|Barked: Sun Aug 1, '10 2:03pm PST |
|It could be signs of either vaginitis or a urinary tract infection. Diseases of the Canine Vulva This site explains lots of different things but is a good overview of vulva/vaginal diseases etc
Vagninitis is just simply an infection of the vaginal area. Some dogs have chronic vaginitis from licking and some dogs lick because of an infection caused from something else. Vaginitis in Dogs
Juvenile vaginitis is pretty common in intact females under 1-2 years and as the pet ages will become less of an issue (although I think you might be 4 so this most likely doesn't fit). In these cases it is often reccomended to refrain from spaying until after their first heat (if not longer).
Some dogs suffer from conformation issues that cause a "tucked" or recessed vulva. Medically referred to as Perivulvar Dermatitis it is masically a skin infection of the folds surrounding the vulva and in some females casues secondary vaginitis. These dogs tend to end up with chronic cases of vaginitis because small amounts of urine are caught in the folds of the vagina after urinating because of the "tuck". Also the skin around the vulva becomes inflammed and raw causing inflammtion there too which can also lead to an increased chance of infection. Some dogs need to be wiped after they pee with a warm wash cloth or baby wipe to avoid this. This conformation issue can be genetic (IE a common issue with their family line because of the way they are shaped), from birth (IE they developed that way with a "tuck") or due to weight (some females as they gain weight will start having issues because the fat pads around the vagina enlarge causing the "tuck" to become more pronounced). This issue tends to affect spayed females more than intact because their vaginas are smaller and less swollen than intact bitches.
There is a surgical fix for the "tuck" but often weight loss is the first step then surgical fix second. In most cases pets who lose weight stop having issues. Most commonly I see this issue in large labs, springers and and bully breeds. Check out this link (slightly graphic as it shows pre and post operation pictures --> Perivulvar Dermatitis (Tucked Vulva Syndrome)
Some females have issues with urinary incontinence caused by urinary sphyncter weakness. Leaking small amounts of urine can cause some animals to lick their privates causing an infection to start. In general females who suffer from incontinence seem to be more prone to episodes of vaginitis.
Testing for vaginitis is pretty straight forward. Usually the vet will do a physical exam with eyes and possibly fingers to check discharge and swelling (in general large breeds tolerate this better than small due to size - IE find a vet with small fingers), they may also take a small sample of the discharge either with a QTip or by smear impression (placing a microscope slide directly onto the vaginal opening in the hopes of isolating some bacteria). The sample should determine the bacterial content of the area confirming infection. Some vets may suggest taking a culture of the area to send out to a lab to help determine which antiobiotics the infection is susebtable to. However it is not uncommon, for first time infections, to use a broad spectrum antibiotic initially which most likely will get rid of the issue. IF no improvement is seen a culture may be taken in the future. Your vet may also suggest doing a full urinalysis to make sure there is no urinary tract infection causing licking and therefore causing the vaginitis.
Preventing your pet from licking the area is number ONE!! Wiping the area clean after urinating will also help. My other dog Cara suffered from chronic vaginitis due to a "tuck" from weight gain and bilateral groin muscle tears making maintaining a squat difficult therefore her vagina would end up in the dirt when she pee'd. We encouraged weight loss and changed to a higher quality dog kibble (off iams) as well as added some pain relief and omega 3's to her diet which help her muscle tears and all of this help to prevent the vagingitis from returning. When she was the worst we would leave dispossible babywipes near the door to wipe here after she pee'd. It help alot.
Check out this really great article from a veterinary magazine - it goes in depth on diagnosing, testing and treating of vaginitis in dogs
Vaginitis in Dogs - Article from VetMedicine Magazine - Indepth but informative
Sorr this is so much stuff! I know it can be overwhelming!
The moral of the story is you should make a vet appointment but its not an emergency!
Good Luck and come back and tell us what the vet says!
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