A female puppy with vaginitis

Puppy Vaginitis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Puppy vaginitis is a frustrating health issue that can plague female puppies before they reach puberty. The good news is that it is rarely a serious issue and usually needs little treatment. Keep reading for more information on puppy vaginitis and how to address it.

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Vaginitis can affect both puppies and adult female dogs. However, the cause and treatment for puppy vaginitis are usually different and simpler than for adults. This overview of vaginitis in puppies provides information on the causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

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In this guide:

What is vaginitis in puppies?

Vaginitis is the medical term for inflammation of the vagina or vulva. There are two types of vaginitis in dogs: adult-onset vaginitis and puppy vaginitis, also called juvenile vaginitis. It is considered puppy vaginitis when the inflammation of the puppy vagina occurs before the first estrous cycle.

Vaginitis is more prevalent in puppies than in adult female dogs and can develop in both spayed and unspayed dogs.

Puppy vaginitis symptoms

In puppies, vaginitis symptoms can be irregular and sporadic. You may see them disappear only to have them reappear seemingly without cause. Incidents may last several weeks to several months. Clinical signs of vaginitis include:

Frequent urination

Other puppies begin to show symptoms around 8 to 12 weeks of age. They may urinate frequently, making house training difficult. Many times a puppy who has been doing well with potty training suddenly regresses and urinates in the house again.

>> Read more: How to Potty Train a Yorkie Puppy: Housebreaking Tips and Tools

Vaginal discharge

Puppies may have a vaginal discharge that appears yellow or cloudy white. It may be sticky or thick and come from the puppy’s vulva. You may also notice a crusty or bloody discharge in the hair surrounding the vulva, and occasionally, you may also notice a swollen vulva on the puppy.

Repeated licking

If your puppy has a vulvar discharge, it’s common to see her lick her vulva repeatedly. This frequent licking can cause irritation or inflammation to the skin.

No visible symptoms

Some puppies with vaginitis will appear healthy overall. Symptoms of juvenile vaginitis are less severe than adult-onset vaginitis. In fact, in puppies, there may be no clinical signs or visible indications of inflammation at all. But during a vet’s physical examination of the puppy’s vagina, there is usually dramatic inflammation of the membranes in the vagina.

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Causes of puppy vaginitis

The causes of puppy vaginitis differ from the causes of adult-onset vaginitis. According to veterinarian Margaret V. R. Kustritz, the cause of puppy vaginitis is rarely clear. Most vets believe it to be related to hormones, a theory based on the observation that vaginal inflammation usually clears spontaneously once the puppy is spayed, goes through her first heat cycle, or has reached full physical maturity.

Other possible causes of puppy vaginitis exist, but they are less likely. Some of these other medical conditions include: urinary tract infection, other bacterial infections, foreign bodies, or anatomical abnormalities of the vulva or urinary tract anatomy.

Diagnosis of juvenile vaginitis

Since the cause of juvenile vaginitis tends to be the same in most cases, veterinarians may be able to perform fewer diagnostics tests than in cases of adult canine vaginitis. Veterinarians will perform a vaginal examination to look for abnormalities. Usually, this exam reveals an inflamed vaginal mucosa. This may provide adequate information or they may complete further testing depending on the case. 

Additional diagnostic tests could include a urinalysis, a sample of the vagina or urine to test for bacterial infection or other anatomical anomalies, a vaginal exam using a small camera inserted into the vagina, an ultrasound or X-ray, a blood chemistry profile, a complete blood count, and an electrolyte profile.

Puppy vaginitis treatment

Treatment will depend on the cause of the inflammation. Typically, juvenile vaginitis does not require much treatment, if any at all. It tends to be a mild, temporary condition, more of an annoyance.

We recommend chatting with a vet to be safe, but they may just suggest waiting it out, as vaginitis usually resolves once a puppy has had an estrus cycle. In the meantime, you can keep the area around her vulva clean by gently washing with a clean, damp washcloth or using a mild, moist dog wipe.

Other vets may choose to treat the vaginitis, so the puppy is more comfortable. Veterinarian Kristen Nelson recommends prescribing a spayed puppy oral estrogen to imitate a heat cycle. Although not all vets agree, many vets recommend allowing an unspayed puppy to go through one heat cycle, which usually eliminates the problem entirely. Others suggest spaying the puppy to eliminate the issue.

>> Learn more: Yorkies in Heat: Signs, Cycles, Length & Symptoms

Even if the symptoms don’t seem severe, don’t assume your puppy does not need treatment. It’s best to talk with a veterinarian about your puppy’s medical history and have them examine your puppy in case there is a serious issue, such as vaginal infection. If antibiotic therapy is needed to treat a bladder or urinary tract infection, have your vet perform a vaginal culture and sensitivity test to determine which antibiotic medication will be most effective. Treating with the wrong antibiotic could encourage the growth of additional bacteria or yeast.

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