What Is Vaginal Discharge in Dogs?
Vaginal discharge in female dogs can be clear, bloody and viscous, or a thick yellow or white fluid. For your veterinarian to treat your dog’s vaginal discharge effectively, they need to make an accurate diagnosis.
Heat-related discharge is a common and messy issue for pet parents of unspayed female dogs. Aside from this situation, vaginal discharge is not very common in pups. Pet parents may use doggy diapers if needed.
Several serious health issues can cause your dog to develop vaginal discharge. For this reason, it’s important for your vet to evaluate your pup’s condition to ensure your dog gets the treatment she needs.
Symptoms of Vaginal Discharge in Dogs
A female dog can have vaginal discharge whether she is spayed or unspayed. In addition to discharge, a dog with a vaginal or vulvar condition may exhibit the following signs:
Licking the perineal region
Vulvar swelling or redness
Causes of Vaginal Discharge in Dogs
Vaginal discharge in dogs can be caused by numerous factors, including:
The heat cycle—Unspayed female dogs go into heat approximately every six months and often have a bloody discharge from their vulva during this time.
Pyometra—Pyometra is a uterine infection that commonly affects older unspayed female dogs. Although the condition is rare, a spayed female dog can also develop pyometra if uterine remnants are left behind during her spay procedure. The vaginal discharge associated with pyometra typically emits a foul-smelling odor that may be fish-like. Pyometra can be fatal and is considered a veterinary emergency.
Vaginitis—Vaginal inflammation can occur in female puppies and adult dogs. Vaginitis can affect spayed or unspayed females, but the condition is more common in those that are spayed.
Urinary tract infection (UTI)—Some dogs who have a UTI will have a vulvar discharge.
Vaginal trauma—Trauma to the vaginal area, which can occur during mating, can lead to a discharge.
Brucellosis—Brucellosis is a bacterial infection that often causes a persistent vaginal discharge. The infection is zoonotic, which means it can be transmitted to people.
Foreign body—A foreign body lodged inside the vagina, such as a wild grass bristle, can lead to a vaginal discharge.
Pregnancy loss—Dogs who experience pregnancy loss typically exhibit vaginal discharge that may be brown, green, black, or yellow and have a foul odor.
Retained placenta—If a dog does not pass the placenta when birthing puppies, the retained tissue can lead to a vaginal discharge.
Tumor—Uterine or vaginal tumors can cause a discharge.
How Veterinarians Diagnose Vaginal Discharge in Dogs
To effectively treat your pup, your veterinarian will need to determine the cause of your dog's vaginal discharge.
In addition to getting a detailed health history from you about your pup and performing a thorough physical exam, your vet may recommend the following diagnostic tests:
- Bloodwork—A complete blood count (CBC) and biochemistry profile assess your dog’s overall health and can detect infection. Additional blood testing may be recommended if your veterinarian suspects your dog has brucellosis.
- Urinalysis and urine culture—A urinalysis can detect a UTI. If indicated, a urine culture can help identify the cause.
- Vaginal cytology and culture—Vaginal cytology can help determine if the cells in the area are abnormal and if infection is present. A culture can identify the cause, so your veterinarian can prescribe treatment that effectively targets the pathogen.
- X-rays—X-rays may be necessary to evaluate the internal organs and detect abnormalities that may cause the vaginal discharge.
- Ultrasound—Ultrasound is a noninvasive imaging technique that helps your veterinarian assess your dog’s uterus and surrounding structures.
Treatment of Vaginal Discharge in Dogs
Some causes of vaginal discharge in dogs are life-threatening, but many others are less dire. Depending on the cause of your dog’s vaginal discharge, her treatment may include:
Surgery—Your veterinarian may surgically remove your dog’s ovaries and infected uterus if your pup has pyometra. Surgery may also be necessary to remove a retained placenta or fetus. In addition, dogs who have vulvar fold dermatitis can benefit from surgery to remove the extra skinfolds in the area.
Antibiotics—For a dog with a UTI or vaginal infection, oral antibiotics may be necessary. Your veterinarian will also prescribe antibiotics if your pup has brucellosis, though no treatment completely eliminates the bacteria.
Vaginal douches—If your dog has vaginitis, your vet may prescribe a dilute chlorhexidine or povidone-iodine solution for vaginal douching.
Recovery and Management of Vaginal Discharge in Dogs
Your dog’s recovery depends on the cause of her vaginal discharge. Recovery for specific issues can include:
Pyometra—If treated before the condition becomes severe, most dogs recover well after an ovariohysterectomy (removal of uterus and ovaries). However, if your dog is left unspayed, the condition will likely recur.
Juvenile vaginitis—Most cases affecting puppies will resolve on their own without treatment.
Adult-onset vaginitis—With appropriate treatment, most cases resolve in two to three weeks. Dog diapers can help keep your dog clean until the vaginal discharge resolves.
Vulvar fold dermatitis—In cases of vulvar fold dermatitis, the condition commonly recurs if treated topically only. However, for dogs who undergo surgery to remove excess skinfolds, the prognosis is excellent after the surgery sites heal. A dog who has had skinfold surgery should wear a recovery collar to help prevent them from licking the area.
Prevention of Vaginal Discharge in Dogs
While some vaginal discharge causes are unpreventable, having your female dog spayed significantly reduces the risk of pyometra. It also helps your pup avoid experiencing retained placenta and pregnancy loss.
Vaginal Discharge in Dogs FAQs
Is it normal for a female dog to have vaginal discharge?
Unspayed female dogs typically experience a bloody vaginal discharge when they are in heat. However, unless you are certain your dog’s discharge is caused by their heat cycle, you should speak with your vet.
What are the early signs of pyometra in dogs?
What does it mean if my female dog has discharge after urination?
If your dog has vulvar discharge after urination, you should consult with your vet because your pup may have a UTI, vaginitis, or another condition that requires medical treatment.
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