Home

Back to Info Index

Vaginitis

Vaginitis refers to an inflammation or infection of the vagina. It can be brought on or caused by problems occurring within the vagina, or be secondary to conditions elsewhere in the body. It is a fairly common disorder in dogs of all ages. It may be the result of trauma however this is rarely the cause.

Most cases seen in dogs are caused by the caustic and irritating effects of urine on the vaginal mucosa or lining. Since urine normally passes through the vagina with every urination and vaginitis is only seen in a very small percentage of female dogs, cases of this disorder typically mean the urine is abnormal or its flow is in some way altered.

In cases of bladder infections (cystitis), the urine contains large numbers of bacteria. Expelled with the urine, these can easily colonize the vagina, leading to an infection and inflammation of this structure. In mature female dogs, especially in those that have been spayed, urinary incontinence can be a common problem. This is basically a chronic leaking of small quantities of urine from the bladder. When this occurs, urine may lie against the vaginal lining much of the time and lead to a "urine scald" or irritation.

Infections from bacteria, yeasts and viruses are known to occur within the vagina. The bacteria isolated from this structure are those commonly found or passed in the dog's stool. It is thought that when the animal cleans itself after urination and defecation, the licking may transfer bacteria from the anus to the vagina. As in other species, yeast infections of the vagina sometimes occur in animals that are on prolonged antibiotic therapy. It appears that these medications suppress the normal bacteria living in this structure which in some way may prevent the growth of yeast organisms.

The herpes virus known to infect dogs commonly infects the vaginal area. As in other animals, this is a chronic infection with occasional flare-ups of clinical signs.

Non-infectious inflammations of the vagina also occur due to the effects of shampoos, detergents, cleaning agents and other solutions. The severity of these is dependent on the properties of the causative agent.

In animals with vulvar fold abnormalities, the vaginitis may be secondary to irritations resulting from this condition.

Young female dogs less than one year of age may develop "juvenile vaginitis". The cause of this condition is unknown but generally resolves with age.

Question and answer

What is vaginitis?

Vaginitis is the medical term for inflammation of the vagina. The vagina is the birth canal, extending
from the uterus to the vulva. Vaginitis is seen primarily in dogs.

What causes vaginitis?

The causes of vaginitis include:

What are the signs of vaginitis?

The signs of vaginitis include discharge from the external, female parts (vulva), licking at the vulva,
and spotting. The animal may urinate frequently and may attract males.

How is vaginitis diagnosed?

Vaginitis is diagnosed by a good medical history and a thorough physical examination. Bacterial
culture of the vagina should be done before any other procedure. The veterinarian will evaluate any bacteria that grow to determine the likelihood of it being the cause of the problem. A vaginal
sample may be collected and evaluated with a microscope. Results of blood testing usually are
normal. The serum progesterone concentration can be measured to determine if the pet is in heat,
in which case the discharge may be normal. Radiographs (X-rays) of the vagina help to rule out
several of the causes of vaginitis, including foreign body and cancer. The veterinarian may perform a vaginal examination. A digital examination of the vagina helps to identify tumors, strictures, or other gross abnormalities. Examination (vaginoscopy) of the inside of the vagina is performed by the use of a special instrument. Vaginoscopy helps to detect several causes of vaginitis, including a foreign body, swelling, abscess, or tumor. Finally, removal and examination of a specimen (biopsy) of vaginal tissue may be necessary for a definitive diagnosis.

How is vaginitis treated?

The treatment for vaginitis depends upon the underlying cause. Bacterial vaginitis is treated by
administration of an appropriate systemic antibiotic. Surgery may be necessary to remove the
inciting cause, such as a foreign body or cancer. The veterinarian may recommend an
ovariohysterectomy (spay). More aggressive surgery may be required in some cases.

What is the prognosis for animals with vaginitis?

The prognosis (outcome) for animals with vaginitis varies, depending on the underlying cause.
Animals with vaginitis due to an immature vagina prior to reaching puberty (prepubertal vaginitis)
have an excellent prognosis. The prepubertal vaginitis normally resolves after the first heat (estrus). The prognosis for animals that have had a heat cycle generally is good. Vaginitis in adult animals usually resolves if the causative factor is removed. Some cases of vaginitis are more difficult to treat; therefore, these animals may have poorer prognoses.

The majority of the information in this page is has been taken from VetMedCenter.com. For further information about this useful source of informtion follow the link or look, on the internet, at www.vetmedcenter.com.