Ovarian Cysts in Dogs - Symptoms and Treatment
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There are many reasons we should sterilize our dog, whether male or female. The average life expectancy of neutered and spayed dogs is greater than those which are unsterilized. Not only does it reduce the possibility of developing certain diseases, but it helps to reduce behavioral problems. However, if you have decided not to spay a female dog, you will have a responsibility to monitor them for any reproductive health problems.
Ovarian cysts in dogs are a relatively rare problem, but we need to understand their symptoms and treatment as ignoring them can be fatal for the dog. AnimalWised explains how to detect this condition and explains how they are related to the estrus cycle of dogs.
What is an ovarian cyst?
The ovaries are the reproductive organs of female dogs. They are responsible for the production of eggs, as well as the sex hormones which help to regulate reproductive behavior. They are small, oval in shape and flat. The cells that form within canine ovaries can degenerate. When this occurs, cysts can form. These are a type of neoplasm which contain liquid or semi-solid content. The most common are referred to as functional ovarian cysts.
Functional ovarian cysts produce estrogen and result in permanent estrus or increased bleeding. We can see this when there is more blood coming from the vulva during the heat cycle. We may first observe this if our dog keeps licking her private area more than usual. These cysts are more common in older dogs.
We should point that young bitches in their first heat cycle can present irregularities of their first heat cycle without presenting a pathological problem. Once their cycle is regulated, non-seasonal heat cycles in dogs should occur twice a year, although it is possible some individuals will experience it more. There interval between heat cycles is usually 6 or 7 months. If you don't know whether your dog has experienced their first heat cycle, you can take a look at our article on the heat cycle of dogs to know more.
If the dog does not have ovarian cysts, her reproductive cycle occurs in a 4-phase pattern:
- Pre-estrus: this is the stage that guardians can best detect, since the bitch begins to bleed lightly through her vagina. The bitch does not let herself to mate with a male, despite the swelling of her breasts and the inflammation of the vulva. The duration of this stage is about nine days.
- Estrus: the dog allows herself to be mounted and accepts the male due to the ovulation of the ovaries. The duration can vary from three to fifteen days.
- Diestrus: period of pseudo-gestation or gestation.
- Anestrus: this is the period between estrus and is characterized by ovarian inactivity.
The causes of ovarian cysts in dogs are unknown. There is some evidence to indicate their origin is likely due to a genetic factor or hormonal imbalance.
Symptoms of ovarian cysts in dogs
Dogs with ovarian cysts may be asymptomatic. In many cases, this disease is only detected when the dog has an ovariohysterectomy (spaying procedure). They may be detected if the dog is being given an abdominal ultrasound for a different reason.
The most striking symptom of canine ovarian cysts is the condition of the persistent estrus. This results in prolonged periods of bleeding and the acceptance of more males for mating. If you notice your bitch has a longer heat period than usual, do not hesitate. Take them to a veterinarian immediately for examination and the running of diagnostic tests. Other symptoms which may accompany persistent estrus in dogs with ovarian cysts include:
- Behavioral changes
- Haematological changes (anemia)
- Vulvar hyperplasia
- Dermatological issues due to endocrine function
How to diagnose an ovarian cyst in dogs
For a correct diagnosis, a complete assessment of their medical history, a blood test and an ultrasound should be performed. To detect ovarian cysts in dogs, the ultrasound will show areas in the ovaries with black, homogeneous anechoic structures. Once detected, a correct differential diagnosis with ovarian neoplasms should be made.
The number and size of cysts can vary from dog to dog. It is a condition which can affect either one or both of her ovaries.
Treatment of ovarian cysts in dogs
Hormonal treatment to induce ovulation of cysts is contraindicated because of its side effects. If this is carried out, it can result in pyometra, cystic endometrial hyperplasia and other complications, some of which can be fatal. For this reason, the main treatment of ovarian cysts in dogs is the surgical removal of the ovaries, known as an oophorectomy or ovariectomy. However, it is most likely the veterinarian will carry out a complete ovariohysterectomy to avoid any other complications in the future.
If the guardian decides not to submit the dog to surgery, either because of her advanced age or for any other reason, a follow-up by a veterinarian should be performed. Since there are no predisposing factors for ovarian cysts, it is our responsibility is to observe our dogs and look for any symptoms of disease, especially as they get older.
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.
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