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What is Vaginal Inflammation?

Vaginal inflammation in cats, also called vaginitis, is a condition in which the vaginal area on a female cat becomes irritated or inflamed and may have some light colored discharge. The condition is moderately painful for your cat and, if left untreated, can lead to more complicated issues such as urinary tract infections (UTI) and infection of the uterus or other reproductive organs. While vaginitis may often resolve on its own, given the ease with which more serious conditions may develop, it's best to consult with a veterinarian if you suspect your cat is suffering from vaginitis.

Symptoms of Vaginal Inflammation in Cats

While vaginal inflammation may sound like a straightforward condition, given the fastidious nature of cats, it can be difficult to catch. Here are a few common symptoms to watch out for.

  • Red or swollen vaginal area
  • Light colored, mucus-like discharge
  • Increased attention from male cats
  • Scooting of rear end across surfaces
  • Excessive grooming or licking
  • Frequent urination or trips to the litter box without urinating

Causes of Vaginal Inflammation in Cats

The causes of vaginal inflammation in cats may be varied. A qualified veterinarian will be able to diagnose your pet appropriately. Some causes may include:

  • Bacterial infection
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Cyst or abscess of vaginal area
  • Trauma or injury
  • Presence of foreign objects
  • Interior physical deformities of vaginal folds

Diagnosis of Vaginal Inflammation in Cats

While diagnoses of the condition itself is present upon an initial examination, it is the underlying cause of the symptoms the veterinarian will be the most concerned with. To begin, your vet will conduct a physical examination of your cat. Your vet will check temperature, tenderness in the abdomen and clarity of eyes and any discharge from the mouth.

Next, your vet will want to collect urine from your cat. Unlike in dogs, collecting urine from a cat can be difficult. Your vet may wish to collect a clean, uncontaminated sample by inserting a needle directly into the bladder. Your cat may need to undergo anesthesia for this procedure. A urinalysis of the fluid collected will identify the presence of any white blood cells and will also allow a vet to perform a culture to determine which medicines any bacteria in the urine may be susceptible to. 

In the event the cause of the vaginitis in your cat is not immediately apparent, or if frequent bouts of vaginitis reoccur, your vet may also use a scope or ultrasound to determine whether any internal deformities exist. These deformities, or folds, can often cause bacteria to collect and grow in the urine, creating a situation where perpetual infections may occur.

Treatment of Vaginal Inflammation in Cats

Treatment of vaginal inflammation in cats is typically straightforward, but strict. Your vet will order that your cat be provided with unlimited clean drinking water, in order to dilute any bacteria in the urine. Your veterinarian may also prescribe a course of antibiotics. The type of antibiotic will be tailored to the specific form of bacteria in your cat’s urine, determined from the culture of the collected urine.

In the event of persistent vaginitis with recurring infection, your veterinarian may have several options to consider. First, if your cat is young, unsprayed and has not yet experienced a heat cycle, your vet may prescribe a wait and see approach of treatment. In some cases, recurring bouts of vaginitis due to hormonal or physical deformities may resolve as the female organs grow and mature. Your veterinarian will still recommend treating the bouts as they occur during this time.

If time and sexual maturity do not resolve the condition, your veterinarian may want to perform minor surgery on your cat to remove any potential foreign objects or correct a deformity. In order to perform this procedure, your cat will need to be admitted to your veterinarian’s facility and put under anesthesia in order to ensure they remain still and calm throughout the delicate surgery. Prior to surgery, your veterinarian will perform another full blood panel to ensure minimal risk of adverse reaction to any drugs that will be administered.

Recovery of Vaginal Inflammation in Cats

With proper treatment, and adherence to the full course of antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian, prognosis for recovery and the long-term health outlook for your cat are very good. Vaginitis due to bacterial infection will typically resolve within several days of starting medication. You should monitor your cat carefully for any signs of recurring vaginal inflammation episodes, since this may point to a more serious underlying condition.

Vaginal inflammation caused by deformities, trauma or foreign bodies will also resolve shortly after the underlying condition is healed or removed. With proper post-surgical care, even in severe cases, your cat should lead a long and healthy life.