A closer look: Genital Discharge in Dogs
Variations in genital discharge include color, quantity, and whether the symptom appears consistently or comes and goes. These variations do not always reflect the severity of disease, and veterinary examination is required to diagnose the underlying condition.
In many cases, genital discharge is clear. In other cases it is white or yellowish due to the presence of pus, often indicating an infection. In others, it is reddish or brown due to the presence of blood. Blood may occur due to traumatic injury or foreign bodies.
The amount of discharge ranges from small quantities to large, easily noticeable quantities. For example, urinary incontinence or pyometra may result in large amounts of discharge, while tumors may only result in a small amount of discharge.
With some conditions such as prostate enlargement or pyometra, discharge is seen day after day for prolonged periods. With other conditions, such as traumatic injury, the discharge may only occur once or twice.
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There are a wide range of possible underlying causes of genital discharge. Some occur in both male and female dogs, while others are specific to either male or female dogs.
Potential underlying causes that occur in both male and female dogs primarily affect the urinary system or the blood.
A small amount of discharge around the vaginal opening or prepuce (the fold of skin in which the penis sits) is normal in dogs. Excessive discharge, especially when accompanied by signs of discomfort, excessive licking, or other symptoms is abnormal. Dogs with persisting genital discharge require prompt veterinary attention.
Green vaginal discharge is expected when female dogs go into labor (whelping). Pregnant dogs with unusual or abnormal discharge require urgent veterinary attention. Any dog who has not whelped a puppy within 15 minutes of green discharge appearing requires emergency veterinary care.
Testing and diagnosis
Diagnostic tools to identify the underlying cause of genital discharge include:
- Physical examination
- Blood work
- Bacterial culture of the discharge
- Diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays or ultrasound
In some cases, general anesthetic is required for some of these tests.
Genital discharge sometimes resolves without treatment. When required, treatment depends on the underlying cause and may include:
- Wound care, such as cleaning the area with medicated solutions
- Surgical removal of the uterus or testes (spay or neuter procedure)
- Surgical removal of tumors, cysts, or foreign objects
While waiting for genital discharge to resolve, it may be necessary to prevent the dog from licking the area with the use of an Elizabethan collar or similar device.
In normal, healthy dogs, there is sometimes a small amount of white or clear matter at the opening of the vagina or prepuce which can be mistaken for problematic genital discharge.