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Vaginal hyperplasia is most commonly seen in young bitches of medium to large breeds and is believed to be a result of a hypersensitivity of the vaginal lining to the presence of estrogen. During the time when the female is ovulating, estrogen is released in the body and the tissues of the vagina become swollen and protrude. Often there are other symptoms such as painful urination, bleeding and the most obvious symptom will be a mass of pink colored tissue protruding from the vulva.
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The condition is more common in certain breeds and these include the Weimaraner, Boxer, Springer Spaniel, Mastiff, English Bulldog, St. Bernard, German Shepherd and the Labrador Retriever. Other hound breeds may also be affected by the condition. There appears to be some hereditary predisposition to the condition as lines of dogs within a breed are more prone to vaginal hyperplasia while most of the females within the breed will have no symptoms of the condition.
Vaginal hyperplasia is problematic for several reasons. The first is that it can seriously affect the health of the young bitch and may prevent her from being able to have puppies. In addition there is an increased chance of infection to the exposed vaginal tissue, especially if the female is licking and causing further irritation and possible lesions. Occasionally the protrusion of tissue is not caused by the hormonal reaction; rather it is a result of a cancerous tumor of the vaginal area. Careful examination by a vet which may include a biopsy of the tissue to rule out cancer should be done as part of the diagnosis, especially in older females.
If the tissue mass is large and is preventing the bitch from being able to urinate, she will usually have to be kept at the vets to be monitored for kidney functioning and toxicity problems. In these cases a catheter may need to be inserted, or in very severe cases where there is damage to the tissue surgery may be required. In most cases, however, the tissue will go back to normal once there is no longer estrogen present in the body. The owners can care for the female at home using some basic hygiene care and providing her comfortable bedding that will prevent any possible irritation. The vulva and protruding vaginal tissue should be rinsed twice a day with clear water or saline washes, then a lubricating gel should be applied. An Elizabethan collar can be placed over the bitch's neck to prevent licking of the tissue, or, if she is not licking, specialized diapers that are used when a dog is in heat or for incontinence can be used to keep dirt and debris off the exposed tissue.
It is important to not allow the bitch to be bred during this time. This can cause serious tears in the vaginal tissue and greatly increases the chance of infections. Approximately 70% of all young bitches that have vaginal hyperplasia during their first heat cycle will have it again, so it is highly recommended to spay the dog immediately to eliminate any future health risks. Spaying stops the hormonal production and will eliminate any chance of future occurrence.
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