Genital Discharge

It is normal for dogs and cats to have a slight discharge at certain times, such as when they are in heat. Most of the time, however, a genital discharge is a sure sign of infection, and you will need to take care of it right away.

In males, a yellowish or blood-tinged discharge usually means that they have an infection in the urethra (the tube through which urine flows) or in the prostate gland. Pets with a prostate infection are often quite sick, with abdominal pain and a loss of appetite, says L. R. Danny Daniel, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Covington, Louisiana. Less often, a bloody discharge in males may be caused by an injury to the penis.

Female dogs and cats are much more likely than males to have a genital discharge. Female pets that haven't been spayed will sometimes get a serious uterine infection called pyometra. This can result in a bloody, pus-filled discharge. "It commonly occurs about 45 to 60 days after the pet was in heat and wasn't bred," says Dr. Daniel.

Discharges will sometimes occur in pregnant dogs and cats when they are about to have a miscarriage. "This is nature's way of taking care of abnormal fetuses or an infection in the womb that would otherwise threaten the mother's life," says Dr. Daniel. This type of discharge will usually be bloody, possibly with a little pus mixed in.

Females that have recently had a litter are also prone to uterine infections. What sometimes happens is that part of the placenta stays behind after delivery, providing a fertile breeding ground for bacteria.

"You should suspect that something is wrong if the new mother, who is generally overprotective, ignores her offspring or refuses to eat," says Dr. Daniel. This type of infection usually causes a foul-smelling vaginal discharge that starts out watery and a little red, and then gets thicker and turns dark brown and contains pus as the infection progresses.

It doesn't happen often, but an infection and discharge may occur after dogs and cats are spayed if a little bit of the uterus was left behind, says Dr. Daniel. "If your pet is listless, lacks an appetite, drinks a lot of water, and is paying a lot of attention to her backside -- such as excessive licking -- check under her tail for a discharge." If you see a discharge, take her back to the vet immediately, he advises.

See Your Vet If...

  • The discharge is bloody or has a foul odor
  • Your dog or cat has a fever or diminished appetite
  • Your pet is spending a lot of time licking the backside
  • Your pet's tail is limp
  • A discharge from the anus, penis, or vagina has lasted two days or more
  • Your pet is constantly licking his back end
  • The vagina or anal area is red and swollen
  • There is a growth on the anus or genitals
  • Urine is dribbling while your pet sleeps
  • There has been a change in your pet's urinating habits, or he is unable to urinate
  • There is blood in the urine
  • He's lost fur on the top or base of the tail
  • The tail is greasy or infected, or it is getting thicker
  • The anal opening stays open
  • Your pet has been scooting for two days or more

Next Steps:

Back to Hindquarters Main Page
Back to the Symptom Solver Main Page

Copyright 1999 Rodale Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

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