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What is Swelling of the Vulva?

You may notice your dog has a vaginal discharge or that the vulva area is swelling. It could be that your dog is entering the estrus (heat) cycle, whereby swelling is often seen. This phase lasts approximately for three to four weeks and you must be aware your dog can get pregnant during this phase and that male dogs will be attracted to her. Care should be taken during the estrus cycle in unspayed females as pregnancy is always a risk. The estrus cycle is just one of the  reasons why the vulvar area may be swelling.

  • Allergic reaction  
  • Estrus cycle 
  • Labor complications 
  • Forced separation during breeding
  • Infection

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Why Swelling of the Vulva Occurs in Dogs

Allergic Reaction

Your dog may be allergic to the shampoo or other products you are using when grooming. It could also be that you dog has come into contact something that is causing an allergic reaction, such as a plant or bug. The vulva is a sensitive area and can react to insect or poison in plants. Because the cause is unknown, it is best to take your dog to your veterinarian clinic so they can diagnose the condition and prescribe treatment. 

Estrus Cycle

An unspayed female dog will go into the heat or estrus phase for approximately three to four weeks once or twice a year. This is completely normal for your dog. The production of estrogen in this period causes the tissues to expand and face outwards from the vulva. Spaying of your dog will prevent this, and also means that your dog will no longer be able to breed.

Labor Complications 

If your dog is pregnant, then the process of preparing for labor will be signaled by changes in the vulva often construed as swelling. This is normal for the birth process. 

Forced Separation During Breeding

Pulling dogs apart during mating can injure the female – the male dog must ejaculate to break the bond, which will then allow them to separate. 

Infection

 

Urinary tract infections can be a common occurrence among female dogs.  Antibiotics or probiotics can help cure infection and prevent further swelling. Vaginitis is inflammation of the vaginal canal, and there are two types: juvenile (puppy) vaginitis, and adult onset vaginitis. Your veterinarian will prescribe the correct medication to clear the infection up. It is best to catch this problem in its initial stages, as it may need surgical cleaning and draining to correct if left untreated.  

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What to do if your Dog is Swelling of the Vulva

If your dog is a female and she is going into the ‘heat’ phase, you must take extra care of her needs. Her behavior may change and she may become a bit moody or snappy as her body is flooded with hormones. Be aware that male dogs will be attracted to her now, so it will be better to keep her at home. During this stage, she can and will get pregnant, so you must be extra protective if you don’t want a litter of puppies arriving in your home. If you are wanting to breed her, now is the time to consider it. 

If the swelling is an allergic reaction, it can be hard to find the cause. It is advisable to take your dog to the veterinarian so they can help to soothe the itching or inflammation with medication. Usually, with medication the swelling will go down quickly and your dog will be fine. 

During labor preparation for your pregnant dog, you will notice changes to the vulvar area. This is quite normal, but if your dog becomes uneasy, is in pain, or is struggling with the birth then get immediate veterinary assistance to help her through it without injury. 

Forcing dogs apart due to poor planning when your dog is in heat is never a good idea. If you don’t want your dog to get pregnant then keep her away from male dogs and safe at home. Forcing dogs apart during the mating process can cause the female a lot of pain and injury. As the male inserts his penis, the bulbous head expands, literally ‘holding’ him to the female. Wrenching them apart can cause ripping and tearing of the vaginal area, internal injury, and blood loss. The male dog must ejaculate and only then does the bulbous head return to normal to allow him to withdraw easily. 

Bacterial and yeast infections can become a major concern if they are not treated immediately. A quick trip to the veterinarian will save you a lot of concern and for your dog, a lot of irritation. A course of medication will be prescribed, and possibly medicated creams. The infections are easier to treat during the initial stages; don’t wait to see if it gets better, it will only get worse.

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Prevention of Swelling of the Vulva

If your dog is in heat, there is nothing you can do to prevent it other than having your dog spayed. Once your dog is spayed they will never have the heat cycle again but bear in mind they will be unable to breed and produce puppies. For other conditions, it comes down to observation of your dog and acting fast when you know something is not right. Allergies can come from all sorts of things - from food to chemicals, to plants and bugs. A good maintenance procedure is to check your dog regularly for cuts, infections, or lumps and swellings. Doing this during grooming is a quick and effortless way to care for your pet.

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Cost of Swelling of the Vulva

The costs of treatments can vary every between veterinarians within a town, let alone across the country. But to provide a baseline, here are some cost averages. Spaying a female dog is more complicated than neutering a male dog, so you can expect to pay on average $300 or more. External allergy treatments are $150 for simple cases and the price can climb for more advanced conditions. Treatment for infections can cost $300-900, while treatment for delivery problems in a female dog can cost on average $1800. Damage caused by separating mating dogs can have an expense of $1000 to repair rips and tears to the vaginal area.

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Written by a Pugs lover Grace Park

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Published: 08/07/2017, edited: 03/12/2021

Swelling of the Vulva Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Jack Russell Terrier

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Four Months

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8 found helpful

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Red And Swelling Vagina

Did I need to take her to the hospital

March 4, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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8 Recommendations

A red and swollen vulva could be her first season, however if she is truly 4 months, this would be a little young. Other considerations would include trauma, a bacterial vaginitis, a urinary tract infection etc. If she has been licking, this may be causing the inflammation. Certainly, a vet visit is best to determine what is going on and to decide if she may need treatment, such as antibiotics or anti inflammatories. Ensure she isn't licking and use a buster collar if needed.

March 4, 2021

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German Shepherd

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13 found helpful

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Redness

She has red bumps and around her vulva is quite inflamed.

Dec. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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13 Recommendations

Hello, so sorry to hear that your dog is having issues. This could be an infection or allergic reaction. YOu can try Benadryl. The dosage is 1mg/pound. You can also clean this area every day and apply triple antibiotic ointment to it to help it heal. if this does not get better after a few days, it would be best for your dog to see your vet. They can prescribe your dog antibiotics to help.

Dec. 29, 2020

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Pit Bull mix with springer spaniel

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7 months

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9 found helpful

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Swelling In The Vaginal Area And Licking It Alot

It's a little red it is pretty swollen and she licks it a lot now

Nov. 30, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello, if your dog is not spayed this could be her going into heat. If she is I would worry about vaginitis and she would need antibiotics from your vet

Nov. 30, 2020

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Labrador Retriever

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Two Years

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9 found helpful

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Redness

Swollen and red vagina

Oct. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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9 Recommendations

Hello Thank you for the pictures. If your dog is not spayed, then typically a swollen red vulva means that she is in heat or going in to heat very soon.

Oct. 25, 2020

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Pug

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7 months

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4 found helpful

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Swollen Vulva

My dog has a very swollen vulva and is licking it a lot. Her behavior has not changed. I am very concerned - is this an infection?

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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4 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If she is not spayed, she is about the right age to come into heat. If the problem persists for more than a few days, or she is spayed, then it may be an infection, and having her seen by your veterinarian would be a good idea.

Oct. 8, 2020

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TeTe

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pitbull

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1 Year

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Fair severity

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Swollen Private Area

Hello, I have a Pitbull who is a little over 1.5 years old and about six days ago I noticed she was just a little bit swollen in her private area and over the last few days I have noticed that it has become more swollen. I believe she may be in her first heat as my neutered male dog is chasing her around, humping her and sniffing her in the private area. My male dog has never done that with her before which makes me believe she is going into her first heat, however 1 day my male will be chasing her around and the next day he will be leaving her alone. So, I'm not sure if she's in heat or not. She has no discharge at all and no odor. Can you tell me what you think please? I plan on taking her to the vet to get spayed ASAP. I would take her now but unfortunately, I just had a very unexpected costly situation happen. She also doesn't seemed to be bothered by it. Thank You TeTes Mom

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Elsie

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Golden Retriever

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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Swelling

My dog is about to have puppies and in the last week the back side of her vulva has swollen to about three times its normal size. It’s like there is a sac between her Vulva and her anus. Is this normal?

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Big Baby

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Rednosed pittbull

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10 Years

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1 found helpful

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Swollen Between The Vagina & Anus

Hi my dog big baby is a 10 year-old red nose pitbull and she has swelling that is the size softball between her anus and her vagina. There's no smell no leakage but the other two dogs in our home are on their menstruation. She look like she was about to go into menstration as well but it just swelled up and didn't bleed. The past year she developed a small little bump that would come around the time of menstruation but then it would go away afterwards but be a tiny quarter-sized lump there I don't know what to do I'm so upset if I lose her she's my everything all my animals are.

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Lay

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Staffordshire Bull Terrier

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9 Years

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Some kind of skin infection started in the area of where.her nipples where removed 1 year ago. Spread down into her vulva an aand legs .now one of her legs are swollen up. Just put her on cephilexin today . any thought? It seems to be out side omly effection the skin . its slight red and doesnt seem to be any internal infection for now . it looks like her vulva is in heat and the skin around it is firm and swollen .

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