Tumors and growths in the vaginal tissue of intact female dogs are not uncommon occurrences. These masses vary in size and texture and can be white, tan, or gray in color. They can be slow growing or develop quickly and may form inside or outside of luminal tissue. Some vaginal masses ulcerate, which is very painful for the dog and can lead to infection. Dogs affected by vaginal tumors may present with painful urination, bleeding, discharge or excessive licking of the genitals.
To treat vaginal masses, surgical excision paired with an ovariohysterectomy is most frequently used. Most tumors in this area are caused by improper hormone production, so removal of the reproductive system along with the masses themselves is key. Tumors or growths with no “stalk” section that are high in number point to cancer, which requires ongoing care in some cases. Female dogs between the ages of 2 and 18 are at risk for this problem. The surgery should be carried out by an ACVS board-certified veterinary surgeon, as the tumor excision complicates the general spay surgery.
Dogs exhibiting symptoms will often be given a full physical, including an in-depth vaginal examination using an endoscope. X-rays or ultrasounds of the abdomen will be taken. In some cases, especially if cancer is suspected, an MRI or CT scan may be needed. Full blood work will be run to assess the animal's overall health condition and to help determine whether general anesthesia may be used or not. The dog will likely need to fast for several hours preceding the operation.
To begin the surgical procedure, the dog will be sedated. The lower abdomen will be shaved and cleaned in preparation for the incision. A catheter will be placed in the urethra. Depending on where the tumors are, a dorsal episiotomy may be used to expand the vaginal opening to make removal easier. This surgical cut also allows for more visualization of the affected area. An incision will also be made around the vulva. Tissue and muscle will be dissected to remove all masses. A full spay will be performed at this time. Tissue should be sutured shut in layers to close the surgical wound.
A complete removal of a vaginal mass can cure the ailment that the dog is suffering from in many cases. In dogs with benign growths, only 15% experienced tumor regrowth if the dog was left intact, while 0% had regrowth after receiving an ovariohysterectomy in addition to mass excision. Dogs with cancerous growths have a more guarded prognosis, and often must receive radiation therapy or chemotherapy after the operation.
The dog should be closely monitored during recovery from anesthesia to ensure all vital functions resume properly. Pain medication and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs will be administered at this time. A prescription for antibiotics will likely be given to help stave off infection. The incision site will have to be kept clean and dry throughout the healing process. An Elizabethan collar can be an effective tool for keeping a dog from licking or biting at its surgical site.
The dog should be watched to confirm that urination and defecation is happening at a normal rate. Dogs who have been diagnosed with pyometra may need to receive a special diet for some time to boost the function of the liver and kidneys. If the dog has been diagnosed with cancer, a treatment regime may also be commenced.
Vaginal mass excisions tend to cost significantly more than basic spay surgeries. This is due to the fact that a specialist or surgeon with more training may be needed to excise the tumors. Once removed, all affected tissue will need to be sent to a lab for further examination, which adds to the overall price. If the vaginal growths are cancerous, radiation therapy or chemotherapy can quickly spike the cost of treatment. Advanced diagnostic imaging such as an MRI or CT scan can instantly add $1,000 to the end price. It is not unusual for the treatment of vaginal masses to total around $7,500.
As with any surgical procedure that uses general anesthesia, certain serious complications can occur while the dog is unconscious. If arteries are not litigated or cauterized properly, hemorrhage during or after surgery is possible. Infection at the surgical site can also develop. Despite these risks, the prognosis is often worse for dogs who do not undergo surgery. The tumors will generally continue to grow as long as the reproductive organs are there to supply more hormones.
Both inherited traits and environmental factors can cause vaginal masses to develop. Dogs older than ten years of age experience higher occurrences of this condition, and female boxers are especially susceptible. Keep from exposing your dog to known cancer-causing agents. Always request your dog's family health history when obtaining the animal, and do not breed dogs suffering from severe ailments. Female dogs who are spayed before the age of two have little to no chance of developing vaginal masses.
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