Overview of Vaginal Discharge in Dogs
Vaginal discharge is a common symptom in dogs with vaginitis, a uterine infection, or urinary tract infections. 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 (mucous), 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 in dogs.
Causes of Vaginal Discharge in Dogs
- Vaginal discharge is a normal part of the heat cycle of the intact female dog. Bloody discharge occurs for several days when the bitch is in heat (in estrus).
- Vaginal discharge is also 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 bitch 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.
- A defect and open communication (fistula) between the rectum and vagina may lead to the passage of watery fecal material from the vagina.
Warning Signs to Watch Out For
- Vaginal discharge of any type other than the normal stream of urine
- Attracting male dogs
- 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 of Vaginal Discharge in Dogs
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
- Cytology and biopsy of any abnormal tissue in the vagina
- Serologic tests for brucellosis and herpesvirus
- 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 of Vaginal Discharge in Dogs
Vaginal discharges that are considered normal for the dog do not require treatment. In addition, mild vaginitis that is sometimes present in young puppies often resolves spontaneously once the dog is spayed or has passed through its first heat.
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, like transmissible venereal tumor, lymphosarcoma, and transitional cell carcinoma
- Avoidance of breeding the bitch while she has vaginal discharge
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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