Pyometra is a dangerous womb infection in unneutered female cats. Pyometra is uncommon in cats, affecting around 2% of unspayed cats (queens) by the time they are 13. However, without treatment, the condition is fatal.
Pyometra means ‘pus in the womb’ (uterus) and it’s a medical emergency. Cats with pyometra need surgery to remove the diseased uterus. But the operation is risky because your cat is so poorly. Surgery is expensive, and the outlook depends on how quickly the condition is identified and treated. The best way to protect your cat against pyometra is to spay (neuter) her.
What is pyometra in cats?
Pyometra happens because of hormone changes after your queen’s season
- Hormones thicken the womb lining
- The womb produces more fluid
- Bacteria get into the womb more easily and infection leads to pus
- Pus in her womb makes your queen very sick
- Infection can spread into the bloodstream, leading to organ failure, including the kidneys and heart
- Sometimes the swollen uterus bursts, and pus escapes into the abdomen.
- Pus in the abdomen (septic peritonitis) becomes life-threatening very rapidly.
Vets describe pyometra as ‘open’ or ‘closed’.
The muscular cervix guarding the entrance to the womb stays tightly closed.
- Pus can’t escape the womb
- No vaginal discharge so no early warning clues
- Greater risk of womb rupture
- Symptoms become more severe more quickly
- Increased risk of sepsis and organ failure
- The outlook is poorer with this form of pyometra, and up to half of affected cats won’t survive.
The cervix is open.
- Pus can drain from the infected womb
- Vaginal discharge and/or licking under the tail provide visible clues
- Earlier diagnosis and treatment is possible
- Good outlook with prompt treatment
It’s a very rare form of pyometra in neutered female cats.
When a queen is neutered, her ovaries are removed. This stops the hormones that lead to pyometra. But a small stump of the womb is always left behind after spaying. And if a tiny piece of ovary also remains in the tummy, it can still produce hormones. This can cause pyometra to develop in the stump of womb tissue. Symptoms are like those seen with the other types of pyometra, but more vague and harder to diagnose.
Symptoms of pyometra in cats
Symptoms of pyometra usually develop up to 4 weeks after your queen’s last heat ends and include:
- Eating less
- Lethargy and weakness
- Swollen, painful tummy
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Drinking more
Open pyometra only:
- Licking under the tail
- Vaginal discharge – bloody, yellow/green or cream/grey- coloured
Which cats are most at risk of pyometra?
Pyometra only affects unneutered females (queens) and is most common in older queens over 10 years old.
Higher risk groups of queens include:
- Certain breeds, including Sphinx, Siamese, Abyssinian, Ragdoll, Maine Coon, and Bengal
- Queens whose seasons have been controlled by steroid hormone injections or tablets
Pyometra does not spread between animals or from animals to humans.
Diagnosis of pyometra in cats
Vets diagnose pyometra based on the following:
- Symptoms in an unneutered queen between her heats (seasons or ‘calling’)
- Ultrasound scan
- Blood tests
How do vets treat pyometra in cats?
Surgery is the only treatment which will permanently cure pyometra
- Stabilizing the symptoms: antibiotic injections and life-saving fluids via a drip into your cat’s leg
- Emergency surgery to remove the diseased womb and ovaries
Antibiotics alone won’t cure pyometra, not even an open or stump pyometra. It’s only going to prolong your cat’s distress, add to the cost, and reduce the likelihood of a positive outcome.
On very rare occasions, queens who are too old or frail for surgery may be treated with a combination of injections to empty the womb and treat the infection. Injections are repeated over several days, and their effects are monitored by ultrasound scans and blood tests. Although this approach can be successful in the short term, recurrence is likely.
Home care for cats treated for pyometra
There are no home remedies for Pyometra. Your cat needs emergency treatment from a vet. Your cat won’t survive without it.
Home care for after pyometra surgery H3
- Keep your cat’s wound clean and dry
- Use a cone collar to prevent licking
- Keep her indoors and confined to a small area until stitches come out
- No jumping on furniture or beds!
How to prevent pyometra in cats
Neutering (spaying) your queen prevents pyometra. Female cats can be spayed from 6 months old.
Spaying your queen when she is young also reduces the risk of injuries and unwanted pregnancies.
When to worry
When to worry about your cat with pyometra
Your cat has had a serious illness and a major operation. She may take some time to recover after surgery.
Call the nearest vet if your cat with pyometra:
- Is still vomiting after surgery
- Is still drinking more after coming home
- Has opened their wound
- Has collapsed
Joii can help with:
- Recognising the symptoms of pyometra
- Advice on neutering your queen
- Caring for wounds
- Monitoring recovery