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What is Vaginitis in Dogs?
Vaginitis is inflammation of the vagina that may cause redness, swelling, and discharge. In puppies, it is usually a harmless condition that resolves on its own after its estrus (heat cycle), but older dogs usually need treatment.
Symptoms of Vaginitis in Dogs
Many dogs will not show any signs or the symptoms may be intermittent. If your dog does exhibit symptoms, they may include:
Discharge from the vulva (typically cloudy and white to yellow in color)
Licking the vulva
Attraction of males
Frequent urination/attempted urination
Irritation of the skin around the vulva (from excessive licking)
Dogs with vaginitis typically do not appear sick and will appear playful and happy, despite exhibiting one of the above symptoms.
If you notice additional symptoms, like lethargy (tiredness), weakness, inappetence, or vomiting, please contact your local animal hospital immediately as these could be signs that a more serious issue is occurring.
Causes of Vaginitis in Dogs
Anything that causes inflammation, irritation, or a moist environment can cause vaginitis. Most of the time, vaginitis is caused by a bacterial infection and bacteria tend to thrive in regions where there is warmth and moisture (such as the urogenital tract). Other possible causes include:
A structural abnormality of the vulva (such as a hooded vulva that is hidden or recessed by surrounding skin) or urinary tract that makes it easier for bacterial infections to thrive
Viral infection, such as Canine Herpesvirus
Foreign material in the vagina, like dust or dirt
Medications, such as hormone altering/producing steroids, creams, etc.
Certain conditions that cause sex hormones to be imbalanced
How Veterinarians Diagnose Vaginitis in Dogs
If your dog has discharge from the vulva or any additional symptoms, your veterinarian will need to determine whether simple vaginitis is the root cause or if there’s an underlying problem (such as an infection or urinary tract abnormality) that needs addressing. This can be determined by a physical examination.
The veterinarian will examine the vulvar area for signs of estrus and infection. He or she may also take a sample of the discharge and analyze it under a microscope to determine if a bacterial infection is present. Your veterinarian may also recommend blood work to rule out more serious conditions, or an imaging test (like an X-ray or ultrasound) to examine the urinary tract.
In some cases, more advanced diagnostics such as a vaginoscopy (a procedure where a small scope with a camera is used to examine the inside of the genital tract) may be required. Your veterinarian may also elect to collect a sample of any discharge present to culture any abnormal bacteria, or collect a sample of any abnormal looking tissue to have a pathologist evaluate the sampled area.
Treatment of Vaginitis in Dogs
The best way to treat vaginitis in dogs depends on the severity and underlying cause (if one is known/present). In some instances, such as with puppies that haven’t yet gone through puberty, the condition usually resolves on its own, though you can help by keeping the skin around her vulva clean and dry by using wet, unscented baby wipes after your dog has been playing outside or after it has urinated.
In more severe cases, antibiotics or surgery may be required. Antibiotics are often prescribed when bacterial infections are in the vulva, vagina, or urinary tract. If an anatomical problem is to blame, your dog might need surgery to correct it and prevent future episodes of vaginitis.
Recovery and Management of Vaginitis in Dogs
An episode of vaginitis may last days to months depending on the cause. In puppies, this problem will often resolve at after their first heat cycle, but that is not always the case. If a structural abnormality is present, your puppy may be susceptible to recurrence and flare ups. Knowing whether your pet has a hooded/inverted vulva will help you determine if your pet is at an increased risk. Keeping the area around her vulva area clean and dry should help, as should preventing your dog from licking the area by having her wear a recovery cone or e-collar.
Vaginitis in Dogs FAQs
Will dog vaginitis clear up on its own?
Uncomplicated puppy vaginitis can resolve on its own, within a few weeks to months or faster with good hygiene care. However, sometimes what seems like vaginitis is really a more serious condition, so always schedule an appointment with your veterinarian and get the issue checked.
Does vaginitis hurt a dog?
It can be irritating and uncomfortable, and frequent licking/chewing of the area may make matters worse. If you notice any swelling, irritation, or signs of discomfort, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Memon, Mushtaq. Merck Veterinary Manual. Vaginitis in Small Animals-Reproductive System. November 2013.
Lundgren, Becky. Veterinary Partner. Vaginitis in Puppies. December 2006.
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