This is NOT my bitch, but a bitch that belongs to a good friend and fellow Basenji breeder….
This story, while it has so far a happy ending as this girl is home and doing well, it is a wake up call for anyone with an intact bitch and another reason to consider spaying. She did also need a blood transfusion before the surgery and the uterus ruptured. Note that there is nothing that can be done to prevent Pyrometra either, it just happens....
Pass along with permission:
"My bitch, Della, is at the emergency clinic right now and will undergo spay surgery in the next hour or so. Thankfully, this save her life, but, of course, end any idea of her being my next brood bitch. The reason I write this is to remind everyone of how pyrometra can literally sneak up on us.
Last night Della acted completely normal. She ate her supper with her usually voracity, interacted with the other dogs, appeared to be just fine. The only thing that niggled in my head last night before the dogs' bedtime was that Della sure spent a lot of time at the water bowl, almost inhaling copious amounts of water.
This morning, the story changed dramatically. Della's temperature was 104.4; her heart rate was beyond counting and her chest literally pounded; she was dehydrated; and her abdomen was distended. My just touching her tummy caused her to cringe in pain.
This was a no-brainer to run, not walk, to the emergency clinic and I was almost certain we were probably dealing with a case of closed pyrometra. Yet, on the drive over and as I sat in the exam room waiting wait for the vet, my mind traveled over any other possibilities. Nope, nothing popped into my head that could cover the extent of her symptoms.
Ultrasound revealed large areas of infection in the uterus leaving only one option for Della and that was to have the uterus removed. Toxicity, by this time, was very high, and because of this, Della also faced the risk that her blood might have a poor clotting rate, or even worse, no clot rate. If that was the case, then even surgery might not be possible.
The good news is that the blood and chem panel showed that Della was at minimal risk for surgery. While she did have a lower than normal platelet count, but her odds for survival were now much higher. In all likelihood, she will recover nicely.
A few days prior to these dramatic symptoms, Della's behavior did change but it was very a subtle and nothing that made me think she was in any danger. So, I sure don't have any pearls of wisdom that I can share to alert any other breeders to notice early signs of pyrometra. My observations now are only hindsight.
I can only suggest that after a bitch's heat cycle (as was Della's case) pay particular attention to any changes in behavior that might suggest she is somewhat withdrawn, or a bit more on the quiet side, or doesn't play with the other dogs in the house to normal the extent. It might not mean that she is contemplating motherhood as I thought was the case with Della. It could very well mean something is seriously happening that could be life-threatening.
Bitches that encounter open pyrometra have more and better options. A discharge is a clear indicator. Close pyrometra is much more insidious. It strikes without almost any visible symptoms until it is nearly too late. For Della, a few hours one way or the other, literally meant life or death."