Little energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression

In either scenario, you MUST contact your vet immediately. Any delay in treatment could be fatal for your dachshund.

How Do You Treat Pyometra In Dachshunds?

Emergency veterinary care is needed to treat pyometra in female dachshunds. This is a situation where even a slight delay or a ‘wait till the morning’ type approach, could be disastrous.

Once at the vet’s, they’ll ask when your dachshund’s last season was, whether she’s been cleaning herself more often around her vulva (lady bits), and how she’s been acting recently.

Then, they’ll examine her abdomen to check for swelling, and may also take a blood sample. It’s likely they’ll also do an ultrasound examination or x-ray to see if the uterus is enlarged. If pyometra is thought to be a possibility, the usual approach is to operate as soon as possible.

During the surgery, the vet will remove the uterus and ovaries. This is basically the same procedure as when a female dachshund is spayed. If the pyometra has been caught early, then the surgery is only a little more complicated than a routine spay.

However, many dachshunds are only diagnosed once they’re already quite ill, and may show signs of going into shock. This means they could need intravenous fluids and pain killers before the surgery takes place. 

After surgery, antibiotics are usually given for two weeks, and then a post-op check is carried out. Just to make sure your dachshund’s recovery is going to plan and the wound site is healing nicely. 

In some cases, the vet may decide to give your dachshund a pill that’s usually used for cases of accidental matings and where it’s essential to end a pregnancy. This medication causes the pus to drain from the infected uterus and makes the operation a safer procedure.

Dachshund at the vets with a suspected pyometra infection
Dachshund at the vets with a suspected pyometra infection

Are There Medications To Treat Pyometra?

There could also be some situations where surgery isn’t the best option, maybe for a very elderly dachshund for example. So, sometimes hormones called prostaglandins are used. These can cause the cervix to open and relax and the uterus to contract. This then means that the bacteria and pus can leave the body.

It should be said though that a non-surgery option has a very variable success rate, and can result in long-term problems. If the treatment isn’t successful, it only leaves the surgery option. This would then carry a much higher risk due to the delay in time.

Can You Prevent Pyometra In Dachshunds?

The best way to prevent pyometra in female dachshunds is to spay them. Spaying removes nearly all the possibilities of pyometra so is the best option.

However, spaying a female dachshund before she’s physically mature could cause other health problems. One in four dachshunds are prone to Intervertebral Disc Disease and spaying too young is said to increase that risk.

This means your dachshund could go through one or two heat cycles before being spayed and, with each heat cycle, the risk of pyometra is increased. The best thing you can do is speak to your vet for advice on this.

Can Spayed Dachshunds Get Pyometra?

Yes, although rare, if any of the tissue from your dachshund’s reproductive system is left behind during her spay procedure, pyometra can still happen. So, be aware of the signs and speak to your vet if you have any concerns.

Do Hormone Medications Increase The Risk Of Pyometra?

Some drugs which contain estrogen or progesterone may increase the risk of pyometra. So, if your dachshund is prescribed these kinds of meds, they’ll need to be carefully monitored for any signs of problems.

What If I Think My Dachshund Has Pyometra?

If you have even the slightest concern your Dachshund has pyometra, it’s essential you contact your vet right away.

It can’t be stressed strongly enough how serious and life-threatening this condition is. Any delay on the treatment of a pyometra infection can have a huge impact on the ability of the vet to save your dachshund’s life.

So, there you have it. Around one in four older dogs will suffer from pyometra which, for such a serious condition, is a very high proportion of female dogs. So, if your dachshund is showing ANY signs of this deadly infection, even if spayed, it’s essential to seek immediate veterinary attention.  

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What is Pyometra in Dachshunds
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