Vaginitis is a problem that can occur in any female dog, whether she is intact or spayed. It causes itching and painful inflammation of the urogenital tract and requires veterinary treatment. Because vaginitis can be a symptom of external irritating factors or underlying problems, delaying a visit to the vet can make matters worse. Knowing what symptoms to watch for will help owners catch the problem and seek treatment promptly.
What Is Vaginitis in Dogs?
Vaginitis refers to inflammation of a dog's vaginal tissues. Juvenile or puppy vaginitis is seen in intact, young female dogs; adult-onset vaginitis occurs in adult female dogs. Vaginitis can be triggered by several different conditions, external and internal, but the irritating symptoms are always indicative of a problem that requires investigation.
Symptoms of Vaginitis in Dogs
Vaginal redness or swelling can be more difficult to notice in a furry dog, but vaginitis causes behavioral changes that you will likely recognize immediately in any dog.
An inflamed vaginal area is a key indicator that a dog has vaginitis. This symptom can, however, be easily confused with a heat cycle in an intact dog; attentive owners will soon recognize the behavioral differences that indicate discomfort from irritated tissues.
A dog with vaginitis will often lick the surrounding area obsessively or drag her rear end across the floor in an attempt to soothe the itching and burning discomfort. She may also feel the need to urinate more often.
Pus, mucus, and even blood may leak from the dog's vagina—on her fur, the floor, bedding, or furniture where she lays. If a spayed dog, or an intact dog that is not in heat, experiences vaginal discharge, a veterinary visit is necessary to determine the cause.
Causes of Vaginitis
There are a number of things that can cause vaginitis, but they all create conditions in which irritation or bacterial accumulation persist and become problematic. Some of these include:
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Bacterial or fungal infections
- Unsanitary conditions resulting in fecal material near the vaginal opening
- Urinary incontinence creating chronic, irritating moisture
- Birth defects (ectopic ureters or poor conformation of their vulva)
- Vaginal tumors
- Foreign bodies (grass seeds, foxtails, or other plant pieces that enter the vagina)
Diagnosing Vaginitis in Dogs
If you suspect that your dog has vaginitis, your veterinarian will perform a physical examination to initiate diagnosis. A sample of discharge from inside the vagina may be collected using a cotton swab, and then cells from this swab will be smeared on a slide for examination under a microscope. Signs of infection, inflammation, and other abnormalities will be noted. Based on the cytological results, bacterial culture lab tests and a vaginoscopy may be necessary to pin down the definitive cause.
Depending on the severity and cause of the vaginitis in your dog, antibiotics and/or anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed. Regular wiping of the area using a medicated solution may also be necessary.
If your dog has developed vaginitis due to a tumor, foreign body, or congenital defect, surgery may be necessary.
Prognosis for Dogs with Vaginitis
Most cases of vaginitis are not serious and will resolve with antibiotics as long as the cause of irritation is mediated. The prognosis for a dog with vaginitis caused by a tumor is dependent on the size of tumor, whether it is cancerous, and if it can be surgically removed without complication.
How to Prevent Vaginitis in Dogs
The best way to prevent your dog from developing vaginitis is to ensure her vaginal opening is always clean. Dogs with short fur don't usually need a lot of help with this. However, if your dog has long fur, is overweight, or has poor conformation of the rectal and vaginal areas, help may be warranted. If necessary, keep fur trimmed and use a baby wipe after your dog eliminates to remove urine and fecal debris from the vaginal opening.