Vaginal Hyperplasia in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Vaginal hyperplasia in dogs is a condition characterized by enlargement and inflammation of the vaginal lining (mucosa) and the lining visibly bulges out of the vaginal lips.

The condition occurs during the proestrus and estrus phases of a dog’s heat cycle and is a result of estrogenic stimulation. It starts off with the surface being smooth and glistening, but over time it becomes dry and fissures could develop. 

The dog may also experience slight vaginal discharge. Vaginal hyperplasia can interfere with copulation with the dog reluctant to breed. In some cases, the swelling continues throughout the pregnancy or recurs after the dog gives birth.

Vaginal Hyperplasia in Dogs
Vaginal Hyperplasia in Dogs

Symptoms of vaginal hyperplasia in dogs

The most common sign of vaginal hyperplasia in dogs is a pink, inflamed mass protruding from the vulva. Other symptoms include:

  • Excessive licking of the vulva
  • Noticeable pain during urination
  • Difficulty giving birth during labor

Vaginal hyperplasia that occurs during parturition can create a blockage when the pregnant dog is ready to give birth. Such cases are often medical emergencies and a veterinarian should do a C-section for the safe delivery of puppies.

Causes of vaginal hyperplasia in dogs

An increase in estrogen levels is the primary cause of swollen vaginal lining. This explains why vaginal hyperplasia occurs during the proestrus and estrus phases when estrogen level is at its highest. Some dog breeds are more prone to this condition than others.

Dogs most prone to vaginal hyperplasia

Dog breeds more prone to this medical condition include:

  • Boxer
  • Mastiff
  • Weimaraners
  • Walker Hound
  • Labrador Retriever
  • German Shepherd
  • Airedale Terrier
  • Springer Spaniel
  • French Bulldog
  • English Bulldog

Diagnosis of vaginal hyperplasia in dogs

Diagnosis of vaginal prolapse in dogs is made by the examination of the vagina and assessment of the stage of the estrus cycle the dog is at. Estrogenic stimulation can be confirmed by the presence of estrous behavior, cornification of the vaginal cells (i.e. formation of dead vaginal cells due to exposure), and the presence of the characteristic blood-tinged estrous discharge.

If the veterinarian suspects your pet could be suffering from vaginal neoplasia, a biopsy of the protruding tissue will be done.

Treatment of vaginal hyperplasia in dogs

Mild vaginal hyperplasia does not need any treatment and resolves as soon as estrogen levels decline. If the enlarged tissues protrude from the vulva, the veterinarian will recommend cleaning and keeping it moist with the use of an antibiotic cream or ointment.

In severe cases, such as when the protruding mass is extremely large or if the mucosal damage is extensive, the veterinarian might consider submucosal resection. This involves suturing to get the mass put back to the vagina, which will eventually subside once the heat cycle is complete.

Another alternative is hormone therapy, especially if the dog doesn’t have any vaginal tissue damage and normal urination is possible. Therapy accelerates the heat cycle and corrects the vaginal prolapse.

Ovariohysterectomy (spaying) can also be used. It is a procedure that involves the removal of the gonadal source of estrogen and will prevent recurrence permanently. You should, however, only approve this procedure as the last resort, especially if you’re looking to breed your dog.

To reduce self-trauma resulting from the excessive licking of the swollen part, you can use a diaper or collar, such as Elizabeth collar for dogs.

Recovery from vaginal hyperplasia

Mild cases of vaginal hyperplasia often resolve without medication soon after the estrus phase of the heat cycle when estrogen levels decline. In other cases, you should keep the prolapsed tissue clean and moist using antibiotic cream. Keep in mind that the vaginal hyperplasia in dogs can recur during the subsequent heat cycles if a dog remains unspayed.

Questions related to vaginal hyperplasia in dogs

Here are a few frequently asked questions regarding canine vaginal hyperplasia.

1. Is vaginal hyperplasia in dogs normal?

Vaginal hyperplasia in dogs is normal, especially among unspayed female dogs. It often resolves without medication though some cases need the use of antibiotic creams. Breeds more prone to the condition include Boxers, Mastiffs, Weimaraners, Walker Hounds, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Airedale Terriers, Springer Spaniels, French Bulldogs, and English Bulldogs.

2. Can a dog with vaginal hyperplasia get pregnant?

Yes. A dog with vaginal hyperplasia can get pregnant either through natural mating or artificial insemination. Artificial insemination can be used if the female dog cannot allow intromission. Sometimes it’s advisable not to use dogs prone to the condition for breeding because the problem can be passed to the offspring.

3. Is vaginal hyperplasia in dogs painful?

While no one can be absolutely certain that vaginal hyperplasia in dogs is painful or not, the noticeable discomfort/pain during urination means the condition is uncomfortable for dogs. That’s why you’ll notice excessive licking of the vulva unless your dog is in a diaper.

4. How do you prevent vaginal hyperplasia in dogs?

Vaginal hyperplasia is highly linked to increased estrogen levels during the proestrus and estrus phases of the heat cycle. The only way to prevent this from happening is by spaying the dog, which means she will never go into heat again.

5. Is vaginal hyperplasia in dogs genetic?

Although the primary cause of vaginal prolapse in dogs is estrogen stimulation, genetic predisposition also plays some role. There are a few breeds that are more prone to vaginal hyperplasia, including the Boxers, Mastiffs, Weimaraners, Walker Hounds, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Airedale Terriers, Springer Spaniels, French Bulldogs, and English Bulldogs.

Final thoughts

Although one of the main reasons why your female dog’s private area is swollen could be the fact she’s in heat, you need to consult your veterinarian if you notice the condition is severe.

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