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Vaginal Discharge in Dogs: Our Vet Discusses Signs, Causes & Treatment

Written by: Dr. Chyrle Bonk DVM (Veterinarian)

Last Updated on June 24, 2024 by Dogster Team

vet cleaning the anal glands of a dog in a veterinary clinic

Vaginal Discharge in Dogs: Our Vet Discusses Signs, Causes & Treatment

VET APPROVED

Dr. Chyrle Bonk Photo

WRITTEN BY

Dr. Chyrle Bonk

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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As dog owners, we try to do everything that we can to keep our pups healthy, including monitoring them for any signs that something is off and seeking veterinary attention as necessary. While this kind of vigilance can catch many health problems early, one that can be a bit more difficult to notice is vaginal discharge.

Dogs generally try to keep themselves clean, so they may get rid of any evidence before you get a chance to see it. However, seeing vaginal discharge isn’t the only way to know whether your dog is having issues. Here, we talk about what vaginal discharge can look like in female dogs, what can cause it, and how it is treated.

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What Is Vaginal Discharge in Dogs?

Vaginal discharge is fluid that leaks from the vagina in female dogs. While some amount of discharge can be normal, excessive discharge can indicate an issue.

Normal vaginal discharge is typically clear and in such small amounts that you likely won’t ever see it. This fluid is produced due to the vagina’s self-cleaning mechanism to flush out bacteria and other irritants. It can also be normal during different times of an intact female’s estrous, or heat cycle. If you have an intact female, you’re likely familiar with the spotting that occurs due to bloody discharge, which typically occurs 7–10 days before she becomes receptive to a male. This discharge normally turns from very bloody to thin and pink as she gets toward the end of this phase.

These are the normal reasons for a female dog to have vaginal discharge. Now let’s focus on the abnormal reasons for this issue, when it’s not a standard part of a dog’s physiology.

vet checking up a senior dog
Image Credit: SeventyFour, Shutterstock

What Are the Signs of Vaginal Discharge in Dogs?

The main sign of vaginal discharge in dogs is fluid coming from the vagina, and what that fluid looks like can indicate its cause. For example, normal discharge is typically clear. If it’s yellow or white, that may indicate an infection, as the presence of white blood cells gives it that color. Vaginal discharge may also be red, pink, or even brown due to the presence of blood. It may be thick, thin, copious, or sparse and may also have an odor.

You may not get a chance to see any vaginal discharge from your dog, but you might notice other signs that they have an issue. She may lick at her genital area excessively, sometimes almost obsessively. You may see swelling of the vulva or redness around the area. She may scoot her hind end on the ground, similar to a dog having anal gland issues. She may need to pee more frequently, be lethargic, not want to eat, or even have a fever.

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What Causes Vaginal Discharge in Dogs?

Both intact and spayed female dogs can have abnormal vaginal discharge. However, certain causes will only happen in intact dogs.

Pyometra

Pyometra is an infection in the uterus. This tends to only happen to intact females, since spayed dogs typically have their uterus removed. But rarely, it can occur in spayed dogs if there are uterine remnants.

Pyometra can make a dog very sick. Aside from discharge that can be yellow, white, blood-tinged, and smelly, the dog will often be lethargic, not eat, have a fever, vomit, and seem weak. This condition is an emergency, so be sure to see your veterinarian immediately.

white poodle checked by vet
Image Credit: Baronb, Shutterstock

Vaginitis

Inflammation of the vagina is called vaginitis, and it can be present in intact and spayed females. Many things can cause it, including an infection (particularly Brucellosis), trauma, foreign bodies, and tumors. Vaginal discharge due to vaginitis can be different depending on the cause, and other signs that accompany it can also vary.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) may also bring on vaginal discharge. Dogs with UTIs may urinate frequently in small amounts or strain when they posture. You may also notice cloudy, blood-tinged, or smelly urine along with the discharge.

Pregnancy-Related Issue

Vaginal discharge can be pregnancy related, showing up after whelping or if the pregnancy is lost. Normal discharge can be red, brown, or green following pregnancy. Yellow, white, or smelly discharge usually indicates that something is wrong, such as a retained placenta or fetus or an infection.

Pregnant rhodesian ridgeback dog lying on bed with a white blanket
Image Credit: Hanna Dymytrova-kaihila, Shutterstock

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How Do I Care for a Dog With Vaginal Discharge?

Hopefully, you’ll notice abnormal vaginal discharge in your dog before they develop severe signs, but if that’s not the case, the other signs that accompany it should have you calling your vet. Besides getting a thorough history, the vet will perform an exam, potentially getting a sample of the discharge. This will enable them to check it out under the microscope to see what cells are involved and culture it if they suspect an infection.

From there, they may run blood work, do a urinalysis, and use imaging to dig deeper into your dog’s issues.

vet-giving-injection-to-dog
Image Credit: Leoschka, Shutterstock

Treatment for Vaginal Discharge in Dogs

Certain cases of vaginal discharge are emergencies and will require emergency treatment. This typically means surgery to remove an infected uterus or a retained placenta or fetus. Dogs may also require supportive care and hospitalization if the issue is severe.

Other cases of vaginal discharge may be treated with medications like antibiotics or anti-inflammatories. Flushing the vagina with an antiseptic may help treat vaginitis or vaginal trauma or remove foreign bodies.

Most cases of vaginal discharge will recover well with proper treatment. For dogs with pyometra, the best course of treatment is spaying as this procedure removes the uterus, and therefore, the infection. Keeping your dog clean and in a clean environment can also help keep abnormal vaginal discharge at bay.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is It Normal for a Female Dog to Have Discharge?

Clear, odorless discharge can be completely normal for female dogs. Intact females may also have a bloody to pink discharge during their normal heat cycle. Any discharge that is off-color, such as yellow, brown, or red, should be checked out by a vet.

Close-up veterinarian wipes blood from genitals of jack russell terrier
Image Credit: Reshetnikov_art, Shutterstock

How Do I Clean My Female Dog’s Private Area?

Cleanliness can help prevent many causes of vaginal discharge, including infections. However, keeping your dog clean can be difficult mainly due to hair around the genital area and a dog’s propensity to lick. While a certain amount of licking can be beneficial, excessive licking can actually cause more problems.

If your dog has a big issue with cleanliness, consider trimming or shaving the hair around her genital area. You may also wash it with warm water or a mild soap if necessary. Don’t over-clean it, as you could irritate the skin, but do be sure that the hair is dry in between washings.

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What Does Pyometra Discharge Look Like?

Most uterine infections will show up with brown, yellow, white, or green discharge. It may also be a little bloody. Keep in mind that only cases of pyometra where the cervix is open will have discharge. A closed pyometra, where the cervix is clamped tight, typically won’t show discharge, but there will be other signs, such as lethargy, fever, and abdominal pain.

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Conclusion

All female dogs can have a bit of vaginal discharge, but if that fluid becomes white, yellow, or any other off-color or develops an odor or if your dog starts showing other signs of illness, it’s time to see your veterinarian. Most causes of vaginal discharge can be resolved with proper treatment, but some cases, mainly pyometra, can quickly become severe and require immediate veterinary care.


Featured Image Credit: Yekatseryna Netuk, Shutterstock

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