Unless your dog is in heat, there is no reason to leak fluids from her private parts, right? Well, that is not always the case. Dogs can leak fluids even when they are not and heat, and so can spayed bitches.
So, what does a female dog is leaking clear, odorless fluid indicate? A female dog can leak clear, odorless fluid for several reasons, including the recessed vulva, vaginitis, urinary tract infections (UTIs), urinary incontinence, and spontaneous anal gland expression. Finding the right reason starts by determining where does the fluid comes from – vulvar or anal area.
Some of these reasons are benign and self-limiting, while others are more serious and require prompt veterinary attention. Determining the underlying cause at home is impossible. Therefore, if your female dog starts leaking clear, odorless fluid, it is time to see your trusted vet.
WHY IS MY FEMALE DOG LEAKING CLEAR ODORLESS FLUID?
There are several reasons why a female dog may leak clear, odorless fluid and the following ones are worth considering.
A recessed vulva (hypoplastic or juvenile vulva) is a structural defect in which the surrounding skin folds partially or entirely cover the vulva. It is believed to have genetic nature, but the theory is not confirmed.
In some dogs, the defect is not associated with any clinical signs beside the visual esthetic component. However, this condition increases the risk of several conditions.
Namely, when a dog urinates, the skin folds trap moisture. The moisture combined with the body heat creates a perfect environment for bacteria growth. These bacteria can:
- Infect the vulvar skin folds causing perivulvar dermatitis
- Migrate and spread to the vagina, causing vaginitis
- Climb up the urethra causing urinary tract or even bladder infection
A dog with a recessed vulva will show the following signs and symptoms:
- Excessive licking of the vulva
- Frequent urinating
- Discharge (may start as clear and odorless and then progress into foul-smelling and blood-tinged)
- Red skin folds around the vulva
- Urinary incontinence.
To manage the inflammation, the vet will prescribe both topical and oral antibiotics. However, in the long run, a surgical correction called episioplasty is recommended.
Vaginitis indicates inflammation of the vagina, and it occurs in two forms:
- Juvenile vaginitis – occurring in puppies (before the first cycle)
- Adult-onset vaginitis – occurring in dogs that have had their first cycle.
In both cases, the infection can be caused by yeast, bacteria, or virus. However, the most common culprit is E. coli. Malformations and structural defects of the vagina increase the risk of developing vaginitis. It is worth mentioning that vaginitis can be caused by a foreign object that damaged the vaginal lining.
A dog with vaginitis will show the following signs and symptoms:
- Frequent urination
- Vaginal irritation
- Excessive licking of the vulva
- Discharge (type depends on the phase and severity of the infection)
- Foul odor
- Irritated skin around the vulva
- Urinary incontinence.
Most cases of juvenile vaginitis can resolve on their own, especially if there are no complications. In dogs with adult-onset vaginitis, the vet will prescribe oral antibiotics.
If the dog has a structural defect that predisposes it to frequent vaginal infections, surgical corrections are recommended.
Urinary tract infection (UTI)
Urinary tract infections are infections that can affect the lower or upper portions of the urinary tract. In more severe cases, the entire tract is inflamed and infected.
UTIs in dogs can be caused by an array of issues, including:
- Bladder stones or crystals
- Congenital abnormalities
- Fecal contamination of the vulva
- Systemic diseases.
Generally speaking, UTIs are much more common among older dogs (+7 years) and dogs with diabetes.
A dog with a urinary tract infection will manifest the following clinical signs and symptoms:
- Frequent and/or painful urination
- Unconscious urine dripping
- Blood-tinged urine
- Increased water intake
- Increased licking of the vulva
- Decreased appetite, lethargy, and fever (in more severe cases).
As with any other infection, the treatment is based on antibiotics use. However, the underlying condition warrants specific management. In the case of stones, crystals, or tumors, that would be surgery.
If the infection was part of the systemic disease, the disease needs to be properly addressed to decrease the risk of future UTI recurrences.
Finally, in cases of contamination, the vet will recommend keeping your dog’s vulvar area clean.
Urinary incontinence is a condition that manifests with involuntary urine leaking or dripping. The condition is quite complex and can be caused by many factors, including:
- Congenital anomalies
- Neurological damage
- Bladder dysfunction, stones, or tumors
- Urethral disorders (inflammation or hormone-induced)
- Urine retention due to stress and anxiety.
There are several determining risk factors for urinary incontinence:
- Age – it can be a normal age-related change in dogs
- Breed – German Shepherds, Weimaraners, Rottweilers, Dalmatians, Boxer, Old English Sheepdogs, Bearded Collie, and Collies, English Springer Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers
- Spay status – more likely in spayed dogs
- Bodyweight – obese females are more likely to develop urinary incontinence.
A dog with urinary incontinence will exhibit the following clinical manifestation:
The drug of choice for managing urinary incontinence is phenylpropanolamine, whose role is to strengthen the muscles controlling the urethral sphincter, thus preventing leakage.
However, the underlying issue must be managed to prevent recurrences and further complications. For example, in spayed dogs with estrogen-responsive incontinence, supplementation with estrogens resolved the problem. In cases of congenital anomalies and bladder stones or tumors, surgical corrections are imperative.
Anal glands expression
Dogs have two small pouches known as anal glands or sacs. As the name tells, they are located on either side of the anal opening positioned at 5 and 7 o’clock.
The anal glands produce a scented fluid that is specific to each dog, and they use it to mark their territory (the anal glands are the reason dogs sniff each other’s butts).
Normally, this fluid should be odorless and clear. When dogs defecate, the passing feces pressures the anal pouches, and they release small amounts of this fluid which comes out mixed with the feces.
Sometimes, strenuous activity or sudden scare can make a dog squeeze its caudal portion of the body resulting in spontaneous expression of the anal glands.
If the anal glands do not empty themselves with the feces or accidentally, the fluid keeps accumulating and eventually becomes infected. Once infection sets in, the clear and odorless fluid turns to yellowish-brown, oily, and fishy-smelling discharge. In more severe cases, instead of fluid, the anal glands may release black and foul-smelling paste.
Infected anal sacs are popularly termed anal sac disease. They are painful and, if left untreated, can culminate in anal abscesses. In a dog prone to recurrent anal sac disease or complications, the vet will recommend surgical removal of the two glands. The procedure is a bit complicated, and the recovery period tricky due to the gland’s location. However, in some cases, surgical removal is the only long-term solution.
All-female dogs can leak clear, odorless fluid regardless of age, breed, and spay status. Sometimes the fluid production is normal and expected, and other times it is a red flag indicating something is wrong with your dog.
If your female dog starts leaking clear, odorless fluid, the “wait and see” approach can make things worse. Instead, call your vet and schedule an appointment.
Hopefully, the leaking will be normal, and you will have peace of mind. Even if there is something wrong, the early diagnosis and treatment will ensure a positive outcome.
What does pyometra discharge look like?
Pyometra discharge is far from clear, odorless fluid. In fact, the discharge associated with this life-threatening condition is yellow to green in color and foul-smelling.
How often do I need to express my dog’s anal glands?
There is no universal answer to this question as each dog is different. Some dogs need frequent and assisted expressions, while others can do that on their own. If your dog has trouble expressing them, the vet will determine the frequency based on the type of fluid they accumulate.
How did my dog get a UTI?
UTIs are caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract via the vulva. The bacteria usually come from feces that accidentally enter the urethral opening. In most cases, for a dog to develop a UTI is immune defense needs to be compromised.
Do dog diapers work for urinary incontinence?
Yes, dog diapers can be helpful when managing a female dog that is unconsciously leaking urine. There are two types of diapers – disposable and reusable. Each type has its pros and cons, and which type you will choose depends on what suits you and your dog better.
Will vaginitis go away on its own?
Yes, vaginitis, unless complicated, is a self-limiting condition, meaning it can resolve independently. However, you can make the recovery process smoother and quicker by keeping the area clean. If the infection is advanced, the vet will prescribe oral antibiotics. If there is a foreign object, a surgical procedure might be recommended.