Ovariohysterectomy, commonly known as spaying, is a surgical procedure where a female dog’s ovaries and uterus are removed to sterilize her and prevent going into heat or getting pregnant. Some veterinarians opt to remove only the ovaries, a procedure called ovariectomy.
Sadly, there are cases where a spayed female dog can bleed from the private area, either soon after the surgical procedure or weeks or even months later.
A spayed female dog bleeding from private area can worry any pet owner. That’s why it’s important to understand the possible causes and situations when you should seek veterinary help.
Causes of spayed female dog bleeding from the private area
If your female dog has been spayed but bleeding from the private area, it could be caused by a tumor, an infection, anatomic abnormality, blood clotting disorder, urinary tract issues, or is suffering from postoperative trauma.
Let’s have a look at each of the potential causes below:
Vaginitis is an infection of the urinary tract caused by bacterial infections, anatomical anomalies, and cancer.
Juvenile vaginitis affects prepubescent dogs while adult-onset vaginitis affects adult dogs and is common in older spayed female dogs.
Signs of vaginitis you should look out for include:
- Yellowish/whitish discharge
- Blood-tinged discharge
- Frequent urination
- Excessive licking of the vulva area
- Signs of pain when urinating (difficulty urinating)
- Swollen vulva reddish in color
- Dog scooting her bottom on the floor
If you notice any of these symptoms and your female dog’s private area is visibly swollen, we recommend taking her to a veterinarian for an examination. Delayed intervention might require the use of surgical procedures to treat the condition.
2. Ovarian remnant syndrome
Ovarian remnant syndrome occurs when ovarian tissue remains inside the body after spay surgery. A female dog that has undergone complete spaying (removal of both the ovaries and uterus) cannot produce estrogen, a hormone that triggers a dog to go into heat.
This means the presence of discharge, which is one of the signs a dog is in heat, could be a result of the presence of a functioning ovarian tissue (called ovarian remnant) producing estrogen.
Ovarian remnants may be left inside the dog’s body after the surgical procedure or caused by the presence of accessory ovarian tissue. An accessory ovarian tissue is a small piece of tissue that broke off the ovary and established a sufficient blood supply to start producing hormones.
Common signs of ovarian remnant syndrome include:
- Swelling of the vulva
- Blood-tinged discharge
- Excessive licking of the genital area
We recommend taking your dog to the vet if you spot any of these symptoms. The veterinarian will conduct diagnostic tests, which include cytology, baseline hormone level tests, ultrasound, and hormone stimulation test to determine if an ovarian remnant is the cause of the swelling and discharge.
Although tumors of the private area are common among unspayed aging female dogs, spayed dogs can also suffer from the same as they age. Luckily, most tumors are non-cancerous and benign.
Common signs of tumors in dogs include:
- Vulvar bleeding
- Blood-tinged urine
- Unpleasant odor
- Difficulty giving birth (for unspayed dogs)
Do not hesitate to seek veterinary help if your spayed female dog is bleeding from the private area as it could be a sign of a tumor that should be removed as quickly as possible.
4. Anatomic abnormalities
A spayed female dog discharge could also mean she’s suffering from malformations caused by different factors. Anatomic abnormalities a female dog can suffer from include:
- Imperforate hymen: Where the hymen is solid preventing the movement of fluids from the uterus and normal penetration such as for breeding
- Dorsoventral septum: The presence of a vertical dividing membranous wall inside the vaginal canal
- Hymenal tightening: Rigid hymen and tight introitus which can be acquired or congenital
- Adhesions: An abnormal fibrous tissue sticking to vaginal structures
- Overgrowth: Excessive swelling of the tissue during heat (for unspayed dogs)
- Foreign bodies: The presence of foreign bodies within the dog’s vaginal canal
- Vaginal strictures: Caused by the presence of a tough internal membrane that blocks the normal vaginal outflow. The obstruction causes retention of discharge and sometimes urine.
- Cysts and tumors.
Causes of vaginal abnormalities in female dogs include hormonal, congenital, inflammatory, cancerous, or traumatic. A female dog with any of the above malformations will display one or a few of these signs:
- Vulvar discharge
- Excessive licking of the vulva
- Straining to urinate or defecate
- Mass of lips of the vulva
- Abnormally small vulva
- Uncontrolled urination
5. Post-surgical complications
A dog can suffer from post-surgical complications after spaying such as stitches or staples being detached. This might need re-suturing the entire incision to prevent excessive bleeding, organ prolapse, and infections.
The veterinarian will suture the cause of any internal bleeding if any and treat other complications. They might also recommend the use of antibiotics to prevent infections.
Keep in mind that the invasive nature of the surgical procedure will cause the surrounding area to have a red or purple hue. The blood collects and pools under the skin of the surgical area, causing a bruise-like effect.
Just check to confirm the bruising is localized to the surgical area and not spread all over the entire abdomen, which could be a sign of internal bleeding.
6. Urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infection in dogs is an infection of the urinary tract mainly caused by bacteria. It is one of the most common bacterial infections in dogs with more than 14% of all dogs suffering from UTI at least once in their lifetimes.
UTIs are more common among female dogs than males. Dogs with other health complications such as Cushing’s disease and kidney disease are at a higher risk of getting an infection.
A spayed female dog can get a urinary tract infection and notable signs will include:
- Blood-tinged vulvar discharge
- Cloudy urine
- Whimpering during urination
- Frequent urination
- Excessive licking of the vulva
Apart from urinary tract infection, urinary tract stones and cancer of the urinary tract can also cause bleeding from the private area.
7. Blood-clotting disorders
Blood-clotting disorders can also be the explanation for a spayed female dog bleeding from the private area. In this case, platelets do not respond as they should in the clotting process.
For example, the platelets fail to separate as they should or the dog’s immune system mistakenly destroy them, which in turn affects the efficient clotting of the blood.
In the event of a severe clotting problem, a dog will experience uncontrollable bleeding and excessive bruising.
Signs of clotting disorders of the platelets in dogs include:
- Blood in the urine
- Excessive bruising
- Prolonged bleeding after injury or surgery
- Bleeding of the gums
- Purplish red spots on the skin
Causes of blood-slotting disorders can be grouped into two categories – congenital and acquired. Congenital causes include diseases such as:
- Bassett thrombopathia: Caused by failure of the platelets to react as they should during a bleed
- Von Willebrand’s disease: It’s a result of deficiency of the Von Willebrand factor in the dog’s blood
- Cyclic hematopoiesis: 12-day cycles where the number of platelets decreases
- Congenital thrombocytopenia: The fetus lacks enough platelets because the mother’s body is producing antibodies to fight the fetus’ platelets
- Thrombasthenia: Platelet dysfunction resulting from protein disruption
The acquired causes of the blood-clotting disorder include:
- Thrombocytopenia: Caused by a vaccine that causes loss of platelets, a medication that suppresses platelets in the bone marrow, or an abnormality within the immune system where antibodies mistakenly destroy the platelets
- Ehrlichial diseases: A result of a severe drop in platelet count. The disease is caused by ticks.
There are also other causes of blood-clotting disorder in dogs including neoplasia, bone marrow tumor, chronic infections, anemia, hepatitis, parvovirus, and leptospirosis.
8. Hormonal disorders
A hormonal disorder is caused by an imbalance in hormone levels either because the body is producing too much or too little of a specific hormone. Health effects of hormonal imbalances vary with some endocrine diseases proving fatal if left untreated.
Common hormonal (endocrine) disorders in dogs include:
- Diabetes mellitus: Caused by a deficiency of insulin
- Cushing’s disease: Caused by an increase in the levels of the hormone cortisol in circulation
- Hypothyroidism: Results from a decrease in thyroid hormone production
9. Traumatic injuries
A traumatic injury or foreign materials within the vaginal canal can also be the cause of a spayed female dog bleeding from the private area.
You should take your dog to the vet if the injury is causing substantial bleeding or you suspect the presence of foreign materials within the vaginal canal as the cause of the bleeding.
FAQs about spayed female dog discharge
Let’s now have a look at a few frequently asked questions about female dogs bleeding from the private area.
a). Is it normal for a spayed female dog to bleed from the private area?
It’s normal for minor bleeding to happen soon after spaying. On the other hand, bleeding long after spaying is not normal and could be caused by inflammation, ovarian remnant syndrome, tumors, anatomic abnormalities, urinary tract infections, blood-clotting disorders, or even hormonal disorders.
b). Do female dogs bleed once spayed?
Female dogs can experience minor bleeding soon after spaying. It could be due to post-surgical complications such as stitches or staples being detached. However, if the bleeding is excessive you should seek veterinary help as quickly as possible. Excessive bleeding can be fatal.
c). Can a female dog be bleeding years after being spayed?
Yes, a female dog can bleed years after being spayed due to health complications such as ovarian remnant syndrome, anatomic abnormalities, urinary tract infections, blood-clotting disorders, endocrine disorders, tumors, and vaginitis.
d). Can a spayed female dog go into heat?
A spayed female dog cannot go into heat, especially if the ovaries and uterus were removed. She can no longer produce the estrogen necessary to trigger her to go into heat. However, in case there’s an ovarian remnant still producing estrogen, the dog will display signs of being in heat but cannot achieve successful mating because there are no ovaries.
If you notice blood in your dog’s urine, this video explains the potential causes and what you need to do. Video courtesy: Dogtor Pete.