(Continued from last week)
Today and next week, we’ll address two types of tumours affecting the canine vagina, which are similar, yet distinct, relative to their origins/causes and the way they exhibit themselves. The first is called a vaginal hyperplasia (VH) and the other a transmissible canine venereal tumour (TCVT). Both of these are not strictly surface tumours, meaning that they don’t develop on the outside skin, but I don’t know where else better to discuss this topic. And, as we will see, the vagina is covered on the inside with a thin skin (mucous membrane), the cells of which greatly multiply creating an unsightly protrusion of the growths to the outside.
Vaginal hyperplasia (VH)
Hyperplasia is the term applied to abnormally great development of some tissues. In the case of VH, the proliferation of cells of the vaginal mucous membrane occurs on the floor (the lower part) of the vagina. It is very much linked to hormonal imbalance, and is seen before and during the bitch’s heat period.
The most common sign of VH is a mass of tissue protruding from the vulva (the skin surrounding the entrance to the vagina). At first, the mass is smooth and shiny (glistening), but with prolonged exposure, the surface becomes dry and wrinkled and fissures develop. A slight vaginal discharge may accompany the tumour.
The dog might be unwilling to pass urine, and of course copulation is compromised (interfered with). If the swelling remains inside of the vagina, you may not see it; and the only clinical sign might be the male dog’s inability to insert his penis and/or the female’s unwillingness to allow him to mount. Of course, you can pry open the vulva to see if there is a swelling on the vaginal wall, or you can let your vet do it.
The good news is that VH tends to resolve itself spontaneously – as soon as her ‘heat’ period (oestrus) is over and she is not producing high levels of the female hormone (oestrogen). So, if the swollen tissue is not causing any undue problem, therapy is not indicated.
However, if the swelling protrudes from the vulva, at least you can keep it clean and moist (with a gentle antiseptic); you may also use an antibiotic cream on the protruding swelling. It helps with the moistening and can help against a secondary infection. I usually suggest to pet owners that an ‘Elizabethan’ collar (all serious pet stores carry this item) could be introduced, if one notices that the bitch is bent on mutilating herself.
On some (very few) occasions, should she have gotten pregnant, the growth returns during the period of delivery (possibly because of the female’s hormone surge at parturition – the period just before giving birth).
I should mention that if the mass of vaginal tissue is extremely large or if the damage to the mucous membrane is extensive, then corrective surgery may be indicated. I tend to advise against surgical intervention, because we know that things will get back to normal as soon as the oestrogen levels go down; and, more importantly, because we have found that the VH could re-emerge soon after the surgery. In any case, although I have said above that therapy is not really necessary, if the swelling is huge and the bulge of tissue is protruding from the vagina, your veterinarian can institute a hormonal regime to counter the oestrogen surge. But let me warn that both surgery and hormonal interventions must be seen as an absolute last resort.
Finally, I think it is worthwhile mentioning that, having read the above, you, the companion animal owner, might mistake other similar conditions for VH. Two spring to mind immediately:
(i) a vaginal prolapse, and (ii) the transmissible canine venereal tumour (TCVT) alluded to in the first paragraph. The former can be excluded by professional inspection. The latter by both palpation/inspection and by taking a sample of the growth (biopsy) and having it microscopically examined in the lab. Also, there are other lab tests which can be carried out, but it is usually quite easy to make the definitive diagnosis, without laboratory intervention.
I hope that children are enjoying their holidays. I know that many parents can’t wait to have them go back to school. Can someone tell me what children currently do during the long ‘summer’ holidays – just for me to compare our activities 50-60 years ago to those of the present-day youth?
Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals. Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.