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5 Serious Symptoms of Vaginitis in Dogs You Should Know

by: Susana Johnson, CVT

Our dogs are faithful companions and we love them like family. So when we notice unusual behavior we might suspect that something is wrong. If your dog has been urinating more often, licking the vulva area frequently, or scooting across the floor, she may have vaginitis.

Vaginitis can occur in puppies and adult dogs. Juvenile canine vaginitis, which occurs in dogs between 6 and 18 months of age, is less complicated than adult-onset vaginitis.

This article covers everything you need to know about vaginitis in dogs. You’ll learn what causes the condition, common signs of vaginitis in dogs, and treatment options.

Worried about your dog? This post will set your mind at ease. By the end of the post you’ll come away with useful tips that you can start using today.

Canine Adult Vaginitis

Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina. It is caused by a number of things (noted below) and can occur in puppies who have not yet reached puberty and in adult dogs. The two types are broken down below.

This type is more common in spayed dogs than intact bitches. Any breed of dog can contract vaginitis. Unfortunately, it is less likely to resolve on its own.

Causes of Canine Adult Vaginitis

Bacterial infection is the most common cause of vaginitis in dogs. It may be caused by normally occurring bacteria that is overgrowing or from contamination (such as fecal material) by outside bacteria.

The three most common bacterium responsible for vaginitis in dogs include:

  • Escherichia coli
  • Streptococcus
  • Staphylococcus

Bacterial can be picked up from contaminated material like bedding. The best way to reduce the risk is to wash your dog’s bedding once a week or once every two weeks.

Urinary Tract Infections

UTI’s and vaginitis often occur at the same time because of vaginal flora overgrowth. This flora imbalance causes the urinary tract infection. Then, the infected urine passes through the vagina causing vaginitis.

Diabetes

Disorders that cause fluctuations in sugar can also lead to an overgrowth of natural yeast in the body. This excessive yeast can lead to vaginitis.

Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease in dogs)

This serious condition affects middle-aged to senior dogs. It is the result of the adrenal gland producing too much cortisol, the stress hormone. While it may not directly cause vaginitis in dogs, the condition can make it worse.

Foreign body

Sometimes foreign bodies such as a foxtail, dust, lint, pollen, or even a retained placenta from a previous birth can cause vaginitis.

Incontinence

If urine gets into the vagina it can lead to irritation, especially if your dog has a urinary tract infection.

Signs of urinary tract infections include the need to pee more frequently, straining while trying to pee, blood in the urine, attempting to pee in the house.

Anatomical Abnormalities

This could be many things such as an abscess, a septum, a cancer known as vaginal neoplasia, or tumor. In puppies, vaginitis can be caused by congenital deformation such as an inverted vulva.

Symptoms of vaginitis in dogs can vary.

Adult cases, however, may require clinic tests for diagnosis. These tests include:

  • Urinalysis
  • Digital Vaginal Examination/Physical examination
  • Vaginoscopy
  • Cytologic examination

Juvenile Canine Vaginitis (Puppy Vaginitis)

Puppies who get this form of vaginitis have not reached puberty. In fact, there are often very few signs. Thankfully, most cases of prepubertal vaginitis resolve on their own after the first heat cycle.

Puppies reach puberty at approximately 6 months of age, before they experience their first estrus. This is a general guideline considering small breeds sometimes reach puberty a little quicker.

If your puppy has vaginitis once, there is a small chance she could develop it again in the future.

How Is Vaginitis In Dogs Diagnosed?

To determine the best treatment for your dog, your veterinarian will look for the cause of the symptoms. When you take your dog to see a veterinarian with symptoms of vaginitis, the doctor will need to perform an exam.

This will include looking at your dog, pressing the abdomen, taking your dog’s body temperature, and asking you questions about your dog’s health, diet, lifestyle, what kind of symptoms you’ve noticed, and for how long. 

The doctor will decide what diagnostic tests are important and may include:

Blood Tests/Chemical Profile

The veterinarian may recommend a complete blood count to rule out other causes of the infection. It is possible for more than one cause to exist at the same time.

Blood tests are able to assess the function of internal organs, measures the electrolytes and identifies the levels of circulating enzymes.

Canine Vaginal Cytology

This may include taking a sample of the discharge or a swab of the vagina to look at under a microscope. This procedure can help detect neoplasms (abnormal tissue growth), infections, and inflammation.

Culture

This will include taking a sample to grow in a lab because if you can identify the microorganism that is growing, you can determine the best treatment to stop it

X-rays and Ultrasounds

X-rays and ultrasounds create images that the doctor can use to see physical abnormalities that you can’t see or feel during an exam.

Urinalysis

Urine tests, like blood work, are very common tools used by veterinarians to diagnose disease and rule out causes of secondary conditions/infections.

Vaginoscopy

This uses a scope with a camera to see inside the vagina; this is great for identifying small lesions that may not be visible using an x-ray or ultrasound.

Some of these tests are important not just for determining the best treatment for vaginitis, but also to differentiate it from other illnesses. A few illnesses have similar symptoms to vaginitis or may occur at the same time.

Treating Canine Vaginitis

Once the veterinarian has made a definitive diagnosis, a treatment plan will be customized for your dog. Luckily, surgical intervention is rarely required. The following is a list of potential treatment options. They include:

Antibiotics

Your veterinarian may prescribe a round of antibiotics for your dog if a bacterial infection is the likely cause of the vaginitis.

Remove Foreign Objects

Identifying and removing a foreign body may be the only treatment required to provide your dog relief.

Topical Medication

Local treatment could include medicated douches or wipes for reducing inflammation and itch. The veterinarian may prescribe chlorhexidine or povidone-iodine solutions. These broad-spectrum medications work as effective antiseptics to prevent infection.

This topical treatment is present in different wipes including:

Mal-A_Ket Wipes

These antifungal wipes make it easy to clean between your pet’s skin folds to prevent fungus and bacteria from building up in those hard-to-clean places. They are safe for all areas of your pet, including the face, lips and anal areas, so you don’t need to worry about cleaning too close to a sensitive area.

  • Antifungal, antibacterial wipes can be used to treat conditions responsive to Ketoconazole and/or Chlorhexidine
  • Safe to use on all areas on your pet, including face, lips, and anal areas
  • Save time and postpone a full bath
  • Use anytime your pet needs to freshen up
  • Relieve itching and inflammation caused by skin conditions like yeast infections

Dermabliss Anti-Bacterial & Anti-Fungal Medicated Wipes

Dermabliss Anti-Bacterial & Anti-Fungal Medicated Wipes were created by veterinarians to treat skin infections using a soothing yet effective medicated formula.

Dermabliss Wipes are an easy-to-use, cleansing, antiseptic wipe containing Chlorhexidine Gluconate, Ketoconazole, and soothing Aloe Vera Leaf Juice.

The small wipes are great for on the go, in-home, or anywhere pets need relief from itchy paws and skin. Great for cleaning paws, treating ringworm, and hot spots

Do Nothing

Vaginitis in puppies usually resolves itself after the first heat cycle.

Vaginitis in puppies usually clears up on its own

Irritation from vaginitis can make holding urine difficult. There may be a urinary tract infection at the same time.

Signs of Vaginitis in Dogs

The most common signs of vaginitis in dogs include:

Licking

Your dog may lick her genitals in an attempt to find relief; the bacteria from the mouth could lead to an infection in the vagina

Crusty Fur Around Vulva

Female dogs can develop crusty hair around the vulva as a result of dried discharge.

Scooting

You will recognize this behavior as a dog pulling or dragging his/her bum across the carpet, floor, or outside in the yard.

Help for You When Dealing With Incontinent Pets

Training an adult dog to use the bathroom at a designated spot in the house is easier than you might think. The trick is to get your pets used to it before there’s a problem. Absorbent pads don’t always work because they don’t feel natural to animals.

Pets need to feel real grass under their feet. They need a smell or hint that they’ve been there before. Having a piece of your own lawn in the house is the best way to get your dog to pee where you want them to.

If your dog is suffering from incontinence, has just had surgery, or has a torn ACL (Canine CCl injury), not having to move them outside to use the bathroom is convenient and prevents further pain for your pet.

Living in an apartment or condo presents even more challenges when you’re caring for a sick pet. If you live in a cold climate, you know how inconvenient it is to get bundled up in your winter gear to take your dog out. Other reasons why you might want your pet to “go” inside include:

  • Your own health. You could be recovering from an injury, surgery, or just not feeling well enough to get outside with your pet.
  • Inclement weather. A lot of dogs don’t even want to be outside when the weather is bad.

DoggieLawn offers all natural, organic, hydroponic grass pads like the one in the image below. They’re 100% neater and cleaner than a doggy pad and can be used inside or outside on a balcony. Click on the image below to get all of your questions answered. It’s really the best thing since sliced bread.

Summary

Consult your veterinarian if your dog has any symptoms of vaginitis. Even mild cases can be uncomfortable or painful. It can also be a sign of something more urgent.

Dogs who scoot or suddenly have incontinence may be experiencing any number of conditions from an infection to blocked anal glands.

Treatments are usually very effective so Lola will be back to her normal self before you can say “woof”!

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If we could ask one more favor…please take a second to share.

References:

dvm360

MerckVetManual – reproductive disorders

PetCoach

VCA Animal Hospital

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