If there is one question that I often see posted online…or even asked personally…it’s whether the vaginal discharge coming from their vulva is normal or something to worry about. The fact is there are many different types of discharge you can see and any discharge can be worrisome if you are new to breeding.
Since it is something that many people are wondering about, it is good to sit down and look at discharge. Find out what is normal, what you should watch and what you should worry about.
So let’s get started and look at the different types of discharge you can see coming from your pregnant dog’s vulva.
Clear Fluid or Clear Mucus Vaginal Discharge
Clear fluid is a very common discharge to see from a pregnant bitch but it can also be quite alarming when you see it. To start, I want to stress that clear discharge is completely normal and nothing to worry about as long as there are two qualities with it:
- It is clear with no other coloration.
- It is odorless.
It can range in consistency but is usually a thinner mucus, and more of a fluid like texture to it. It is believed to be caused by the mucus plug, which is a thick mucus that closes up the cervix of the dog to prevent infection and other foreign bodies from entering the uterus during pregnancy.
For some dogs, it is often a sign that she is going to go into labor soon. For others, it can be seen throughout her pregnancy. In fact, it is quite normal for a pregnant bitch to have a clear, odorless discharge from 30 days on in her pregnancy.
There is nothing that you need to do with the vaginal discharge, although, I do recommend that you monitor it. If you notice any change in color or odor, seek advice from your vet immediately.
Egg White Discharge
Similar to the clear discharge, an egg white textured discharge is a normal discharge that breeders should not be concerned with. In fact, it is often a sign that you should be expecting puppies in the very near future!
As mentioned previously, a mucus plug is the covering that keeps the uterus closed. It can be shed throughout the pregnancy or it can be shed a few days before your dam will be in labor.
When the dog sheds the mucus plug, it has a thick, stringy, whitish mucus that can come out like egg whites. However, it should be noted that it can range in color from yellowish clear to white with some blood in it. It can be shed in one large show or can break down over several days, where you will see continued mucus coming from your pregnant dog’s vulva.
As with the clear discharge, there should be no odor from the mucus plug. Signs to look out for that something is wrong with your dog are:
- Green discharge with the mucus plug.
- Heavy bleeding or blood in the discharge.
- Bad odor from the vulva or from the discharge.
- Large amounts earlier than expected for the pregnancy.
If you see blood, green, or black, or you smell a bad odor from the mucus, seek medical treatment immediately. It could indicate a uterine infection that could affect the health and well being of both your dam and her puppies, or it could signal that some puppies have died inside of her. Both will need medical attention to treat.
If you see green discharge at any time during the actual pregnancy, you have cause for concern. Often, green discharge is seen when a placenta separates from the mother’s uterine wall.
When you see it early in the pregnancy, it can mean that the mom is aborting her fetuses or is in distress. For that reason, immediate vet care is needed to ensure the safety and well being of your dam. In addition, while a dam may abort puppies, they do not always abort the whole litter so you will want your vet involved to monitor the health of the litter after a puppy is aborted.
However, it should be noted that green discharge is normal to see immediately before a puppy is born, during whelping. If you see the discharge, but a puppy isn’t born within an hour of seeing that discharge, or your pregnant female isn’t in labor, you should get to the vet immediately.
Bloody Vaginal Discharge
Another alarming discharge that breeders should be aware of is bloody discharge. I do want to break this up into a few different categories so that you know when to worry and when it would be considered normal
#1 Proestrus Bleeding
Obviously, when you dog goes into heat, you will see a bloody discharge from the vulva. It should be noted that every dog is different. Some have very little discharge, others have a lot.
Proestrus is the time when your dam is nearing ovulation. It typically lasts 9 days but it can range from 2 to 22 days. The bloody discharge usually fades to a straw color when they are ready to be bred and have entered estrus, which is when she accepts a male.
Estrus lasts about 9 days, but again, it can range from 4 to 21 days. Some females will bleed during estrus and beyond so you can see bloody discharge for several weeks after breeding.
#2 Implantation Bleeding
Although a bitch has been bred, implantation doesn’t actually occur until the bitch is 18 to 22 days past ovulation. While there is some debate on whether there is implantation bleeding, many breeders have seen a few drops around this time.
What should be noted is that implantation bleeding is very little bleeding and most of the time, it is not noticeable. If you see a noticeable or concerning amount of blood, it could be a sign that she’s absorbing or aborting her litter.
#3 Heavy Bloody Discharge
Finally, if you see heavy bleeding, especially in the last few weeks of pregnancy, you should seek medical intervention. Often, bloody discharge is a sign that the pregnant dog is having a miscarriage.
If this is the case, an ultrasound needs to be performed to make sure there are still viable puppies in the womb. In addition, if there isn’t, it needs to be determined if the dog is hemorrhaging or if there is anything left in the uterus that could lead to an infection.
With bleeding, I always recommend that you check with your vet if it is after your dog’s heat cycle. It could be nothing, and some breeders have reported normal spotting throughout a dog’s pregnancy, but it is always better to be sure instead of having the worst case scenario happen.
Brown discharge is another discharge that you don’t really worry about if it is close to or during delivery. This discharge is often seen during labor and around when a puppy is going to be born.
You can also see the brown discharge for about 24 hours prior to the birth of the puppies. It is caused by the uterus contracting in stage one labor and moving everything down to get ready for delivery.
Brown discharge is usually watery in consistency, although you may see some mucus still as the remainder of the mucus plug is shed. One thing you should note is that brown discharge is often seen with other signs of labor such as a temp drop, nesting behaviors and even pushing.
If it occurs well before your dam is due, it could be a sign of miscarriage, but if it is close to day 63 from first mating, then it is nothing to be alarmed about, unless labor does not begin within the next 24 to 48 hours.
Cream Colored Discharge
This discharge is one that you can see at any time with your female dogs, however, you can see it in pregnant dogs and is one that you should be concerned about. Cream colored discharge often has a bad odor to it, which is usually a sign that something is wrong. It can also range in color from yellowish, greenish, white or cream colored and it may or may not have blood in it.
While it can simply mean that your dog has vaginitis, which is either treated with antibiotics, or left to resolve on its own, it can also indicate pyometra.
Pyometra is a very serious infection of the uterus that can be life threatening for your dam, and her litter, if it is not caught early. There are two types of pyometra: closed without discharge, and open with discharge. Closed is the more serious and life threatening as the dog often gets very sick prior to any other symptoms.
Open can be treated with antibiotics in some cases, however, in many cases of pyometra, the only treatment that will save your dog is a spay. If you see any cream colored discharge during your dog’s pregnancy, seek immediate vet care. If it is vaginitis, it is not a huge issue, but for the health of your dam, you want to treat immediately if it turns out to be pyometra.
After the Delivery Discharge
Okay, I know that your dam is no longer pregnant but I did want to mention that you will see discharge for several weeks. In fact, female dogs can have discharge up to 12 weeks after delivering puppies, but it should taper off and should be a healthy color through those weeks.
But what is healthy vaginal discharge? Well, generally, during the first few days, you may seen a black or dark green discharge. In addition, you will see blood, which can range in color from bright red to a darker brown. You don’t want to see a large amount of bright red blood as it can be a sign of internal bleeding, but small amounts is usually normal.
With this discharge, what you are seeing is the female dog’s body sloughing off tissue and blood that is left in the uterus after a pregnancy. It is very normal and is a cleaning process that is necessary to prevent infection. As with most discharges, how much you see, and how long you see it, will be different for every dog.
When you should worry is if the dark green/black discharge lasts for longer than a few days, or it tapers off and then comes back heavy. Also, if you see this discharge, combined with a high temperature. Those signs can be symptoms of retained placentas and infections and need immediate vet care.
As you can see, there are many different types of discharge. General rule of thumb is that if it is clear, everything is okay. In addition, when the discharge occurs also determines if it is normal or serious. However, if you are ever in doubt about the discharge, contact your vet to be sure that your pregnant bitch is okay and there isn’t any complications with the litter.