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Our Golden / Poodle mix has had chronic vaginitis since she was 10 weeks old (now 15 months) and nothing seems to work. Antibiotics are only temporary relief and we do not want to give her these any more. We have a holistic vet and she has been on San Ren Tang, which does clear things up, however she gets ear infections every time we put her on this for a week or so. When we stop the San Re Tang the vaginitis returns. She gets a probiotic 2 x per day, feed 100% raw, treats are all natural and dehydrated with no additives. We are at a loss at this point on how to treat. Any recommendations?

~ Thank you, Lynn

Dr Sara ChapmanDear Lynn,

You are doing a number of things that are often helpful for female dogs with vaginitis.

Vaginitis, and indeed many skin inflammations, can be related to food sensitivities or the inflammatory substances present in many processed foods, so a raw or minimally processed diet is ideal.

Probiotics have been shown to dramatically help women with vaginitis, and this is true of female canines as well. All too often, however, probiotics do not have very many active organisms. Be sure to choose a probiotic that is fresh and has a large number of active organisms. One of my favourite products is Culturelle. Your girl would get as much as an adult human.

To cure your dog’s vaginitis, rather than just temporarily suppressing the symptoms, we need to understand vaginitis, and then address the cause of the problem. Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina. Puppy vaginitis is excessive production of sticky white to yellow mucus in female pups; it can occur as early as six weeks of age, and generally resolves on its own with puberty. The discharge may not bother a pup at all, but some pups lick excessively, causing inflammation or dermatitis of the skin around the vulva. Puppy vaginitis can be confused with urinary tract infections or anatomical malformations, so vets need to check for these before diagnosing puppy vaginitis. True puppy vaginitis is a benign condition, and should not be treated with antibiotics or douches. Puppy vaginitis is part of the maturation process of the reproductive tract. Most baby bitches need no treatment at all. For cleanliness, it may be desirable to gently wipe off excessive discharge once or twice daily with an unscented baby wipe. If there is a lot of moisture, cornstarch (no talc) baby powder will prevent chafing and irritation. Aggressive treatment of benign puppy vaginitis with antibiotics unbalances the normal bacterial population of the skin, which creates conditions for a fungal or bacterial infection of the area.

Most simple inflammations of the vagina and vulvar area can be treated with gentle topical treatments. First, we must address obstacles to cure.

Does your dog have a urinary tract infection (UTI) or crystals in the urine at this time? A UTI will predispose any individual to vulvar inflammation, and the UTI should be addressed first. Constitutional homeopathic treatment is ideal for this. Crystals in the urine may be a result of inadequate fluid intake, and increased water consumption is always helpful. Water can be added directly to ground raw diets, or dogs can be offered low sodium meat broth. A repeated tendency to form crystals can be addressed with constitutional homeopathic treatment or herbal treatment.

Was your female spayed at an early age? Many females who are spayed before puberty have very small external genitalia which lie in a recessed position. These immature genitalia trap moisture after the dog urinates, resulting in inflammation from chafing of the moist surfaces. I see many spayed bitches who have received multiple courses of antibiotics for vulvar skin inflammation, often diagnosed as vaginitis. In truth, most of these girls have vulvar dermatitis because of their recessed vulva. It is simple to institute a twice daily gentle and thorough cleaning regimen with unscented baby wipes, followed by gentle powdering with cornstarch (no talc) baby powder. The deep creases along the vulva must be gently cleansed and powdered until the inflammation subsides. After that, it is often sufficient to powder once daily.

Is your female dog overweight? Obese animals have redundant folds of fat and tissue which can retain moisture, block air flow, and cause moist dermatitis. Weight control is essential, combined with proper hygiene of the perivulvar tissue as discussed above.

When any patient develops a new problem when on a medication, it most often means that medication is not well suited to that individual. Exception to this are aggravations from homeopathic remedies, and detox reactions; in such cases a practitioner will adjust the dose of the medication to avoid unnecessary suffering by the patient. It is not wise to repeatedly stimulate an individual’s body to have these unpleasant reactions. As your Golden / Poodle develops ear infections every time she is on San Ren Tang, I would suggest that you discuss this with your Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner. There are a number of other TCM combinations (possibly Si Miao San or Yu Dai Wan) which could be helpful if herbal treatment of your girl’s vaginitis is necessary. Please do not self-medicate with Chinese herbal formulas without the advice of a TCM practitioner.

Regards,
Sara