What are Uterine Infection and Pus?

There are two types of uterine infections with pus in ferrets: open and closed. An open pyometra is characterized by the cervix of the ferret remaining open, allowing pus to flow and appear as vaginal discharge. In a closed pyometra, the ferret’s cervix will remain closed and the pus will build up inside the uterus, as it is not allowed to drain from outside the body. A closed pyometra is especially dangerous because the buildup of infection can cause the uterine organs to rupture, exposing all surrounding organs to the infection. The preferred treatment option for a pyometra is an ovariohysterectomy, also known as a spay, characterized by the removal of the ovaries and the uterus. 

Uterine infection and pus in ferrets is otherwise known as pyometra in the world of veterinary medicine. A case of pyometra is a potentially fatal illness for a ferret that warrants a considerable amount of professional attention, as this condition progresses rather quickly. The literal translation of the word pyometra is uterine pus, which means that the uterus of the female ferret has become infected. A jill (female ferret) can develop this infection due to bacteria entering the cervix, vaginal or vulva infections, and as the result of hormone changes during oestrus. Pyometra can also be a secondary infection due to an immunosuppression disease, as any bacteria entering the cervix would not be terminated. Common bacteria found in pyometra cases include; Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus sp, Streptococcus sp. and Corynebacterium sp.

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Symptoms of Uterine Infection and Pus in Ferrets

The symptoms associated with uterine infection and pus in ferrets depend on whether the female is affected by an open or closed pyometra. If the ferret has open pyometra, then the cervix will be open and allow pus to drain from the uterus. In this case, a ferret owner will notice a great deal of white to yellow colored vaginal discharge. If the female has acquired a closed pyometra, the cervix will be closed and pus cannot freely drain from the uterus. In this case, the ferret will appear ill as bacterial toxins enter the bloodstream and the female will fade very quickly. A pet owner may suspect their ferret is affected by either a closed or open pyometra if she is displaying the following symptoms: 

  • Distended abdomen 
  • Polydipsia (abnormal increase in thirst) 
  • Polyuria (increased frequency in urination) 
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Anorexia
  • Fever
  • Vomiting 

Causes of Uterine Infection and Pus in Ferrets

Pyometra in ferrets can be the result of bacteria entering the cervix, which can be caused by mating or poor hygiene practices. Common bacteria found in Pyometra cases include; Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus sp, Streptococcus sp. and Corynebacterium sp. Vaginal or vulvar infections can also be the underlying cause of a ferret pyometra, which are common during the female’s hormonal cycle. Immunosuppressant disease has also been linked to uterine infections, as the primary illness causing the immune system to decrease its defenses, allows bacteria to infect the uterus. 

Diagnosis of Uterine Infection and Pus in Ferrets

A veterinarian will use a number of methods to arrive at a diagnosis of pyometra, including:

Blood Test

A complete blood cell count will be conducted in order to evaluate the suppression of bone marrow related to hypoestrogenism (an abnormally elevated secretion of the hormone estrogen). This same blood test may reveal an elevated white blood cells count paired with neutrophilia. 

Vaginal Cytology

A test used to differentiate vulvar swelling from the associated oestrus. This test usually requires a small sample of vaginal cells, swabbed from the inside of the vagina to view under a microscope. 

Palpate

A swollen or enlarged uterus can be felt in the abdomen in the case of a closed pyometra. 

Imaging

Ultrasonography and radiographs of the abdomen can reveal an enlarged tubular swelling that is the uterine horns, dorsal to the bladder. 

Treatment of Uterine Infection and Pus in Ferrets

A uterine infection with pus in ferret is a very serious condition, so treatment should begin promptly. The veterinarian will begin treating the ferret for dehydration brought on by the fever with intravenous fluids. This therapy of fluids will also treat any electrolyte imbalances the ferret might have and hypoglycemia (decreased levels of glucose). A broad spectrum antibiotic is also infused to the ferret at a high induction rate before further treatment is sought. 

In cases of an open pyometra, the ferret may not require surgery but a closed pyometra almost always requires surgical intervention. A ferret with a closed pyometra or a returning case of uterine infection will require an ovariohysterectomy. In this surgical procedure, the veterinarian will completely remove the ovaries and the uterus. 

Recovery of Uterine Infection and Pus in Ferrets

Ferrets that have been treated for a uterine infection and pus surgically have the best prognosis. If the reproductive organs have been removed, this both treats the condition and prevents the ferret from ever being affected by pyometra again.