Vaginitis is a problem that can be seen in any female dog, even if it is spayed. This issue has a number of causes so pet owners should be aware of its signs and symptoms.
Delaying treatment for vaginitis in dogs may make an underlying issue worse, so it's important for pet owners to seek veterinary attention if they suspect their dog has a problem.
What Is Vaginitis in Dogs?
The vagina is part of a female's reproductive tract and vaginitis is the inflammation of this organ. Juvenile or puppy vaginitis is seen in intact, young female dogs while adult-onset vaginitis is more commonly seen in spayed, adult, female dogs.
Signs of Vaginitis in Dogs
Vaginitis can be more difficult to notice in a furry dog but the signs of this problem are usually easy to see if you are vigilant
- Inflamed/swollen vaginal area
- Increased urination
- Excessive licking of the vaginal area
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
An inflamed vaginal area is a key indicator that a dog has vaginitis. This symptom, along with vaginal swelling, can be easily confused with a heat cycle in an intact dog. The surrounding area may also be inflamed and swollen due to the excessive licking that your dog is doing. This is in an attempt to clean any discharge and soothe the discomfort. This excessive cleaning may also be seen in a dog with pyometra, a urinary tract infection, or that is in heat.
Pus, mucus, and even blood can be seen coming from the vagina, on your dog's fur, or on the floor, bedding, or furniture where your dog lies.
Finally, a dog with vaginitis may feel the need to urinate more often so may be asking to go outside on a more frequent basis.
Causes of Vaginitis in Dogs
There are a number of things that can cause vaginitis in a female dog. Some of these include:
- Urinary tract infection (UTI) - A UTI occurs when bacteria enters the urinary tract. This infection results in inflammation that can occur in the vagina.
- Unsanitary conditions - If your dog's anal and vaginal areas are not kept clean, urine and feces can build up and cause vaginitis. Regular grooming of the fur in these areas and even wiping the area with a baby wipe after your dog eliminates can help prevent this from occurring.
- Urinary incontinence - Dogs with urinary incontinence dribble urine so it is difficult to keep their vaginal area clean and dry. This can lead to the development of vaginitis.
- Birth defects - Some dogs are born with ectopic ureters or poor conformation of their vulva which contributes to vaginitis.
- Vaginal tumors - A tumor in the vulva or vagina can lead to vaginitis.
- Trauma - If a dog's vaginal area is injured, this area can become inflamed and develop vaginitis.
- Foreign bodies - Occasionally small items like grass seeds, foxtails, or other plant pieces can lodge themselves into the vaginal opening. This may result in vaginitis due to the irritation these items cause.
Diagnosing Vaginitis in Dogs
If you suspect your dog has vaginitis, a veterinarian should perform a physical examination of your pet. A sample of any discharge from inside the vagina may be collected using a cotton swab. Cells from this swab will be smeared on a slide to be examined under a microscope. Signs of infection, inflammation, and other abnormalities will be looked for. If further tests need to be run based on the results of the cytology, these may include bacterial cultures and a vaginoscopy.
Depending on the severity and cause of the vaginitis in your dog, antibiotics may be prescribed alongside other drugs. 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 defect, surgery may be necessary, but most cases of vaginitis are not serious and resolve with less invasive treatment.
How to Prevent Vaginitis in Dogs
The best way to prevent your dog from developing vaginitis is to ensure its 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.
Keep fur trimmed and use a baby wipe after your dog eliminates to remove urine and fecal debris from the vaginal opening.
Johnson CA. Diagnosis and treatment of chronic vaginitis in the bitch. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 1991;21(3):523-531.