Many disorders and diseases may affect the reproductive system of female dogs. Some of the frequently occurring disorders are explained here.
Difficult Birth or Dystocia In Dogs
Difficulty in giving birth is referred to as dystocia. Female dogs may have difficult birth due to many reasons such as problems with the uterus and the birth canal, large size of the fetus, or its difficult position at the time of birth. Distocia is a possibility in the following cases:
- The dog has had dystocia previously.
- It has not given birth 24 hours after the start of the labor indicated by the lowered rectal temperature.
- The dog has not delivered any puppies even 30 minutes after strong contractions have started.
- No birth has taken place after 1-2 hours of active labor.
- A break in labor lasting over 2-4 hours
- The dog shows signs of illness.
- An abnormal discharge from the vagina is noticed.
When any of the above conditions are present, the veterinarian may try to detect the cause of the dystocia. X-rays and ultrasound scans may be taken to determine the number of fetuses and their size, position, as well as condition. These imaging techniques may help detect any obstruction in the birth canal too. If the fetuses are alive and well and if there no obstructions or other impediment to normal delivery, drugs that induce and accelerate labor may be given. If any obstruction, or some other problem, that may make a natural delivery difficult is observed, or if there is fetal distress, the veterinarian may deliver the puppies by cesarean section.
False Pregnancy (Pseudopregnancy) In Dogs
A phenomenon called pseudopregnancy may occur in dogs. The dog may display signs of pregnancy immediately after the estrus phase. The symptoms include the swelling up of the mammary glands and changes in the dog’s behavior. In some dogs, this abnormal behavior may occur as a display of maternal instincts as if the dog has already given birth. Nesting of lifeless objects and avoiding food are some of the signs of this type of pseudopregnancy.
If the dog is suspected to be having pseudopregnancy, the veterinarian may first rule out pregnancy by either doing a physical examination or conducting a blood test for pregnancy or both. X-rays and scans can also detect whether the dog is pregnant or not.
Pseudopregnancy does not require any treatment as it usually gets resolved within 1-3 weeks of its appearance. If a milky discharge from the mammary glands accompanies the swelling, it should not be expressed, as it may stimulate more milk production. Drugs to stop the milk production may be given if the swollen mammary glands are causing too much discomfort. If the abnormal behavior of the dog is causing difficulties, the veterinarian may prescribe some medication to resolve the issue.
Follicular Cysts In Dogs
Sometimes cysts filled with fluid may develop in the ovaries of the female dog. The presence of cysts may induce the overproduction of estrogen which prolongs the estrus in females resulting in them showing mating behavior and attracting the attention of the males. These abnormal estrous cycles are usually marked by the absence of ovulation.
If the dog is in heat or estrus phase for over 40 days, it may be an indication of follicular cysts. An ultrasound scan can detect the presence of the cysts in the ovary. Unless the dog is expected to breed, the condition can be permanently resolved by removing the ovaries as well as the uterus. Otherwise, the veterinarian may administer an ovulation inducing drug to resolve the disorder temporarily. They should be given with caution as inducing ovulation in this way may lead to the development of uterine disease.
Mastitis In Dogs
The mammary glands of dogs may get inflamed following the delivery of puppies. Bacterial infections are the most common cause of this condition. Trauma while feeding the newborns, injuries caused by their faulty sucking techniques and unsanitary conditions in the environment may predispose the dog to developing mastitis.
One or more mammary glands may be affected by mastitis. They may be painful and hot to touch. The milk produced by the inflamed gland may have an abnormal consistency and color.
Mastitis may lead to widespread infection that may result in symptoms such as loss of appetite, depression and lethargy accompanied by fever. A physical examination may help diagnose mastitis. Further tests may be conducted to identify the bacteria causing the infection, and to decide on the suitable antibiotic therapy. Warm compresses applied on the mammary glands several times a day help relieve pain and congestion. Feeding the puppies from these glands may help reduce congestion and promote healing. If any abscesses develop on any of the mammary glands, they should be drained surgically and treated like any other wound.
When the puppies are being weaned, the mammary glands may get engorged with milk and the dog may have pain in them. But if the dog remains healthy otherwise, it is just an accumulation of milk. The milk production can be reduced by controlling the amount of food and water given to the dog.
Metritis In Dogs
It is an inflammatory condition affecting the uterus following pregnancy. Bacterial infections are the usual cause of metritis. Escherichia coli is the most common bacteria causing uterine infections. Problems during delivery such as prolonged labor, retention of placentas or fetuses, and unhygienic conditions may result in this inflammation. An abnormal vaginal discharge containing pus is the first indication of metritis. Fever may be present. The dog may become listless and depressed, and may start neglecting the puppies, causing them to cry continuously.
A physical examination may help diagnose metritis, and it can be confirmed by laboratory tests and an ultrasound scan which may help identify the underlying cause of the inflammatory condition as well. Bacterial infections are treated with appropriate antibiotic therapy. Fluid and nutrient supplementation may also be given.
Ovarian Remnant Syndrome
This is a complication resulting from the incomplete removal of ovaries at the time of spaying. The ovarian tissue that remains in the body produces hormones. They result in signs of estrus or heat such as swollen genitalia and mating behavior. If ovarian remnant syndrome is troublesome, the remaining ovarian tissue may be surgically removed.
Pyometra In Dogs
It is a bacterial infection affecting the uterus of dogs aged 5 years or more. Hormonal changes are the underlying cause of this disorder as only dogs which are not spayed are affected by this condition. Pyometra usually appears 4-6 weeks after the dog has had its estrus phase. During this period, the estrogen levels drop and the progesterone levels increase, causing the uterine lining to increase in thickness in preparation of pregnancy. In the absence of pregnancy, the lining becomes increasingly thick and develops cysts. The secretions from these cysts promote bacterial growth within the uterus. Dogs receiving medications containing progesterone can also develop pyometra.
The symptoms of pyometra are loss of appetite, vomiting and listlessness. A bloody vaginal discharge occurs at times when the dog’s cervix remains open, but not at other times. The enlarged uterus may result in the distention of the abdomen. If the infection is severe, it can result in shock. It can be fatal also.
A physical examination of the pelvic area followed by ultrasound scans or x-rays may lead to diagnosis. Testing the discharge and the blood may help identify the causative organism so that appropriate antibiotic therapy may be started. Prostaglandins are also administered at the same time. The dog is re-examined two weeks after a course of medication to make sure that the uterus is clear of all abnormal discharge. Breeding of the dog is advised immediately after treating pyometra because it has a tendency to recur. If there is no intention to breed the dog, the uterus and the ovaries may be surgically removed for a permanent cure.
Subinvolution of Placental Sites
This is a complication that develops following delivery. The uterus should normally return to its normal size and position by involution. Subinvolution of placental sites occurs when the uterus fails to complete the involution and return to its original dimensions. Involution is usually accompanied by a small amount of bloody discharge for about 16 weeks following the delivery. However, in subinvolution, the bleeding continues for a longer period. Young dogs which have had their first litter before they were 3 years old are the most affected. The light bleeding is not a great cause of concern, and may eventually stop without any treatment. But the dog may be spayed to cure the condition unless further breeding is intended. Recurrence of this condition is rare.
Vaginal Overgrowth or Vaginal Hypertrophy In Dogs
The vaginal tissue may become abnormally enlarged, and may extend through the vulva at the time of estrus. It is a common problem in young dogs. Vaginal hypertrophy and the resultant prolapsed vagina is the result of excess estrogen hormone. A physical examination of the pelvic area during the estrus phase may lead to diagnosis. The continuous licking by the dog may complicate the matters by inflicting self injury and introducing infectious organisms into the vagina.
Vaginal hypertrophy usually gets resolved when the estrogen phase of the estrous cycle passes, but there may be a recurrence every time the dog is in heat. The vulva should be cleaned daily, and an antibiotic medication should be applied in the area to prevent infection. To prevent self-injury, the dog may be fitted with an Elizabethan collar that prevents it from licking the vulva. Even though breeding the dog with artificial insemination is viable, there is a chance of this disorder appearing in the female offspring of affected dogs.
Vaginitis In Dogs
Inflammatory condition of the vagina is referred to as vaginitis. This common reproductive tract disease usually results from bacterial infections. Not only sexually mature dogs, but even puppies may develop vaginitis. Foreign bodies in the vagina and viral infections are the other common causes of vaginitis. Cancer can also result in this kind of inflammation. A vaginal discharge is the most obvious symptom of vaginitis. The dog may keep licking the vulva.
A physical examination of the pelvic region, followed by laboratory tests, may help diagnose the condition, and probably identify the cause as well. Antibiotics are rarely prescribed for puppies with vaginitis as the inflammation may resolve on its own as they grow. If it is persistent, medical treatment may be required. Sterilized dogs may benefit from administration of estrogen hormone which plays a role in keeping the genital tract healthy.