Unspayed Pets Susceptible to Potentially Fatal Infections, Massive Swelling

January 14, 2015

At the ASPCA, we encourage all pet parents to spay/neuter their pets. There are so many benefits associated with these procedures, but many pet parents may not be aware that it can be dangerous to not spay their pets until it’s almost too late.

One day last spring, Sandra R. noticed that her eight-year-old cat, Petra, wasn’t eating. Her belly distended, she vomited and was lethargic—far from her normal self. Sandra decided to bring Petra to the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH).

Petra was suffering from a pyometra, an infection of the uterus that that can be fatal in cats and dogs.  Pyometra usually occurs in older females, with about 25 percent of them suffering from pyometra before the age of 10. Radiographs showed Petra’s distended belly containing a greatly enlarged uterus filled with pus. Once removed by Dr. Maren Krafchik, the uterus weighed almost three lbs.—a third of Petra’s total weight. Fortunately, Petra has since made a full recovery.

Dogs are equally susceptible to pyometra infection.  Gershon C., a retired sanitation worker who lives in Queens, took notice when his 10-year-old Rottweiler, Princess, had not eaten for several days and was drinking water excessively.

He brought her to the ASPCA, where veterinarian Dr. Marisa Altieri suspected a pyometra.  Her diagnosis was spot on, and an ultrasound showed that Princess’s uterus had ruptured in two places. Dr. Altieri set about surgery immediately, removing the uterus, which weighed 20 lbs.

Princess underwent treatment for a pyometra infection at the ASPCA Animal Hospital.

While pyometra is preventable, it is one of the most common maladies treated at AAH. Our veterinarians performed 145 surgeries to remove pyometras in 2014 alone—nearly three per week.  

It’s best to spay a pet before she goes into heat; around four months of age is ideal. If your unspayed female shows signs of lethargy, poor appetite, excessive water drinking, vaginal discharge, excessive urination, pale mucous membranes (gum color), vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, or abdominal enlargement, take her to a veterinarian immediately.

To learn more about the health benefits of spaying or neutering your pet, please visit our Pet Care section.

Petra has made a full recovery since her surgery.