Has your dog been scooting across the floor lately? It could be a sign of a vaginitis, which is inflammation of the vagina. This means it's time to take your pup to the veterinarian. There are many causes of vaginitis, one of which could be a vaginal infection. Vaginitis in dogs can affect both unaltered (not spayed) female puppies and spayed female adults. The inflammation condition can be temporary or chronic.
What causes vaginitis in dogs?
Canine vaginitis is inflammation of the vagina, which can lead to irritation of the affected area. This condition can be caused by:
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- A bacterial infection, although primary bacterial infections are uncommon
- Yeast overgrowth secondary to a primary, underlying condition
- Viral infections, like herpes
- Urinary tract infections
- Urine pooling in the vagina
- Anatomic abnormalities, like ectopic ureters, vaginal strictures, recessed vulva, persistent hymen, etc.
- Heavy skin folds around the vulva (which can cause recurring skin fold infections, called vulvar dermatitis)
- Foreign bodies in the vagina, such as foxtails
- Exposure to certain types of hormones, e.g., androgenic steroids
- Low estrogen and dogs with urinary incontinence
- Idiopathic (that is, there is no discernible underlying cause)
Does my dog have symptoms of dog vaginitis?
Most dogs show signs of vaginitis through vaginal discharge, increased urination, scooting, frequent licking of the vulva, and attracting the attention of male dogs. Vaginitis won't cause your dog to become systemically ill. If your intact (not spayed) adult dog is showing any of the signs of vaginitis and they are also sick, that could be an indication that they have pyometra, which is a surgical emergency. If your dog has this condition, she needs to be taken to a veterinarian immediately.
Also, symptoms of other conditions, like colitis or anal gland obstructions, are often mistaken for canine vaginitis. These dogs may scoot their hind end on the ground and lick or bite at their back end.
Are there any home remedies for treatment of dog vaginitis
Don't use any topical products or ointments without talking with your veterinarian. Vaginitis is most effectively treated once a diagnosis is established and a treatment plan is initiated by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may have you use unscented baby wipes, or they may prescribe medicated wipes for the vulvar area. But if your dog has had surgery in or around the vulvar area, follow all of your veterinarian's instructions for medications and post-operative care.
Additionally, adding supplements like a dog-specific probiotic to your dog's meals may improve vaginitis. In some cases, it can reestablish a healthy bacterial population, and it may generally contribute to wellness.
Treatment may include medications and an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking and traumatizing the area. Antibiotics or anti-fungals are only given if a bacterial or fungal infection is diagnosed, but primary causes need to be ruled out. Some dogs may require estrogen replacement therapy. Surgery to remove foreign bodies or to correct anatomic abnormalities may also be needed.
You can help your dog remain comfortable and decrease the risk of secondary bacterial and yeast infections in the skin surrounding the vulva by keeping the area clean and dry, as directed by your veterinarian.
Treatment of puppy vaginitis
Puppy vaginitis is common in unspayed dogs under 1 year of age who have not yet gone through their first heat cycle. This generally resolves after the first heat cycle or after spaying.
Vaginitis can affect female dogs at any age, however, and dog owners should consult their veterinarian at any sign of irritation at or around the vagina. This is also a good time to note that unspayed adult dogs should be spayed to prevent future health problems.
When to consult a veterinarian
If your dog is showing symptoms of vaginitis or vulvar dermatitis (inflammation of your dog's skin around the vulva), consult your veterinarian. In order to properly diagnose canine vaginitis, blood or urinary tests and urine or vaginal cultures are often performed. Additionally, the medical history and current symptoms of your canine can help a veterinarian reach a diagnosis. Starting an appropriate treatment plan will also help your dog get relief from the condition.
Symptoms of vaginitis, such as vaginal discharge and excessive licking of the vulvar area, can mimic other health issues. Dogs with irritation in their vaginal area should be treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Overgrowth of bacteria or yeast is a secondary condition that needs to be treated if present, but primary underlying causes need to be ruled out and addressed.