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The only reason to keep a female dog intact is if you intend to breed her. And unless you have something very special to offer to the gene pool, there is no reason for you to keep your dog intact, and plenty of reasons to have her spayed. For one thing, if your female is spayed, you won’t have to worry about every dog in the neighborhood coming around when she is in heat. Second, you won’t have her dripping blood all over your house or apartment for about a week out of every six months. And finally, if you have your female dog spayed, you will never have to worry about pyometra.
Pyometra is an infection of the uterus. And unless you are planning on breeding your dog, she does not need a uterus. It is simply a holding facility for puppies, and if you are not planning on puppies, it is a kindness to your dog to have the uterus removed – in other words, to have her spayed.
There are a lot of misconceptions out there about breeding dogs. For instance, “My dog will have a better life if she has one litter before she is spayed.” No. Your dog does not need to have a litter. “My child should see the miracle of birth.” No. Show her a video if you have to. “My dog will get cancer if she doesn’t have a litter.” No, no, no. There is no medical evidence to suggest such a thing. “My dog will be calmer if she has a litter.” Again, no. Your dog will be calmer if she is spayed before she has a litter. “I can make money selling puppies.” Well, yes, if you are a professional breeder. But if you are a backyard breeder, selling unregistered stock, you will only make money if you skimp on the essentials, like having your litter get their first shots. You don’t really want to be known as a backyard breeder, do you? And don’t even get me started on what I think of dog owners who want to use their animals to make money in the first place.
Pyometra is caused by hormonal changes. When your dog comes into heat, her hormone levels change to prepare her for pregnancy. She secretes a hormone known as progesterone. If she does not become pregnant, and continues to go through heats, then the increased progesterone will cause the lining of the uterus to thicken until cysts form. These cysts leak fluid, creating an environment that is perfect for bacterial growth. Ergo, infection.
Bacteria enter the uterus by way of the cervix, which is closed until your dog comes into heat. When the cervix opens, the bacteria that typically occupy the vagina make their way up to the uterus. In a normal uterus (i.e. one that is ready to receive semen and carry puppies), the bacteria will not survive. But if the uterine walls are thickened due to repeated heats where no breeding has occurred, the bacteria can grow. Then, the uterine muscles will weaken due to the infection, and they will not contract properly. The bacteria cannot be expelled, and the dog becomes ill.
Pyometra can occur in young dogs, or middle-aged dogs, but it is most common in older dogs who have had years of heats without breeding. Most commonly, pyometra manifests as an extended heat. In short, your dog comes into heat and does not appear to be coming out of heat. She continues to bleed. Ultimately, she will become sluggish. As the condition advances, she may expel pus from her vulva. If she cannot expel the pus, her abdomen will become distended due to a buildup of toxins. She may vomit or develop diarrhea.
If your dog develops pyometra, she must be treated immediately. This is a very serious infection, and cannot be treated with antibiotics. You need to take your dog to the vet immediately. The vet will spay your dog – in other words, remove her ovaries and uterus. She may also need intravenous fluids prior to and following the surgery, and may need a course of antibiotics following the surgery.
I cannot overstate this – if your dog has pyometra, and it is not treated, your dog will die. There is no other outcome.
Pyometra, though, is not a typical infection, and it invariably requires veterinary intervention. Without veterinary assistance, there is not going to be a good outcome. And as is the case with most diseases that can affect your dog, prevention is far better than the cure. So unless you are breeding a valuable animal, why take the chance? Have your dog spayed. It is, quite simply, the best way to prevent pyometra and ensure that your dog will be able to be a good companion to you for many years to come.