Have you noticed a change in the appearance of your dog’s vagina? This can be hugely stressful for pet parents when they notice changes in their dog’s vaginal health. It is important to keep regular checks of your pooches privates to keep her at the top of her health. Swelling of your female dog’s private area can be normal. But it is also a good early warning sign for more alarming infections. Particularly when paired with changes in behavior.
This post will outline the top reason your dog’s vagina might look abnormal, and when it is time to seek medical attention.
Common reasons why swelling of the vulva occurs in dogs
There are a few different reasons why your female dog’s private area may appear swollen.
While some are more serious than others, it’s important to identify the exact cause early and prevent any condition she may have to worsen.
Lets take a look at a few different reasons why:
Adult onset vaginitis is the swelling and inflammation of the vaginal tissues in the canal, which is commonly caused by a urinary tract infection.
Taking vaginitis, for example, is seen as inflammation of the vaginal area seen in both puppies and older dogs.
What are common signs of vaginitis in dogs?
Swelling, of course, is the most common symptom of this infection but lets other symptoms of this condition may include:
- Red, inflamed looking vagina
- Frequent urination
- Licking their private area
- Rubbing/dragging their rear along the floor using their front paws
- Yellowish or bloody discharge from the female dog’s vulva
- Gaining male attraction outside of her being on heat
Can my puppy get vaginitis?
If puppies get vaginitis, it is known as juvenile vaginitis. This causes the puppy to experience vulvar inflammation and redness which causes discomfort, resulting in them licking their private parts to relieve the discomfort.
If puppies haven’t been through a heat cycle, they may be prone to experiencing these symptoms. Their first heat cycle will likely relieve these symptoms.
A common reason why your female dog’s private area is swollen could be due to infections such as urinary tract infections.
Female dogs with a urinary tract infection (UTI) will also display some other symptoms which you can use to determine the cause of their vaginal swelling, such as urinating difficulties, scratching frequently of her vaginal area, or general changes in her behavior.
If she has a known UTI, it is recommended that she is cleaned routinely using cotton swabs and salt water or whatever your vet recommends. This will prevent further infection while treating her present infection. She may also need to be prescribed antibiotics to help overcome the infection and reduce the swelling.
UTIs are caused by bacteria entering upwards through the urethral opening. The bacteria can develop when fecal matter, urine, or other debris enters the area. If she has a weakened immune system caused by a lack of nutrients, this may also make her susceptible to a UTI.
Providing you’ve not had your dog neutered and she is still intact, she will go into heat biannually, which will last approximately three to four weeks.
This is natural and her change in demeanor is completely normal.
This causes vaginal edema, which happens during the stage of the estrus cycle when estrogen levels are at their peak. This causes an exaggerated reaction by the lining of the dog’s vagina, resulting in inflammation.
If your dog is in heat, she will also display some other signs and symptoms of being in heat.
Lets take a look at some other common signs and symptoms of your dog being in heat:
Common signs that your female dog is in heat
- Bloody vaginal discharge
- Over-excessive licking of her genital area
- Increased male dog attention, seen sniffing and licking her vulva
- Increased urination, particularly in the presence of male dogs
- Agitated, nervous or nesting behaviour
- Increased mountain behavior
If you notice your female dog’s private area swollen and is displaying most of the signs and symptoms listed above, then she is in heat. Successful mating means that she will become pregnant. If you don’t want her to have puppies, make sure to keep her away from male dogs!
Your female dogs heat period can last between 2-21 days. Once, her heat period is over, her vulva should return to normal size.
To prevent your dog from this process, you will need to have her spayed. This will also prevent her from breeding.
Have you recently changed your female dogs shampoo or another product you use while grooming? Have you changed laundry detergent, and washed their bedding? It might be worth taking into consideration some of your dog’s surroundings and if there’s been a chemical change, or perhaps they may have come in contact with a plant or bug that has caused an allergic reaction.
If there has been a change in her environment, try to eliminate the cause like changing back shampoo or detergent. If you think it may be an allergic reaction and are unsure of the cause, it is best that you take your dog to the vet in order to receive a proper diagnosis for their allergy and prescribe a treatment.
You can learn about common dog skin conditions on the blog.
Just like humans, insect bites cause the same reactions we experience if bitten by an insect.
Specific insect bites may cause inflammation of your dog’s private area, which may also cause her to be itchy, and a red appearance on the skin.
This condition can also occur while your female dog is in heat. If you begin to notice the tissue surrounding her vulva appears to protrude in a dark pink/red color, this may be resultant of the tissue swelling in her vaginal area. This should also dissipate once her heat cycle has ended. Spaying will also prevent this from occurring, but again, this will also prevent her from the ability to reproduce.
Sometimes, female dogs who have previously been spayed can display these symptoms, accompanied by some bloody vaginal discharge. This is caused by a spay surgery where a portion of the ovarian tissue has remained within your dogs abdomen.
If your dog has been spayed and is showing these symptoms of swollen genitals and blood-tinged vaginal discharge, it is recommended you take your dog to the veterinarian.
If your dog is pregnant and has symptoms of vulva swelling, this may be due to her nearing labor.
This will be accompanied by some other signs in your dog’s temperament, which I have listed below:
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Pacing and panting
- She turns down food, or vomits up food she has eaten
- Nesting behavior, for example, dragging clothes toward her bed to make a comfortable environment for the birthing process
- Pacing or panting
- Hardened abdomen
- Incessant licking if her genital area
- Enlargement of her mammary glands
Forced separation during mating
If your female dog was pulled apart from her male dog partner during mating, this could have caused injury to her genital area.
To ensure safe copulation, the male dog must ejaculate to break the bond and allow the mating dogs to naturally separate.
Irritation from urine or faecal matter
Regular grooming and cleaning of your pooches’ coat will help to keep their skin clean from any nasties that they may come in contact with. And unfortunately, the most common one is probably their own excrement.
Sometimes if their cleaning is neglected or they become unable to clean themselves, urine or fecal matter can reside in their behind and get stuck, causing severe irritation of their genital area. This can cause inflammation of their genitals causing the area to look red and swollen.
Urinary or urethral incontinence
Incontinence refers to the unintentional passing of urine, which is most commonly seen in spayed dogs, middle-aged dogs, and dogs that suffer from diabetes.
If you notice your female dog regularly passing urine without actively going to the toilet, and are within this age bracket, they may suffer from urinary or urethral incontinence. This may also be the cause of the inflammation seen on her private area.
Vaginal neoplasia, also known as a vaginal tumor, is a precancerous condition, which can be recognized by vulvar discharge or the sudden appearance of a protruding mass from the vulva.
Canine herpes virus infection is a very fatal disease that mostly occurs in puppies. In adult dogs, it is mostly related to upper respiratory infections, eye diseases, a swollen vulva, or pus-filled vaginal discharge.
Some dogs can get certain foreign bodies such as foxtail lodged in their system. The foxtail plant has a barbed seed head that gets stuck in any part of your dog’s body, even in their skin.
Ectopic ureters are an abnormality seen in dogs, which is where the sphincter muscle in the ureters does not close the bladder in the right place. This results in incontinence, and can also cause her to have a swollen vulva.
What is the appearance of a healthy female dog’s private area
If your female dog is still intact, the appearance of her genitals can change dramatically over the course of her heat cycle. It is normal for her genitals to become swollen, with bloody discharge during her time in the heat. Again, this will last 2-21 days and occurs twice a year.
Once she has finished her heat, the bleeding should stop and return to its normal appearance.
If you are unable to visualize her vulva without having to spread the surrounding skin, it may be worth seeking a veterinarian’s advice. This extra skin subjects her vulva to increased vaginal and urinary tract infections while preventing recognition until the infection has long progressed.
Why is my dog licking her vagina?
Dogs lick a lot. They can lick you, they can lick your pet cat, if you have one. But why do female dogs lick themselves?
A dog will commonly lick her private area in order to keep it clean.
While intermittent licking isn’t a problem, if you notice other symptoms such as vaginal discharge, a change in the appearance of her vulva, a shift in her overall health is observed, or she begins to lick more frequently or intensely, it may be a cause for concern.
Excessive licking may be a sign of an infection, a problem with her urinary or reproductive tract, or has experienced a traumatic injury. This may be cause for seeking medical attention from your veterinarian.
Do spayed dogs normally get vaginal swelling?
If your dog has been spayed and she is experiencing bloody discharge, it is possible that some of the ovarian tissue that should have been removed during her spaying has remained within her abdomen.
Infections, injuries, or tumors may also cause her vulva to appear inflamed. It is recommended that you seek medical advice from your veterinarian, as she should not be experiencing symptoms of being in heat.
Why is my female dog’s private area swollen – FAQs
If your dog is unspayed, then it is most likely that your dog is in heat. She will experience this for 3-4 weeks, twice a year. She may also experience symptoms such as blood-tinged vaginal discharge, excessive licking of your female dog’s privates, Agitated or nesting behaviour, increased attention from male dogs or frequent urination in the presence of male dogs.
If your dog has not been spayed, a common occurrence in females is a vaginal prolapse. This is caused by the production of estrogen which causes the walls of the internal vagina to swell and protrude through the vulva, which is the external female genital organ.
Why is my female dog’s private area swollen?….It may not be as bad as you think!
Hopefully, this will have cleared up your concerns about your dog’s genital health. Perhaps it helped you to decipher if you need to seek medical attention from the vet.
In most cases, she will just be experiencing normal symptoms of her estrus cycle.
If you think she has experienced an allergic reaction, make sure to find the cause of the reaction and eliminate the cause.
If your pet is spayed, seek medical attention from a veterinarian.