Vaginitis in dogs

Vaginitis is inflammation often associated with an infection or irritation of the delicate lining of the vagina. The condition can occur at any age in female dogs. Numerous factors may encourage or contribute to vaginitis. They include anatomical abnormalities of the genital tract or the urinary tract, trauma at the time of mating or during the act of giving birth, tumors of the vagina, urinary tract infections, viral infections and anatomical abnormalities of the sphincter muscle of the bladder.

Most animals with vaginitis are presented to the veterinarian because of licking of the vulva or discharge from the vulva. Scooting the bottom along the floor is also common. Signs of a urinary tract infection—such as incontinence, frequent urination or discomfort during or after urination—may be seen. Many affected females attract the attention of male dogs to the odors from vaginitis.

A vaginal exam for these animals is always important. This can be done by the veterinarian with his gloved finger or via the use of a vaginal speculum with a light source. Areas of ulceration or redness and the presence of small raised bumps or nodules can be seen. Digital exam usually reveals a thick stringy discharge and sometimes a congenital structural abnormality of the vagina. Pooling of urine may be detected, which indicates a relaxed sphincter muscle of the bladder, allowing urine to spill out of the bladder into the vagina. The presence of urine in the vagina irritates it. Looking at a sample of the vaginal discharge under the microscope may demonstrate abnormal inflammatory cells and an increase in the number of bacteria. A urinalysis may help determine whether a urinary tract infection is present. Sometimes cultures of the vagina and urine may be necessary to identify what bacteria are involved.

Based on cultures and cytology of the vaginal wall, medications are prescribed for urinary tract infections and inflammation. There are two or three drugs used if the bladder sphincter is not functioning properly. They include phenylpropanolamine and diethylstilbestrol.

Recheck visits may be recommended to monitor response to treatment. Cases of juvenile vaginitis respond after an animal’s first heat cycle. Dogs with a viral form of vaginitis should never be used for breeding. Most cases of vaginitis respond excellently once their cause is determined.

Dr. Karsten Fostvedt is a veterinarian at St. Francis Pet Clinic in Ketchum.

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