Vaginal hyperplasia is an exaggerated response by the vaginal tissue to estrogen during certain phases of the estrus (heat) cycle. The vaginal tissue becomes swollen and may protrude through the vulva, or external female genital organ, as a tongue-shaped mass.
Vaginal hyperplasia is most common in young intact female dogs and is thought to be caused by estrogen stimulation. There is a genetic predisposition to developing vaginal hyperplasia.
The breeds most commonly affected include the Labrador retriever, Chesapeake Bay retriever, boxer, English bulldog, mastiff, German shepherd, St. Bernard, Airedale, springer spaniel, walker hound and Weimaraner.
What to Watch For
A protrusion of a round tissue mass from the vulva
Licking of the vulvar area
Failure to allow breeding
Baseline tests, including complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, and urinalysis, are usually within normal limits.
Careful inspection and examination of the vulvar area generally reveals a fairly classic appearance of overgrown tissue.
A biopsy may be recommended in an old bitch in order to rule out the possibility of cancer.
Management of vaginal hyperplasia can be difficult. If the patient can urinate, treatment is generally not an emergency and outpatient care is recommended. If there is a blockage due to the mass, immediate hospitalization and intervention is necessary.
Given enough time, most all cases of vaginal hyperplasia are reversible, as certain periods of the estrus cycle allow for it to resolve. Treatment includes:
- Daily cleansing of the affected area with saline washes
- Lubrication with appropriate jellies
- Preventing trauma
- Padding the environment to avoid direct exposure to concrete or abrasive surfaces
- Elizabethan collar to eliminate the possibility of excessive licking and chewing
- Diapers to minimize exposure of the tissue to the environment and the patient herself
- A urinary catheter Severely affected patients require surgical removal of the hyperplastic tissue, especially in cases of severely damaged or irreparable tissue or urinary blockages.
Follow all instructions given to you by your veterinarian. Continue therapy for the entire recommended time. Keep the environment clean, and do not allow trauma to the area.
Once vaginal hyperplasia occurs, there is a 67 percent chance that it will happen again during her next heat cycle.
Ovariohysterectomy prevents recurrence and may hasten resolution.