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Vaginal Discharge in Cats

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Vaginal discharge is the appearance of liquid material (other than urine) from the labia of the vulva (the external female genitals). Vaginal discharge may be clear and watery (serous), bloody, thick and gray (mucousy), yellow/green (purulent), or dark green/black (after giving birth). The discharge may or may not have an odor. Licking at the vulva may also be noted.

Vaginal discharge, depending on the type and circumstances, may be considered normal in some cases. However, its presence may also signify a disease process of the urinary tract or reproductive tract.

Causes

  • Vaginal discharge is a normal finding in the immediate postpartum (after birth) period. A dark green to black discharge is often present for several days, and traces of discharge may persist for up to 3 weeks.

  • When the placental sites do not recede in the queen after birth, then a persistent watery and sometimes bloody discharge may occur. This type of discharge is abnormal.

  • Any discharge that occurs during a pregnancy is potentially abnormal.

  • Urogenital tract infections, such as a urinary tract infection or an infected uterus (pyometra), may result in an opaque purulent discharge from the vulva.

  • Neoplasia (cancer) of the urogenital tract may cause bloody, mucousy or purulent vaginal discharge.

  • Vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina) may give rise to watery or mucousy discharge.

  • Coagulation (clotting) disorders that result in abnormal bleeding may produce a bloody discharge that can be difficult to distinguish from blood in the urine (hematuria).

  • Trauma or the presence of a foreign body in the vagina may result in bloody, watery or purulent discharge.

  • Urinary incontinence (inability to hold urine in the bladder) secondary to an abnormal location (ectopic) of the ureter, or a problem with the bladder sphincter (the muscle that acts like a valve at the opening of the bladder) may result in pooling of urine in the vagina and secondary irritation and discharge. Congenital deformities of the ureters are rare in the cat.

  • A defect and open communication (fistula) between the rectum and vagina may lead to the passage of watery fecal material from the vagina.

    What to Watch For

  • Vaginal discharge of any type other than the normal stream of urine
  • Excessive licking of the vagina
  • Scooting the bottom along the floor
  • Increased urination and/or straining to urinate
  • Difficulty defecating
  • Lethargy, fever, increased thirst

    Diagnosis

    It is important to obtain a complete medical history and to perform a thorough physical examination. Additional tests may include:

  • A complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, and urinalysis
  • A urine culture to rule out a bacterial urinary tract infection
  • Vaginal cytology
  • Culture of the vaginal discharge
  • Abdominal radiographs (X-ray) to assess the uterus and pelvis
  • Abdominal ultrasonography
  • Vaginoscopy, which is examination of the vagina through a rigid or flexible viewing scope, with the cat under general anesthesia
  • Cytology and biopsy of any abnormal tissue in the vagina
  • Serologic tests for infectious viral diseases
  • Intravenous dye study of the kidneys and ureters to identify any abnormalities in the location of the ureters
  • A coagulation profile if bloody discharge may be related to a clotting problem

    Treatment

    Vaginal discharge that is considered normal for the cat does not require treatment.
    Other causes of vaginal discharge are more serious and require specific therapy, depending upon the cause. Examples of such therapy include:

  • Surgical removal of an infected uterus, a vaginal foreign body, or a uterine or vaginal tumor
  • Surgical correction of any congenital defects of the ureters, the walls of the vagina or rectum
  • Antibiotics for urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginitis, and following trauma
  • Corrective therapy for any bleeding disorders
  • Chemotherapy for selected tumors of the vagina or external genitalia (e.g. lymphosarcoma)
  • Avoidance of breeding the queen while she has vaginal discharge

    Home Care

    Administer all prescribed medications as directed by your veterinarian. Observe your pet closely. If the clinical signs are not improving or are getting worse, contact your veterinarian at once.

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