Puppy vaginitis (also called juvenile vaginitis) is inflammation of the vagina in a puppy that has not reached puberty and has not yet gone through a heat cycle. The cause of puppy vaginitis is not well understood, but it is usually a mild condition.
Young female dogs who have not gone through a heat cycle are at risk for puppy vaginitis. No breed predisposition has been noted. Symptoms can show up in puppies as young as 6 to 8 weeks.
Signs and Symptoms of Puppy Vaginitis
Uncomplicated puppy vaginitis has few signs. Often it is discovered incidentally during a puppy checkup. Signs are typically mild, may come and go, and can include:
- Vaginal discharge that is mucous-like, white to yellow, and usually not heavy
- Licking at the vulva
- Mild irritation of skin around the vulva
If there are other additional signs—such as frequent urination—something else is going on instead of puppy vaginitis.
Diagnosis of Puppy Vaginitis
The symptoms and age of the pup strongly suggest the diagnosis. A visual examination of the inner walls of the vagina will reveal a reddened surface, and a sample of cells from the vagina examined under the microscope will show changes typical for puppy vaginitis.
Your vet may want to do other tests to rule out other conditions that may need treatment, such as a urine sample to check for a urinary tract infection and a swab of the vagina to check for unusual amounts or types of bacteria that indicate a bacterial infection requiring antibiotic therapy.
Other tests may also be recommended by your vet.
Treating Puppy Vaginitis
In mild cases with no complicating factors such as infections, treatment usually consists of daily cleaning of the vulva with an unscented baby wipe or an alcohol-free ear cleaning solution to keep the area clean and alleviate any irritation from the discharge.
Antibiotics are only necessary if tests for bacteria reveal a higher than normal or unusual population of bacteria.
Experts are divided on the question of whether to spay pups with puppy vaginitis before their first heat cycle or let them go through a heat cycle. This is a question you should discuss with your vet.
Home Care for a Pet With Puppy Vaginitis
Check with your vet if you notice changes in the nature of the discharge or if any other symptoms appear. The daily cleaning of the vulva is typically all that is needed until the condition resolves on its own.