Vaginitis in Dogs – Definition, Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment

vaginitis in dogs

Vaginitis in dogs is a common health condition. It involves inflammation of the vaginal area. This condition is caused by bacteria, yeast, allergies, or anatomical abnormalities.

You want what’s best for your pet, so knowing how to prevent dog vaginitis is good not only for your peace of mind but for your dog’s health.

What is Vaginitis?

Vaginitis is inflammation of the vagina and vulva. Symptoms of vaginitis include discharge, pain, discomfort, itchiness, and a bad smell. The three main causes are infections, allergies, or hormonal fluctuations. More than one cause can exist at the same time. The diagnosis of vaginitis can only be made once other causes are ruled out. Ovarian remnant syndrome, pyometra, vaginal neoplasia, and foreign bodies cause symptoms that may resemble vaginitis. Treatment usually involves broad-spectrum antibiotics and twice-daily vaginal douches (chlorhexidine or povidone-iodine solutions).

Causes of Vaginitis in Dogs

The cause of vaginitis can be from a long list of conditions. These causes include urinary tract infections, allergic reactions, vaginal trauma, bacterial infection, foreign bodies, fecal contamination of the vulva, and vaginal hematomas. Some health conditions like diabetes can also cause proneness to vaginitis.

Bacterial infections

Escherichia coli, Streptococcus, and Staphylococcus are the three most common bacteria responsible for vaginitis in dogs.

Your dog might pick up a bacterial infection from contaminated bedding. While vacuuming will remove some hair and dirt, it will not get rid of harmful microbes lurking in your pet’s bedding. he only way to reduce the risk of infection is to launder your dog’s bed once a week, or once every two weeks as a minimum. In between washing sessions, make sure that you regularly remove hair and dirt from the bedding. Always follow the directions described on the bed’s label.

Urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections and vaginitis are most often concurrent. This may be because vaginal flora overgrowth causes UTIs and, conversely, infected urine passe through the vagina, causing vaginitis. It can be difficult to determine whether vaginitis caused the UTI, or if the UTI caused vaginitis. In any case, treating one often involves treating the other. UTI tablets and cranberry won’t be enough here.

Underlying medical conditions

Diabetes, hyperadrenocorticism, and liver disease are three of the more common medical conditions that can exacerbate vaginitis. Vaginitis can be resistant to treatment if it occurs alongside one of these illnesses. Diabetes, for example, causes blood sugar levels to spike. This increase in sugar may cause yeast to overgrow in the vaginal area. This could cause vaginitis.

Severely overweight dogs can also get vaginitis due to bacteria and moisture forming between extra folds of skin. At the same time, some conditions can cause obesity. This means that the vaginitis may not be caused by obesity itself; rather, it was caused by another underlying health condition. In any case, providing your dog with a healthy, balanced diet will help to prevent other problems.

Types of Vaginitis

The treatment of canine vaginitis depends on the type. Juvenile canine vaginitis typically resolves after a puppy’s first heat cycle, whereas adult cases may require veterinary assistance. In order to diagnose your dog, your vet might carry out a number of tests. These include urinalysis, digital vaginal examination, vaginoscopy, and a cytologic examination.

Juvenile Canine Vaginitis

Juvenile vaginitis describes vaginitis in puppies and dogs that have not hit puberty. No breed predisposition has been identified. Most affected puppies show minimal or no signs of vaginitis at all. The good news about puppy vaginitis is that it commonly resolves on its own after the first heat cycle. On average, puppies reach puberty (or sexual maturity) at about six months old. This varies by breed. Smaller breeds tend to reach puberty faster than larger breeds. Although most cases of vaginitis resolve spontaneously, about 20 percent of puppies experience a recurrence.

Puppies might benefit from once or twice-daily cleaning of the vulvular area. You can clean her using baby wipes or a non-alcohol based cleanser. Douching is not reported to be an effective therapy for puppies with vaginitis.

Canine Adult Vaginitis

Canine adult vaginitis is more common in spayed bitches than intact bitches. The age at onset is variable and, like with puppy vaginitis, there is no breed predisposition reported. In most cases, adult vaginitis causes mucoid or purulent discharge from the vulva. The next most common signs are urinary incontinence, pollakiuria, and vulvar licking.

Occasionally, bitches display clinical signs associated with a concurrent disease like liver disease, which might exacerbate the vaginitis. In fact, the most common problems reported in dogs with vaginitis are urinary tract infections (26 to 60 percent of cases), vaginal anatomical anomalies (20 to 36 percent of cases), and systemic disease (15 percent of cases).

Unlike juvenile vaginitis, adult vaginitis is less likely to resolve by itself. If you suspect that your adult dog has canine vaginitis, your vet will be able to prescribe her with the best treatment for her condition. This is especially important if your dog has a concurrent condition alongside her vaginitis. Urinary tract infections are the most common issues reported alongside vaginitis.

canine adult vaginitis
Spayed dogs are more likely to get adult vaginitis.

Symptoms of Vaginitis in Dogs

Vaginitis in dogs manifests through a number of symptoms. These symptoms include vulvar licking, increased frequency of urination, scooting or rubbing the vaginal area, and swelling. In a small survey of dogs with vaginitis, 33 percent had mucoid discharge, 20 percent had mucopurulent, and 27 percent had a purulent discharge. Rarely, the discharge is tinged with blood. True hemorrhagic discharge is not described in dogs with uncomplicated vaginitis.

In order to soothe the uncomfortable symptoms, your dog might lick her vaginal area more than usual. She might also rub the affected area on furniture or on the floor. Vaginitis sometimes causes painful urination, so your dog might express discomfort and pain when urinating.

How to Treat Vaginitis in Dogs

Not all cases of vaginitis in dogs will resolve by themselves. The treatment will also change depending on the cause of your dog’s vaginitis. It is important to note that, if your dog has adult-onset vaginitis, you should not wipe the affected area daily. This is only recommended for juvenile vaginitis. Wiping the area of an affected adult dog can actually worsen the symptoms and disrupt the pH of your dog’s vaginal area. It’s always best to take your dog to the vet to confirm her condition and to get advice on the best course of treatment.

Waiting Till the First Estrus

For some puppies, their first estrus cycle seems to rid them of vaginitis. In some cases, it takes two estrus cycles. For others, there is no significant change in their condition after multiple estrus cycles. These results suggest that it may not be the hormonal changes or the vaginal epithelial changes of estrus that resolve the vaginitis, but the increasing immunocompetency might be beneficial. If juvenile vaginitis does not go away after the first estrus cycle, it’s important to take your pet to the vet for appropriate treatment.

Topical Medication

Your vet might prescribe your dog with chlorhexidine or povidone-iodine solutions. Povidone-iodine is a broad-spectrum antiseptic for preventing infections. Chlorhexidine is effective against yeasts, gram-positive and gram-negative organisms and aerobes and plenty wipes contain it. This means that your vet could prescribe your pet with either solution. A vet or owner will usually give the medication via douching of the vaginal area, which you should do once or twice daily. You should not use a douche on your pet when she is in estrus.

Vets will often prescribe topical antiseptics alongside antibiotics. Antibiotics can aggravate yeast infections because they kill off beneficial bacteria that would control the growth of yeast in the vagina. By using a broad-spectrum antiseptic, you can reduce the risk of a yeast infection. Yeast can also cause some cases of vaginitis. So eliminating this possible cause may help to completely rid your pet of this condition.

Antibiotics

If your dog has a diagnosis of vaginitis, she may be prescribed with a broad-spectrum antibiotic. A broad-spectrum antibiotic is an antibiotic that acts on both of the two major bacterial groups, gram-positive and gram-negative. This is in contrast with a narrow-spectrum antibiotic. This kind of antibiotic is effective against one specific group of bacteria.

Because vaginitis can be caused by more than one type of bacteria (e.g. Escherichia coli, Streptococcus and Staphylococcus). Broad-spectrum antibiotics are most often employed for the treatment of more persistent infections. It’s important that you stay consistent and finish the prescribed course of antibiotics, even if your dog suddenly sees to feel better. Vaginitis can re-occur easily, so keeping on track with your pet’s medication will help to keep them feeling good.

Improving Your Dog's Diet

Your dog’s diet contributes substantially to their overall health. A healthy, balanced diet supports the immune system and thus helps to prevent diseases such as vaginitis. When choosing your dog’s food, check the label to ensure that it offers a complete and balanced range of nutrients. This means that the food needs to include a high-quality source of protein, along with fats, fiber, and carbohydrates.

Preventing Dog Vaginitis

Not all forms of vaginitis are preventable. Bacterial vaginitis, however, can be prevented in some cases. By practicing good hygiene and feeding a healthy diet, you can help to protect your pooch from this uncomfortable condition.

Good hygiene

In order to prevent vaginitis in dogs, it’s important to practice good hygiene. You should wash and change your pet’s bedding regularly to reduce bacteria and remove any allergens or foreign bodies from it. Ensure that the bedding is completely dry before returning it to your pet. Vaginitis develops quicker when the vulvular area is damp, so it’s important to keep her dry. This applies especially after bathing your dog. Make sure to fully dry your dog after a full bath to prevent not only vaginitis but other infections such as ear infections.

prevent vaginitis in dogs
Practice good hygiene to prevent canine vaginitis.

Probiotics

Some probiotics may be able to prevent some cases of vaginitis. Like humans, dogs harbor different kinds of bacteria in their bodies that are necessary for their health. The “good” bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, help to keep the body functioning properly. Probiotics work to restore these good bacteria in the gut, therefore restoring health to a dog’s reproductive system, improving resistance to allergens, and strengthening the immune system. This, in theory, helps to prevent vaginitis in dogs.

Vaginitis in Dogs – FAQs

Have any more questions or concerns about vaginitis in dogs? Our Frequently Asked Questions section will have all the answers you need.

Is Vaginitis Contagious in Dogs?

Most types of vaginitis in dogs are not contagious. Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina which can be caused by any number of things. This includes allergies, urinary tract infections, and fecal contamination of the vaginal area. Some health conditions also leave dogs predisposed to vaginitis. Diabetes, liver disease, and hyperadrenocorticism are just a few underlying health issues that can exacerbate vaginitis in dogs. These listed conditions are not contagious.

Having more than one dog and not washing their bedding regularly can leave them vulnerable to vaginitis. The condition itself is not contagious, but the bacteria in your pets’ bedding can infect more than one dog. If one dog contracts bacterial vaginitis, be sure to sanitize and clean your dog’s bedding thoroughly. This helps to prevent the bacteria from infecting your other pets.

female dog reproductive system
Diagram showing the main organs making up the reproductive system of a female dog.

Will Vaginitis in Dogs go Away on its Own?

Juvenile vaginitis frequently goes away on its own after the first estrus cycle. Mild cases of bacterial vaginitis in adult dogs occasionally resolve by themselves. Some dogs show only minimal symptoms or none at all. Moderate to severe adult-onset vaginitis, however, typically requires specific treatment. Your vet will prescribe your pet with a topical antiseptic and broad-spectrum antibiotics.

How Long Does Bacterial Vaginitis Last?

Bacterial vaginitis usually clears up within two to three days with antibiotics. However, treatment needs to go on for one week. Do not stop giving your pet their medicine just because the symptoms are less obvious. Many dogs return to their normal selves after two to three weeks of treatment.

Untreated, bacterial vaginitis persists for a long time. It can contribute to urinary tract infections, bladder infections, and incontinence. All of these conditions can make urination difficult and painful for your dog. Only mild cases of vaginitis clear up on their own. If your dog persistently shows signs of vaginitis, don’t take the chance that it’ll suddenly heal by itself. Your veterinarian will be able to prescribe your pooch with treatment.

Should Dogs with Vaginitis be Spayed?

Experts are divided on whether dogs with juvenile vaginitis should be spayed. Some recommend allowing the puppy to experience her estrus cycle to increase the chances of a spontaneous recovery; however, some young dogs recover before their first cycle. Estrogen in the maturing puppy induces antibacterial activity within the vaginal mucosa, which might facilitate their recovery.

The recommendation is that young dogs with clinically significant cases of vaginitis do not undergo the spaying procedure until they have experienced estrus. Mild to moderate cases, however, are usually not a reason to postpone spaying. It’s always best to consult your veterinarian about what’s best for your pooch before making a decision.

Surgical intervention for adult-onset vaginitis is uncommon. This is because most dogs do not require it. It’s also not clear if a full ovariohysterectomy has any effect on vaginitis in dogs. Surgical intervention typically only involves subtotal vaginectomy. Some cases of vaginitis are caused by structural abnormalities that will not resolve with antibiotics or antiseptics. Vaginitis decreases a female dog’s fertility.

vaginitis in dogs are common
Vaginitis is common in both adult dogs and puppies.

Vaginitis is a common condition that can occur in female dogs of any age. While it may clear up on its own in mild and juvenile cases, moderate to severe instances require veterinary treatment. This involves antibiotics and topical antiseptic therapy. Several other conditions resemble vaginitis. Getting an accurate diagnosis is key for treating it effectively. Luckily, the prognosis for dog vaginitis is good if treatment is sought.

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