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Yellow Discharge from Female Dog: What to Do (Pregnant & Not Pregnant)

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This article was updated on August 26th, 2023

If you have a female dog, you may be wondering what is normal in terms of heat cycles, pregnancy, and vaginal discharge. A lot will depend on if your dog is spayed or not; however, in most cases, the presence of yellow vaginal discharge is a sign that veterinary assessment and intervention are necessary. Let’s explore some possible causes and symptoms so you’ll know what to watch for and when to call the vet. 

Is a yellow discharge normal in female dogs?

When is a yellow discharge normal?

Yellow vaginal discharge should always be brought to your vet’s attention because it can be an indicator of a pyometra (uterine infection) or other medical condition. However, watery brown or straw-colored discharge can be seen during estrus in an intact female dog. Bloody vaginal discharge during the heat cycle generally lasts for around 7-10 days.   

Is this discharge normal or a cause for concern?

This image on ResearchGate.com depicts vaginal discharge associated with an open pyometra, requiring urgent veterinary attention. 

Top causes of yellow discharges in female dogs (in heat or not in heat)

Pyometra

Pyometra is a severe, life-threatening condition in dogs that demands immediate veterinary attention. It is an infection of the uterus that usually occurs in unspayed, mature female dogs. The condition is hormonally mediated, often seen several weeks after a dog’s estrus (heat) cycle. The uterus becomes enlarged and full of pus and bacteria, which can then leach into the bloodstream. In an open pyometra, vaginal discharge is a key symptom; however, if the cervix is closed, discharge will not be observed. 

Clinical signs of pyometra may include:

  • Vaginal discharge that may be pus-like or bloody. 
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal distension
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Lethargy 

To diagnose a pyometra, your vet will perform testing such as bloodwork and imaging (x-rays and/or ultrasound). The standard treatment is an emergency ovariohysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries). This not only eliminates the source of the infection but also prevents recurrence of the condition. The best way to prevent a pyometra is to have your female dog spayed. 

Vaginitis

Vaginitis is a term for inflammation of the vagina. This condition can affect both spayed and unspayed female dogs of any age and can be caused by a variety of internal or external factors such as UTI, foreign body, urinary incontinence, infection, and more. Vaginitis in puppies may resolve after their first heat cycle. Clinical signs include: 

  • Excessive licking of the genitals
  • Increased urination
  • Vaginal discharge that may contain mucus, pus, or rarely blood
  • Scooting or rubbing the vagina
  • Red, swollen tissue around the vulva 

Your vet can diagnose vaginitis based on history and physical exam. Additional testing may include blood and urine tests, urine culture, vaginal cytology (examining cells from the vagina under the microscope) or culture, and occasionally imaging such as X-rays, ultrasound, or scoping to look inside the vagina with a camera. Treatment often involves topical and oral antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. In some cases, surgery may be needed to address an underlying cause. 

Urinary tract infection 

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common in female dogs. Although any discharge from a UTI is associated with urination, it may be mistaken for vaginal discharge. Additional signs of UTI include:

  • Frequent urination or attempts to urinate
  • Straining or discomfort during urination
  • Blood in the urine (hematuria)
  • Strong or foul-smelling urine
  • Increased licking of the genital area
  • Incontinence 
  • Changes in behavior 

To diagnose a UTI, your vet will perform a physical exam and conduct tests including urinalysis and urine culture. In some cases, imaging such as X-rays or ultrasound may be needed to check for the presence of stones or other abnormalities. Treatment generally involves a course of antibiotics. UTIs are generally manageable but are painful and can lead to serious complications if left untreated. 

Foreign body

If a foreign object gets lodged in the vulva or vagina, it can cause irritation, inflammation, and possibly infection, resulting in a yellowish discharge. 

Cancer

It is possible that tumors in the vaginal area or uterus may lead to a discharge that is yellowish, among other clinical signs such as abdominal pain or distention, difficulty urinating or defecating, lethargy, loss of appetite, and weight loss. 

Pregnancy or postpartum 

Vaginal discharge can occur during pregnancy and after birthing puppies; however, if it is yellow or purulent (contains pus) you should consult your vet. See our article on what is considered normal and what is a sign to seek veterinary care. 

Other important symptoms to keep an eye on

Depending on the underlying cause, additional symptoms that may be associated with yellow vaginal discharge include: 

  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal distension
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Lethargy 
  • Excessive licking of the genitals
  • Scooting or rubbing the vagina
  • Red, swollen tissue around the vulva 
  • Straining or discomfort during urination
  • Blood in the urine (hematuria)
  • Strong or foul-smelling urine
  • Incontinence 
  • Changes in behavior 
  • Weight loss 

Helping your dog at home and when to see the vet

Yellow vaginal discharge requires prompt veterinary attention. While it may be something minor and easily treatable, it can also be a symptom of a life-threatening infection such as pyometra. 

Veterinarian diagnosis & treatment

To determine the cause yellow vaginal discharge, your vet may recommend some or all of the following: 

  • Physical exam: The first step will be a thorough physical exam, including a careful examination of the vaginal area. Your vet will also get a complete history including the date of your dog’s last heat cycle if she is intact.  
  • Urinalysis and urine culture: If a UTI is suspected, these tests will identify the presence of bacteria and guide antibiotic choice. 
  • Vaginal cytology and culture: This can help identify inflammation, infection, or abnormal cells. 
  • Blood tests: These can check for signs of infection or other systemic disease. 
  • X-rays or ultrasound: These imaging techniques can identify structural issues, tumors, or conditions such as pyometra. 

Treatment will largely depend on the underlying cause and may include the following: 

Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.

  • Antibiotics: If a bacterial infection is identified, antibiotics will be prescribed.
  • Topical treatments: For vaginitis, rinses or medicated wipes may be recommended.
  • Surgical intervention: Pyometra requires emergency spay surgery to remove the infected uterus. Tumors or foreign bodies might also require surgical intervention. 

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Author

  • Dr. Liza Cahn, Veterinarian

    Dr. Liza Cahn is a veterinarian who graduated from Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013 with a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). Dr. Cahn has five years of experience working as a veterinarian in small animal practice in Washington and California. She loved working with dogs and cats and educating owners on all aspects of veterinary medicine, especially animal behavior and dermatology. She has since transitioned to remote work to be able to spend more time at home with her husband, two young kids, and two cats, and is thrilled to be able to combine her love for veterinary medicine and passion for writing. Dr. Cahn has an active veterinary license in Washington State.


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