One of the best features of people’s relationships with their dogs is the ability to help heal them when they are ailing. And yet few things inspire panic and helplessness like that first prolapse you spot.
What should you do? Are there any home remedies you can apply to such a situation?
The first obstacle you must overcome is to properly identify what you are seeing. What is that round bulbous mass where it should not be anyway? Is it a tumor of some kind? Is it an emergency? What is a prolapse in dogs?
A dog prolapse is simply a protrusion of part of an organ from an orifice, specifically the anus or vagina. It is known as a rectal or vaginal prolapse respectively.
You can effectively heal certain vaginal prolapses at home. Replacing a prolapsed organ is also known as reducing it.
In addition, there are urethral prolapses but we will not cover here. Suffice it to say, they require intricate surgery and can affect both males and females.
What should you do about a rectal prolapse?
We only cover rectal prolapses in dogs briefly because it is not much you can or should do to treat them at home.
Occasionally you can don latex gloves and gently push a small one back into the anal opening. However, more often than not they recur because there is an underlying medical cause.
The risks of you injuring the rectum trying to reduce most prolapses at home outweigh any good you could achieve. Keep the exposed rectum as moist as you can and seek immediate veterinary attention.
One thing to always keep in mind with rectal prolapse is rectal tissue is exceedingly fragile and prone to injury.
A rectum that becomes infected can more quickly lead to life-threatening consequences than other types of prolapses. A rectal tear can be slow to heal and lead to sepsis (blood infection).
What can cause a rectal prolapse in a dog?
- Excessive straining to defecate – in dogs, this is more likely to be from diarrhea than from constipation. Either way, it can lead to rectal prolapse.
- Dystocia can cause rectal prolapse as can straining to urinate. Straining to urinate can occur with bladder stones or a bladder infection.
- Parasites can cause anal protrusion with prolapse resulting from diarrhea or one part of the bowel telescoping over another part (intussusception).
If you notice a sausage- or doughnut-like protrusion from your dog’s anus, protect the area with a diaper and rush your pet to a veterinarian.
Treatment will involve a thorough history, physical exam, treatment of the underlying cause, stabilization of your pet, and possibly surgery.
One of the most important factors in the prognosis for rectal prolapses is tissue viability.
Any rectal prolapse leaves exposed tissue vulnerable to trauma, dehydration, and swelling which can cause strangulation or constriction of the blood supply.
All of these effects can lead to catastrophic leaking of disease-causing bacteria into the surrounding area, the abdominal cavity, and the bloodstream.
There are two types of vaginal prolapse in dogs.
What is vaginal hyperplasia and prolapse?
Vaginal prolapse in dogs is rather unique because it only rarely involves actual prolapse of any organs according to Merk Vet Manual. It does not even technically involve hyperplasia oftentimes.
What occurs in canids is the vagina fills with fluid. If it becomes edematous enough it will form folds and the largest of these can protrude outside the vulva.
Hyperplasia is a proliferation of vaginal tissues, which is not an effect the canine vagina typically has during heat cycles.
However, the term hyperplasia is used to describe the secondary effects of estrogen stimulation on the vaginal mucosa. This is still usually more edema than proliferation.
That being said, for the sake of simplicity and tradition, we still refer to the milder form of prolapse in dogs as vaginal prolapse secondary to hyperplasia.
We see this problem more commonly in larger brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs like boxers and bulldogs than other breeds.
It is also rather prevalent in Old English sheepdogs, Labrador Retrievers, Mastiff types like the Great Dane and Saint Bernard, German Shepherds, and Springer Spaniels.
Vaginal prolapse resulting from hyperplasia can start out pretty asymptomatically. Other than the protruding tissue, your dog may act normal.
However, the longer this delicate mucous-lined organ is exposed to the environment the more it suffers from dryness and potential trauma.
What are the complications of severe vaginal hyperplasia and prolapse?
- Severe hyperplasia leads to serious swelling and its closeness to the urethra can disrupt proper urination.
- If the exposed tissue dries out it can become susceptible to ulceration and infection.
- Fissures can form in dehydrated tissue. These become tracts that can become infected.
- Some dogs may act like nothing is amiss, but others can exhibit extreme pain in the genital area.
Can you treat your dog’s vaginal prolapse at home?
What are the different severities of canine vaginal prolapse related to heat cycles?
Stages reference prolapses and types are used for hyperplasia. Numbering describes the same phenomena in both. For example, according to Petmed, Type 1 hyperplasia characteristics are the same as seen in Stage 1 prolapse.
- Stage 1 – little to no protrusion of vaginal tissue. Your dog’s only sign at this stage may be a reluctance to mate.
- Stage 2 – Protrusion of vaginal tissue ventrally and sometimes laterally through the vulva. At this stage, it often resembles a macadamia nut or a small pear in size and shape.
- Stage 3 – A full-circumference protrusion of vaginal tissue from the vulva. By this time, the affected tissue looks like a doughnut. Stage 3 may or may not constitute an emergency according to the criteria listed above, but it definitely requires veterinary attention as soon as is reasonable.
Several criteria will determine if you can treat a vaginal prolapse at home.
- Make sure your dog is able to urinate. Straining and lack of urinary output is a medical emergency. Luckily, difficulty urinating is not common even if the urethra is displaced by swelling.
- Ensure your pet’s prolapse is associated with her heat cycle and not puppy birth. Prolapse as a result of labor is more complex and treatment will be entirely different than the relatively simple prolapse from hyperplasia.
- Visible signs of trauma such as cuts or bite wounds necessitate veterinarian attention. If the area looks discolored, seek professional medical advice. Prolonged severe swelling can lead to dying tissue.
How to treat your dog’s vaginal prolapse
Generally speaking, if your dog is suffering from the results of Type 1 or Type 2 vaginal hyperplasia, all signs including prolapse will resolve of their own accord.
Once your dog goes through the later stages of her cycle and hormone levels stabilize, the vaginal tissues will return to normal proportions.
Usually, you will only need to take preventative measures to keep any exposed tissue moist and viable.
Gently cleanse the area twice daily. Do not clean excessively so as not to traumatize it.
Apply an ointment after cleansing to lubricate, protect, and sooth the swollen tissue.
If necessary, apply an Elizabethan or another similar collar to prevent your dog from excessively licking and chewing. Assume the area is a source of discomfort for your four-legged companion, so I recommend to use a “better safe than sorry” approach.
A diaper can further protect the prolapse from trauma or licking, act as a bandage for a dressing, and soak up any possible discharge.
A YouTube video to illustrate diaper application may be helpful. Remember your pet may not be so calm in this scenario.
Keep other animals away from the affected area. It would not be unreasonable to keep your dog isolated from other pets in the household. Curiosity and concern among animals are normal but not helpful in these cases.
Administer any hormonal medications as prescribed by your veterinarian. Exogenous (supplemental to what the body produces) hormones may be indicated in severe cases.
If your dog does have difficulty urinating, your veterinarian may have to insert a urinary catheter until the swelling subsides. You may have to monitor and care for this at home.
With vaginal hyperplasia, prolapse often only involves the floor of the vagina. However, a prolapse can present as a 360-degree ring of the edematous or fluid-filled vaginal lining.
Stage III and some Stage II prolapses benefit from reduction by your veterinarian and placement of sutures to create a purse-string effect of the vulva.
Once sutures are placed, you will still need to provide home care. Monitor the area to make sure the sutures remain in place and effective.
Keep the site clean and dry and use ointment if your veterinarian so advises. Keep your dog and others from licking the sutures.
What are the top causes of vaginal hyperplasia and prolapse in dogs?
- There seems to be a breed predilection and a hereditary component to vaginal prolapse. It is even perhaps advisable that if your dog has this problem she is spayed to prevent not only recurrences but also her passing it to any female offspring. This is especially true if her case is severe.
- Dogs most commonly present with this problem in their first couple of heats when they are under two years of age.
- The direct cause is fluid retention in the vaginal mucosa from high levels of estrogen just before and during the heat cycle.
Vaginitis in dogs can sometimes lead to the edema associated with vaginal prolapse.
There are a number of causes of vaginitis in dogs.
- It is a prepubescent condition in some dogs. It usually resolves with the first heat.
- Trauma to the vagina – this can occur during mating with abrupt and forceful interruption or irregularities. It can also occur from dog fights or infection.
- Foreign bodies, dirt, or fecal or urine contamination of the outer genitals.
- Vaginal tumors
- Anatomical abnormalities usually of a congenital origin
What comprises true vaginal prolapse associated with difficult labor or trauma in dogs?
Fortunately for you and your four-legged friend, NCBI reiterates the fact that true vaginal prolapses are rare in dogs. They can occur with dystocia, trauma during breeding, or straining to defecate.
Dystocia in dogs is a medical emergency as it can lead to a large array of complications even beyond vaginal prolapse.
A vaginal prolapse that occurs during or shortly after birth is also a serious matter because the uterus and more rarely the urinary bladder can also be expelled through the vulva.
You are advised not to attempt any reduction of these types of prolapses at home for numerous reasons.
- First and foremost, if the cause is dystocia, that issue alone needs to be resolved immediately.
- If the cause is straining, there is no way to accomplish a successful reduction without pinpointing and eliminating the urge to strain. You will need to enlist the help of a medical professional.
- The initial trauma of a true vaginal prolapse leads to significant swelling. You can cause trauma trying to push organs back into cavities when they no longer fit through the opening. You can rupture a full urinary bladder, for example. Your veterinarian can reduce swelling.
There are emergency measures you can take.
- Remain as soothing to your pet as you can. She is likely to be in some distress from pain and electrolyte imbalances.
- As you prepare her for an ambulance or a car ride, you can keep the prolapse damp with warm water or a warmed antiseptic like iodine solution. Make sure it is not hot.
- You can apply a diaper with antibiotic ointment to protect the area. Do not apply too much pressure.
- Keep your dog from licking or trying to chew at the site.
- Call a veterinarian for any further instructions and get to the emergency room.
Should you spay your dog in the face of vaginal prolapse?
Spaying your dog usually involves a complete surgical ovariohysterectomy and is the only sure-fire way to eliminate and prevent vaginal prolapse from hyperplasia or dystocia.
In general, your veterinarian will not perform this procedure in the midst of a prolapse, preferring to wait until after the heat cycle.
In some cases of severe Stage III vaginal prolapse from hyperplasia, immediate spaying may be recommended in an attempt to bring estrogen levels down quicker.
This facilitates a quicker reduction of swelling and return to normal of the affected tissues.
An immediate spay may also be indicated in dystocia during a C-section. Occasionally abdominal surgery becomes the only means to reduce the vagina, uterine body, and urinary bladder.
What is the main differential diagnosis for a vaginal prolapse in a dog?
A tumor, whether benign or malignant, can resemble a vaginal prolapse. If your veterinarian has any doubts, he or she will take a sample of tissue or a biopsy and have a lab analyze it.
Dog prolapses can present in a few different forms. Once you get over the initial shock and closely inspect your pet, you should be able to easily determine if you can help her without veterinarian intervention.
If it is a protrusion that only involves the lower vaginal floor or one side and it is a time frame around your dog’s heat cycle, you can potentially heal your dog at home.
All other prolapses and any questionable mass requires at least a veterinary consultation.