You may be worried if you’ve noticed swelling in your female dog’s genital area. In this post, we will discuss what may be causing the problem–and what to do about it.
Why Swelling of the Genitals Occurs in Female Dogs
Why is my female dog’s private area swollen? This issue may arise for several different reasons. It may indicate an infection, that your dog is in heat, or that she has an allergic reaction. Labor complications or forced separation during mating may also cause swelling.
15 Reasons Your Female Dog’s Private Area Is Swollen
Vaginitis is the medical term that describes the swelling and inflammation of a dog’s vagina, and it’s often accompanied by vaginal discharge. The swelling is harmless in many cases, but it could signal an underlying condition needing treatment.
Keep reading to learn more about what causes vaginitis.
Infection is one of the leading causes of swelling in a dog’s private parts.
In female dogs, urinary tract infections are the most common culprits. Urinary tract infections occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract or urethra, leading to vaginitis.
Diagnosing an infection on your own can be challenging, but you may be able to observe some other symptoms in your dog:
- Difficulties urinating
- Scratching/itching of their private parts
- Changes in mood/behavior
The best way to deal with urinary tract infections is to prevent them altogether, which you can achieve with regular cleaning and grooming. But if you do notice any signs of a UTI, you should see your vet. They can prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection.
The Estrus Cycle
You probably already know that unspayed female dogs go into heat, which lasts roughly three to four weeks, where she is receptive to mating. This part of the cycle is also called the estrus phase, which happens once or twice per year. And just like female humans, female dogs undergo physiological changes depending on where they’re at in their cycle.
Before the dog is receptive to mating in the estrus phase, she enters the proestrus stage–the beginning of heat. She’ll start to bleed, and her vulva will become swollen. So, if your dog is unspayed and you notice a cyclical pattern to this swelling, her heat cycle is likely the reason.
Most spayed females do not experience estrus, but it is possible if they have ovarian remnant syndrome (ORS).
Being in Heat
Aside from swelling in the pre-heat part of her cycle, a female dog’s genitals may also swell when she is in heat. There’s nothing to be alarmed about if you notice this swelling in unspayed dogs. Estrogen causes the vaginal wall to bulge and protrude outwards.
Not sure if your dog is in heat? Check for heat-related symptoms like bleeding and vaginal discharge.
If your dog is pregnant and close to birth, you may notice swelling in her genitals as a normal part of labor. It helps prepare her body for delivery, especially if she has a large litter.
Labor complications may also lead to swelling. Many dogs lick their genitals during labor, which causes stimulation.
An Allergic Reaction
When it comes to skin conditions in canines, allergic reactions are one of the primary causes. Certain products can produce adverse reactions in dogs.
If you’re noticing swelling on her genitals, your furry friend may be allergic to the shampoo or spray that you’re using. In this case, it’s a good idea to take inventory of the products you use on your dog, especially if you’ve recently introduced a new one.
New food or something your pet contacts outside, like a bug or a plant, can cause an allergic reaction. The vulva is quite sensitive, so it can get swollen after contact with insects or plant poison. If you suspect your dog has been frolicking among plants unknown, contact your veterinarian.
Swelling from Leftover Feces or Urine
When dogs go to the bathroom, urine or fecal matter can get stuck around their private parts. Foreign material left inside of the privates can cause irritation and infection. The problem can be compounded in certain breeds if their fur gets too long and matted. A swollen vulva is often the result of this problem in female dogs.
The good news? It’s easy to prevent this problem with regular bathing and grooming sessions if your breed requires them.
A female dog’s private parts have fairly little in the way of protection. For the most part, this lack of protection is fine, but it may become problematic–especially in the case of curious canines who come into contact with foreign bodies while out exploring. If these foreign bodies get too close to their genitals, it could lead to swelling
The most common culprit? You guessed it: foxtails. Foxtails are risky to dogs for several reasons, and they are known to become stuck in unwanted places: ears, feet, eyes, and yes–a female dog’s vagina.
Foxtail season is from May to December, so check your pup thoroughly during this time, especially after a walk in open fields. Try also to keep your dog away from overgrown, grassy areas.
Sometimes, female dogs have anatomical differences in their vagina. While anatomical anomalies are something only your vet can diagnose, it’s vital to be aware of them. They may be the reason for your pup’s vaginal swelling.
The most common anatomical anomaly is a condition called vaginal septa, which is when the vagina is narrower than it should be. Vaginal septa cause swelling, and it can also create an increased buildup of urine, leading to irritation.
The worst thing owners can do to two dogs mating is forcing them apart.
A male dog’s penis swells considerably during the mating process and becomes too large to come out during intercourse. If you interrupt the dogs, you’re likely to injure the female, as the too-large penis will cause inflammation and swelling in her vagina.
Many dog owners get nervous when they first witness dog mating. However, even if their behavior is alarming or seems painful, it’s best to leave the dogs to their own devices. Let the male ejaculate, and the dogs will break the bond themselves.
Some dogs have ectopic ureters, an abnormality in the structure that connects the kidney with the bladder, which leads to incontinence. If your dog has difficulty potty training or leakage, and their privates swell, they may have this condition. If you suspect your dog has an ectopic ureter, take it to your veterinarian.
Otherwise known as vaginal tumors, vaginal neoplasia can cause your dog’s privates to swell.
If you notice swelling, discharge, or a bulbous mass, visit your veterinarian. Some tumors may require surgical treatment.
Like their human counterparts, the body of a pregnant dog undergoes plenty of changes to prepare for birth. And you guessed it–one of those changes is swelling in her genitals. If your dog is unspayed and you discover this symptom, you may soon be welcoming a new litter.
Insect bites are never fun, and they produce the same reaction in canines as they do in humans: itchiness, inflammation, redness, and swelling. These symptoms are magnified when they occur in sensitive places like the genitals.
If you see swelling and your pup won’t stop trying to rub or lick her genitals, an insect bite may be to blame. You can help speed up the healing process by applying an itch control powder. In most cases, the situation should resolve on its own.
Canine Herpes Virus
The canine herpes virus typically occurs in puppies, and its consequences are usually life-threatening.
If your dog has the canine herpes virus, she’ll display a range of symptoms, and swelling of the vulva is one of them. You may also notice discharge, an upper respiratory infection (coughing and sneezing), and eye issues like conjunctivitis or recurrent ocular discharge.
Your pup may get the virus by coming in contact with vaginal, oral, or nasal secretions from infected dogs. The condition can also be passed along during birth.
Ovarian Remnant Syndrome
Spayed dogs should display no signs of heat as their entire reproductive tract is removed. So what’s going on if you notice signs of heat–like swollen genitals–in a spayed dog?
Swollen genitals may be a sign that the dog has Ovarian Remnant Syndrome. As you might be able to guess from the name, the syndrome describes a situation when ovarian tissue stays inside a spayed female dog. This leftover ovarian tissue produces estrogen, which causes signs of heat.
You’ll need to visit your vet to confirm, but the treatment is simple: a second surgery, performed while the dog is in heat, should ensure that the rest of the tissue is removed.
What Are Other Symptoms of Vaginitis in Dogs?
Aside from visible swelling, vaginitis (or vaginal inflammation) can have other symptoms, including:
- Frequent urination or pain with urination
- Licking their genitals
- Redness and inflammation
- Your dog rubbing her bottom on the ground
- Yellow mucus
- Bloody discharge
- Male dogs show sexual interest, even though the female dog is not in heat
The Anatomy of a Dog’s Vaginas
The part of the dog vagina that we can see is the vulva, the outside consisting of two labia connected at the top and bottom. Just inside is the vagina, where it opens into the vestibule and the urethra. At the end of the vagina are the cervix and the uterus.
What Does a Healthy Dog Vulva Look Like?
Knowing what normal looks like for your dog is critical to helping you identify problems. So, what should a healthy dog vulva look like?
The vulva in a spayed female dog shouldn’t change much in appearance. However, you’ll notice changes in the vulva of an unspayed dog during its heat cycle. As she is receptive to mating, her vulva becomes swollen during this time.
However, regardless of whether or not your dog is spayed, you should always be able to see the vulva. If the dog’s vulva is hidden behind the skin, there is a problem. Extra skin in this area can lead to health issues like dermatitis, vaginal infections, and urinary tract infections.
Visit your vet if you can’t see your dog’s vulva. Your dog may require surgery to remove the tissue and enhance your dog’s quality of life.
How Do I Treat My Dog’s Swollen Vulva?
Ultimately, the treatment for a swollen vulva depends on what’s causing the swelling in the first place.
If you suspect that irritation of some kind is the problem (like that caused by leftover feces or a new shampoo), some targeted–yet gentle–cleaning and grooming can resolve the issue.
If you’re not sure the reason, a vet can help you figure it out and determine a treatment plan. Medication is enough to clear up the issue in many cases, though sometimes surgery may be necessary.
There are many reasons a dog may have a swollen vagina. Infection, being in heat, labor, and anatomical anomalies are all common culprits.
We hope this post will help you get a fuller picture of what might be going on with your dog, but it is not for diagnostic purposes. To find out exactly what’s causing your dog’s swollen privates, you must have her examined by a veterinarian.
And while this issue is often harmless and will resolve on its own, in some cases, it may point to a more serious underlying condition. As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to keep a close eye on your dog’s health to identify any potential problems–which may make all the difference to your furry friend.