Unspayed female dogs carry an increased risk of infections and other diseases. Unfortunately, some of these health concerns can be fatal for your pet.
Intact dogs will have vaginal discharge through their heat cycle. The discharge could be bloody or pinkish and is a normal part of their cycle. Discharge is also typical in dogs after they have given birth.
But if you notice a sudden onset of the female dog leaking clear fluid, it could point to an infection, tumor, injury, or trauma.
According to ASPCA, if you notice other symptoms apart from vaginal discharge like lethargy, excessive urination, weight loss, vomiting, increase in water intake, and diarrhea, it is best to take the dog to the vet immediately.
Let us look at different reasons why a female dog leaks clear fluid, its symptoms, and the treatment options available.
- Clear Fluid Leakage in Unspayed Female Dog: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
- Why Should You Consider Spaying a Female Dog?
Clear Fluid Leakage in Unspayed Female Dog: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Dogs of all ages can have clear vaginal discharge. Conditions such as infections can affect young puppies to senior dogs as well.
Here are a few reasons why unspayed female dogs have clear vaginal discharge, symptoms, and treatments.
This condition refers to the inflammation of the vagina in female dogs. Vaginitis could happen to any female dog regardless of its age. For example, it could be young puppies under 12 months or older dogs. It could also happen to both unspayed and spayed dogs.
Several causes can lead to vaginitis. For example, it could result from bacterial or viral infections, anatomical abnormalities such as the ectopic ureter or poor structure of the vulva, urinary tract infections (UTI), and urinary incontinence.
If the dog lives in unsanitary conditions, has urine or poop traces near the vulva, or has other foreign materials such as sand or grass around the vagina, it can lead to vaginitis.
Dogs with vaginitis show symptoms like:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Increased urination
- Red or swollen vagina
- Extreme licking around the vaginal area
The treatment for vaginitis is administered based on the underlying cause. The vet will prescribe anti-inflammatory or antibiotic medicines to help heal the vagina. Vaginal douches may be recommended to keep the area clean. A vaginal douche basically means to clean the inside of the dog’s vagina using water or some prescribed solution.
The vet may advise surgery if the cause of the condition is tumors or physical abnormalities.
The condition should resolve itself for young puppies after they receive their first heat cycle.
This secondary infection results from hormonal changes in your dog’s reproductive system. Pyometra is one of the leading infections in unspayed dogs that can turn fatal.
Three main factors cause pyometra in dogs. The first factor is that after the estrus state of a dog’s heat cycle, a hormone known as progesterone cause the lining of the uterus to thicken to prepare for pregnancy. The hormone level stays high for about two months after the estrus stage.
If the dog does not get pregnant after multiple heat cycles, the uterus lining will continue to thicken. This leads to a condition called cystic endometrial hyperplasia. The dog develops cysts in the uterus. The thickened lining and the cysts release fluids and create an environment where bacteria can thrive.
The second factor is that the uterus cannot contract properly due to the thickening of its wall. So, the bacteria and the released fluids stay put in the dog’s uterus. The third factor is the white blood cells, whose responsibility is to keep infections away and cannot enter the uterus.
If the dog is on a course of hormone-based drugs, it needs to be monitored for pyometra.
Dogs with pyometra show symptoms like:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge (you might find it in places where the dog has laid down)
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive drinking of water
- Increased urination
- Swollen abdomen
Most of the symptoms mentioned above often show in the later stages of the infection. However, if your dog is leaking abnormal amounts of fluids or is not eating properly around its heat cycle, it is best to contact the vet.
The most effective method to treat this infection is the removal of the uterus and ovaries. However, because of the infection and usual late diagnoses of the condition, the hospitalization period after the surgery could be longer.
If you do not want to spay your dog, an alternative hormone-based treatment is available. The dog is administered a hormone called prostaglandins. This hormone can help bring down the progesterone level in the dog’s body.
However, the treatment provides variable results and comes with side effects such as pain, vomiting, and pooping, among others.
Both unspayed and spayed dogs can develop vaginal tumors. But, unspayed dogs are at a higher risk of doing so. When it comes to tumors of the reproductive system, vaginal tumors are one of the most common concerns that plague female dogs.
These tumors can be cancerous or non-cancerous. For example, leiomyoma is a non-cancerous, smooth muscle tumor usually found in the stomach or intestine. In some cases, it can also be found in the uterus. This tumor is often found in older female dogs.
Fibropapilloma is another type of tumor that is caused due to viruses. These tumors are often found around the oral area, but sometimes they can develop around the dog’s genital area. The tumors can get inflamed, grow scaly or even rupture and bleed.
Squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) are cancerous tumors that can develop on light skinned-areas of the dog. The tumors can be inflamed or ulcerated. SCC is rare among dogs.
The cause of these tumors can be a combination of reasons like infections, genetics, hereditary, age, and exposure to chemicals.
Dogs with tumors show symptoms like:
- Vaginal discharge
- Excessive licking of the vagina
- Pain around the genital area
- Difficulty urinating
- Visible tumors
The treatment depends on the type of tumor identified. The vet may surgically remove the vaginal tumor. Surgery is the most successful treatment against cancer in dogs.
Spaying is also recommended to reduce the chances of the female dog developing other health conditions. It also reduces the risk of the tumors reappearing.
If the tumor is cancerous and cannot be entirely removed, the dog might have to go under radiotherapy after the surgery. In case of infections, the vet may also prescribe antibiotics.
4. Foreign Material in Vagina
If the female dog suffers from chronic vaginal discharge, a rare cause could be the presence of some foreign material in the vagina. This retained foreign substance can lead to infections like vaginitis.
There has been a reported case of a 4-year-old female bulldog with a history of chronic vaginitis spread over 12 months. The cause of the infection was that a piece of the skull from a macerated fetus had lodged itself in the vagina.
If the dog is not given proper baths or stays in unclean surroundings, foreign substances can start accumulating around the vagina. It could be grass, seeds, or even tiny insects that you can find plenty of in your yard.
There could also be cases of poop findings its way to the vagina if the anus area is not cleaned properly.
Dogs with foreign materials in their vaginas could show symptoms like:
- Chronic vaginal discharge
- Irritated skin around the genital area
- Urinary incontinence
- Foul smell from the vagina
The treatment will depend on foreign material found inside the dog’s vagina. In the case of the 4-year-old female bulldog, the foreign material was removed using vaginoscopy.
Foreign materials can be removed non-invasively, using forceps and relying on ultrasound for direction. The vet will give the dog anesthesia during the process.
Once the foreign material is removed from the vagina, it will be thoroughly cleaned using a medical solution. In case of infections, the dog will be prescribed an antibiotics course for a couple of weeks.
5. Physical Defects
The female dog may have anatomical malformations of the vagina. For example, the female dog can have an imperforate hymen. In this case, the hymen is shut solid. It will not allow the fluids to flow through from the uterus. The dog will not be able to mate, as penetration is not possible. The female dog’s vagina could also have a vertical divide inside its walls.
A rectovaginal fistula is a rare physical condition found in dogs. It is an abnormal connection formed between the rectum and the vagina. The connection allows free movement of poop and fluids. In some cases, poop and fluid can come out of the vagina.
Dogs with physical defects can show symptoms like:
- Vaginal discharge
- Chronic vaginal infection
- Difficulty mating
- Excessive licking of genitals
If the hymen is closed or the vagina is too narrow, the vet will perform a manual dilation. It is a surgical process. If you do not intend to breed the dog, spaying, which involves removing the uterus and ovaries, will be recommended.
Depending on the dog’s condition, the vet may opt for an aggressive approach and perform surgery to remove part of or the complete vagina. The surgery is called vaginectomy. In the case of rectovaginal fistulas, surgery is used to close the connection between the rectum and the vagina.
6. End of Estrous Cycle
A canine’s heat cycle consists of these below stages:
The estrus stage of the heat cycle is when the female dog can get pregnant. So when you hear people say their dog is in heat, it usually means the dog is in the estrus stage.
If you do not want your dog to get pregnant, you need to be careful during this stage. Male dogs will naturally be pulled towards female dogs during this stage. You will be surprised at the effort they can take, jumping over fences and getting through doors for mating.
The estrus stage typically lasts for 10 to 14 days. Depending on the dog, the stage could be shorter or a bit longer. At first, the vaginal discharge will be bloody. But, it will slowly turn pinkish to almost clear and become watery. When the discharge turns watery, it indicates the most fertile stage of the dog.
Dogs at the end of the estrus cycle can show symptoms like:
- Vaginal discharge
- Swelling of vulva
Vaginal discharge is expected during the estrus stage. There is no treatment to be administered. The discharge will stop once the dog passes through its heat cycle.
The vaginal discharge could be a problem if it is accompanied by symptoms like vomiting, lethargy, refusal to eat, or excessive water drinking. These additional symptoms could point to pyometra, the infection explained above.
This condition occurs after the dog has given birth. Bacterial infection is the primary cause of metritis. The uterus commonly gets infected due to the Escherichia coli bacteria. In addition, if the dog has had a complex and prolonged delivery or if part of the placenta is retained, it could lead to metritis.
The dog could develop this condition post-abortion or after a miscarriage as well. But, this is quite rare. Pus-like vaginal discharge is the first symptom that the dog will show. So, you need to monitor the dog’s discharge for a week or two after delivery.
Dogs with metritis are likely to ignore their off-springs. This could make the newborn puppies restless. So, you will also have to keep an eye on the puppies.
Dogs with metritis show symptoms like:
- Vaginal discharge
- High fever
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of milk production
- Increased heart rate
The dog will be given intravenous fluids to help balance the electrolytes in its body. In addition, antibiotics will be prescribed to fight off the bacteria.
In case of retained placenta or fetus, the vet will give medications so the dog can expel the contents of the uterus.
If antibiotics cannot help kill bacteria or if the uterus has been severely damaged, then the vet will recommend spaying.
Some other causes for a female dog leaking clear fluid are:
- Hormonal disorders
- Injury or trauma
- Urinary tract stones
Apart from vaginal discharge, these conditions are often accompanied by other symptoms like difficulty urination, increased water intake, diarrhea, and weight loss.
Why Should You Consider Spaying a Female Dog?
The activity of sterilizing a female dog is known as spaying. The ovaries and the uterus of the animal are removed. There are many health benefits associated with this process.
If you are not careful, an unspayed dog can accidentally get pregnant when it is in heat. There have been cases wherein dogs have gotten pregnant during their first heat cycle. Unwanted pregnancies, especially in young dogs, can take a toll on their body.
Unspayed dogs are also at a higher risk of developing infections and cancers.
If you are unsure about spaying, here are a few advantages that can help you decide.
- Avoid unwanted pregnancies.
- Prevention of the fatal infection – pyometra.
- Eliminating the possibility of the dog developing uterus or ovarian cancer.
- Eliminating hormonal imbalances caused during heat cycle and pregnancy.
- Decrease the chances of the dog developing breast cancer.
- Spayed dogs generally live healthier and longer lives.
Spaying could no longer be your choice if the dog develops infections, tumors, or cancers. Instead, it may have to be removed surgically to treat the issue and save your dog’s life.
You May Also Read: Dog Dribbling Urine While Walking? 9 Startling Reasons + What You Should Do!
Is your female dog leaking clear fluid? The reasons for vaginal discharge among unspayed dogs are infections, pregnancy or birth-related complications, cancer, hormonal disorders, tumors, and anatomical abnormalities.
The dog could also be leaking fluid due to foreign material in its vagina or an injury it may have sustained.
If, along with the abnormal amount of discharge, you see other symptoms like excessive water intake, vomiting, loss of appetite, increased urination, or obsessive licking of the genital area, please immediately contact a vet.
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.