takes care of Ellie, a 4-year-old springer spaniel with
a somewhat embarrassing problem — at least for Fran.
It seems that over the past few months Ellie has been
paying a lot of attention to the area around her vulva.
She spends an inordinate amount of time licking and the
skin in that location is very reddened.
the past, Ellie has been treated with antibiotics
prescribed by her veterinarian, which has caused
improvement, but upon completion of the antibiotic
coarse, the problem returns. Ellie appears to be very
uncomfortable and Fran wants to help.
have the ability to reach their perivulvar area with
their tongues and do so on a regular basis as part of
their hygiene routine. When this cleaning behavior
becomes excessive, it can indicate an underlying
overzealous cleaning behavior itself can cause a
problem. The area around the vulva actually consists of
a fold of skin with the vulva protruding from the middle
of the fold. If a dog grooms the area in even a normal
amount, the moisture from the mouth can, along with the
warmth and lack of air circulation, make a ripe
environment for bacteria or yeast to colonize. This
condition then creates irritation, which leads to more
licking, which leads to more irritation, which leads to
more licking which … I think the picture is clear. It
is often quite difficult to figure out which came first,
a primary perivulvar infection in the face of normal
grooming or an infection secondary to increased grooming
are predisposing conditions that can make dogs much more
prone to developing perivulvar infections. There is a
condition called immature vulva in which the vulva does
not fully develop, leaving a small vulva tucked deeply
into the perivulvar folds. This creates deeper than
normal folds that collect moisture and warmth, again
lacking air circulation, and presto, a recipe for
can lead to increased depth to the perivulvar folds as
fat accumulates in the skin around the vulva, pushing it
out and therefore deepening the folds. The result, the
same as with immature vulva, a ripe environment is
created for bacterial or fungal colonization. This
condition can often be eliminated by eliminating the
these cases cannot be truly cured with the use of
antibiotics to combat the bacteria. Certainly,
antibiotics can and usually are necessary when bacteria
are involved; however, when there is a conformational
problem such as immature vulva or obesity, all the
antibiotics in the world will not cure the problem until
the underlying condition is eliminated.
cases of immature vulva, there is a surgical procedure
called an episioplasty which will eliminate the folds.
This surgery is also effective in cases in which a
chronic infection in the perivulvar can not be
eliminated even though the conformation in the vulvar
area is considered normal. The surgery can serve to
exteriorize the vulva, further removing the folds and
allowing for increased air circulation, resulting in an
elimination of the ripe bacterial environment.
point I would like to make concerning these types of
cases is the importance of culturing the area around the
vulva. It is necessary to know what type of bacteria has
colonized the perivulvar folds and what antibiotic(s)
work best against it. Regardless of whether the
infection is primary or due to a conformational problem
requiring surgery, antibiotics are always needed when
bacteria are involved and it is appropriate to pick the
best one to use.
final note is to make sure to rule out a urinary tract
problem such as an infection. A urinary tract infection
can, when the dog urinates, seed bacteria into the
perivulvar folds and set up an infection there as well.
this condition irritating Ellie requires further
investigation by her veterinarian. I am confident that
once the true underlying cause is exposed, a cure can be