My Dog Has a Growth on Her Vagina
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We often don't register problems with a dog's reproductive organs until they have developed. Since these organs are mainly internal, the symptoms of a pathology or disease may not register until the later stages. Although the vagina is an internal organ, it is connected tot he vulva and we may see external symptoms. Growths may develop on any level of the reproductive organs, including the uterus, vagina or the vulva itself, the latter including the clitoris. If you see any type of abnormal growth on the dog's private parts, it is important to take them to a veterinarian for a diagnosis as soon as possible.
At AnimalWised, we explain the causes of when a dog has a growth on her vagina. We look at the symptoms which may accompany each pathology and what treatment and prevention options are available.
Vaginal hyperplasia consists of overgrowth and swelling of the vagina, occurring as a result of high levels of estrogen during proestrus. This is the phase of the estrus cycle in which bleeding from the vulva begins. Usually, polyp-type masses form on the vaginal wall. When sufficiently large, they protrude through the labia. From the outside, it is usually seen as a ‘ball’ or growth with a rounded appearance. It is pink color and variable size (from a marble to a chicken egg).
Vaginal hyperplasia is a fairly common process in unneutered female dogs, especially in brachycephalic breeds and giant-sized dogs. It almost always appears during the proestrus or estrus phase and frequently repeats itself cyclically in during each heat cycle of the dog. In addition, it can appear during childbirth in a pregnant bitch.
It is a benign overgrowth meaning it is non-cancerous. It usually resolves spontaneously when hormone levels stabilize. However, it must be taken into account that the contact of the vaginal mucosa with the outside can cause its desiccation and irritation. In addition, bitches often lick the area and self-injure the tissue, causing ulceration and bleeding.
Take a look at our related article for more reasons why a dog likes her private area.
Vaginal prolapse is a process similar to vaginal hyperplasia as it is also associated with elevated estrogen levels during proestrus. Depending on the amount of exteriorized tissue, the prolapse may be partial or total, and may even involve the cervix.
In severe cases, the prolapsed tissue can compress the urethra and cause stranguria (frequent small volumes of urine), anuria (not urinating), dysuria (difficulty urinating), and hematuria (blood in the urine). In these cases it is also common for tenesmus to appear, i.e. the dog will try to defecate frequently, but without results.
The difference between prolapse and hyperplasia lies in the amount of exteriorized vaginal tissue:
- Vaginal prolapse: the amount of tissue that is exteriorized is much greater. In addition, it is usually circular in appearance, similar to that of a donut.
- Vaginal hyperplasia: a ‘ball’ or rounded mass is seen that protrudes through the vulva.
In any case, it should be taken into account that vaginal prolapse in female dogs is much less frequent than vaginal hyperplasia. As with hyperplasia, prolapse is a self-limiting process that tends to subside when estrogen levels return to normal. However, in many cases, manual or surgical correction of the prolapse is necessary to avoid desiccation and abrasion of the mucosa in contact with the outside.
Another cause that can explain why your dog has a lump in her parts is uterine prolapse. Uterine prolapse occurs when the uterus inverts on itself and protrudes through the vulva. It is a process that occurs before, during or after prolonged childbirth. It is a result of continuous contractions of the dilated cervix. It can also occur in dystocic deliveries, i.e. difficult deliveries in which the contractions do not allow the expulsion of the fetus, but they do produce the eversion and exteriorization of the uterus.
Uterine prolapse can be:
- Partial uterine prolapse: if it affects only the uterine body. Generally, the partial prolapse does not become external, but remains lodged in the vagina and is not appreciated externally.
- Total uterine prolapse: if it affects the majority of the uterus and the uterine horns (the points where the fallopian tubes meet). Unlike partial prolapse, total does protrude through the vulva, being visible from the outside.
Prolapsed uterine tissue appears swollen, inflamed and congested. In addition, due to the lack of irrigation that occurs when the uterus is trapped in the narrowness of the vulva, the tissue begins to desiccate and necrotize. For this reason, uterine prolapse is always a veterinary emergency that should be treated as quickly as possible.
Clitoral hypertrophy is a rare condition in female dogs that consists of an increase in the size of the clitoris. It can have two causes:
- Congenital malformation: this is a disorder of sexual development that produces an abnormally large clitoris, also known as a ‘pseudopenis’. Depending on whether or not there are other malformations in the reproductive system, these dogs can be considered hermaphrodites or pseudohermaphrodites.
- Androgen treatments: one of the side effects that androgen hormone treatments is that it can produce clitoral hypertrophy.
Bitches with clitoral hypertrophy have a bulge protruding through the vulva. This can become lacerated and infected. In addition, it is common for these dogs have recurrent vaginitis and cystitis. It is important to surgically correct this alteration in order to avoid the associated complications.
See how to treat cystitis in dogs if your dog has this complication.
Neoplasms or tumors
There are various types of tumors that can cause the presence of a mass in the vulvar area. The most frequent are:
- Vulvo-vaginal neoplasms: tumors of the vulva and vagina represent 40% of tumors of the reproductive system in a bitch, although the vast majority (between 70-80%) are benign. They are usually fibromas, lipomas or leiomyomas. Their appearance is usually influenced by hormonal changes and the risk increases with age. In these bitches, vaginal bleeding, discharge, dysuria, tenesmus and persistent estrus are common.
- Transmissible venereal tumor (TVT) or Sticker's sarcoma: this is a benign tumor, specifically a lymphosarcoma, characterized by sexual transmission. Tumor implantation is produced by contact during mating. Generally, it presents as a single or multiple mass in the mucosa of the external genitalia, which is multilobulated (has many lobes) and is cauliflower-like. Frequently, the mass appears ulcerated and infected, and a bloody vaginal discharge occurs. Currently, it is a tumor with low prevalence due to the fact that natural mating is less frequent and breeding dogs and bitches are subject to greater sanitary control.
Learn more about this condition with our article on transmissible venereal tumors in dogs.
What to do if my dog has a growth on her vagina?
As we have seen throughout the article, there are numerous causes that can lead to the appearance of a growth on the vagina or another part of their reproductive organs. However, we must know that the severity of each of them is highly variable. Some processes, such as vaginal hypertrophy, are self-limiting and usually resolve spontaneously when hormone levels normalize. Processes such as uterine prolapse are true emergencies that require immediate veterinary care.
For this reason, whenever you detect a growth in your dog's vulvar area, it is important you go to a veterinary center without delay. Once there, the veterinary clinicians will be able to carry out a diagnostic protocol that allows the cause to be identified and the most appropriate treatment to be established.
Below, we summarize the possible treatments for each of the causes listed in this article:
- Vaginal hypertrophy: this is a mild process that usually subsides when estrogen levels normalize. However, while it resolves, it is important to institute treatment to protect the exteriorized vaginal mucosa and prevent it from being damaged. Specifically, the tissue should be kept clean with normal saline or vaginal betadine. Sterile Vaseline may be applied to the mucosa to prevent it from drying out. In specific cases, especially in large or ulcerated growths, it is necessary to resort to surgical removal.
- Vaginal prolapse: manual repositioning or reintroduction of the vagina should be attempted as a first option. To do this, the area must be washed well and replaced manually using physical pressure. It will always be aided by lubricating substances or even an episiotomy to facilitate reintroduction. When this method is not effective, or the tissue is severely damaged or necrotic, it will be necessary to resort to surgery.
- Uterus prolapse: treatment is always surgical and must be performed urgently to avoid necrosis of the prolapsed tissue. The goal of surgery is to return the uterus to its anatomical position.
- Clitoral hypertrophy: similarly, removal or reconstruction of the clitoris is recommended to prevent it from being injured when exposed to the outside.
- Tumors: the treatment of tumors is usually surgical. However, in the case of transmissible venereal tumor, treatment is chemotherapy using vincristine. Learn more in our related article about types of chemotherapy for dogs.
In addition to the specific treatments we have described, we must point out that most of these processes can be both prevented and resolved with spaying (ovariohysterectomy) of bitches. Spaying manages to reduce hormonal levels and avoid or resolve many of these homomorphic-dependent processes.
For this reason, we recommend that you consider sterilization as the best option to prevent these and other reproductive pathologies in the bitch. You can find more about the benefits of spaying in our article on what to expect after a dog is neutered.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Has a Growth on Her Vagina, we recommend you visit our Reproductive system diseases category.
- Martínez, J. M., Granados, J. R., & Mateo, Mª. B. (2009). Vaginal hyperplasia due to remaining ovary. Argus, 110, 46-47
- Root, M. (2005). Dog and cat breeding manual. Multimédica Veterinary Editions.
- Valencia, S., Gonzalez, J. C., & Rincón, J. C. (2017). A case of disorder of sexual development in a mongrel canine. Rev Med Vet Zoot, 64(2), 70-76