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Recessed Vulva in Dogs

What Is a Recessed Vulva in Dogs?

A recessed vulva, also known as a hooded vulva, occurs when there is excess skin surrounding and covering the vulva of a female dog. This additional skin creates a fold where moisture can accumulate.

Female dogs with hooded vulvas are at a higher risk of developing vaginal infections (vaginitis) and urinary tract infections. Bacteria can thrive within the skin fold of a hooded vulva and migrate into the bladder, leading to urinary tract infections. Additionally, yeast infections around the vulva are more prevalent in dogs with hooded vulvas.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms of a recessed or hooded vulva in dogs may vary. While some dogs may not experience any health issues due to this condition, it can lead to chronic vaginitis and recurring urinary tract infections, often accompanied by irritation and discomfort. Signs of infection around the vulva include moisture, redness, or black discoloration, along with a potential odor.

Identifying vaginitis or urinary tract infections in dogs can be challenging since some may not exhibit noticeable symptoms. However, most affected dogs will display signs such as excessive licking of the vulva due to itchiness and discomfort caused by the infection. Additionally, they may attempt to alleviate discomfort by scooting their rear end along the floor.

Common symptoms of urinary tract infections in dogs with a recessed vulva include increased frequency of urination (polyuria), heightened water consumption (polydipsia), accidents in the house, difficulty urinating (straining without producing urine), and the presence of bloody urine (hematuria).

A skin infection around the vulva can typically be diagnosed during a routine physical examination. To confirm a urinary tract infection, a urine sample is necessary for laboratory testing.


Previously, it was believed that a recessed vulva in dogs stemmed from genetic factors, but no definitive genetic link has been established thus far. Medium to large breeds are more susceptible to developing a recessed vulva compared to smaller or toy breeds. The greatest risk factors are observed in obese dogs, as the accumulation of fatty tissue around the vulva leads to the formation of a skin fold that envelops it completely.


Diagnosing a recessed vulva in dogs typically occurs during a routine physical examination, where the vulva may not be readily visible due to being covered by a skin fold. The veterinarian may need to gently push back the fold to properly visualize the vulva, and no additional tests are usually required for diagnosis.

In cases where the skin around the vulva shows signs of infection, a veterinarian may perform a tape impression test. This involves applying a small, clear piece of tape to any affected skin lesions around the vulva, which is then removed and stained. The stained tape is examined under a microscope to detect the presence of bacteria or yeast. Treatment for a diagnosed skin infection often involves prescribing topical or oral medication.

If a dog with a recessed vulva displays symptoms suggestive of a urinary tract infection, a urine sample is necessary for urinalysis. This diagnostic test helps identify infections by analyzing the presence of red and white blood cells, urinary crystals, bacteria, as well as screening for kidney function and diabetes.


For dogs with a recessed vulva unaccompanied by any associated medical complications, treatment is unnecessary. Only dogs presenting with vaginitis and/or urinary tract infections as a result of a recessed vulva require intervention. Veterinarians may prescribe medicated anti-bacterial or anti-fungal wipes for daily use to maintain cleanliness around the vulva, aiming to prevent or reduce skin and urinary tract infections.

In cases where obesity is suspected as the underlying cause of a recessed vulva, a weight loss regimen is typically recommended. Weight reduction may facilitate the proper exposure of the vulva and eliminate the fold of skin covering it. Although weight loss may not entirely resolve a recessed vulva, it can mitigate its severity, potentially averting recurrent skin infections and urinary tract infections.

Surgical intervention becomes necessary for dogs at a healthy body weight experiencing recurring skin and/or urinary issues due to a recessed vulva. Known as an episioplasty or vulvoplasty, the procedure involves surgically excising excess skin surrounding the vulva to restore normal exposure.

If a dog diagnosed with a recessed vulva also requires spaying, vulvoplasty can be performed concurrently with the spaying procedure. However, if a severe skin infection exists around the vulva before surgery, it must be adequately treated before surgical intervention can proceed.

Living and Management

Following vulvoplasty surgery, dogs are typically prescribed oral medications including antibiotics and pain relief to prevent infection and manage discomfort. Sedatives may also be administered to maintain the dog’s calmness post-surgery. Dogs tend to recover swiftly after vulvoplasty, with their energy levels and appetites returning to normal within 24 hours. However, complete healing of the incision typically takes 10-14 days.

During the post-surgery period, it is crucial to:

  • Restrict the dog’s activity level until stitches are removed in 10-14 days by a veterinary professional. This entails only taking the dog on short leash walks, with no running, jumping, or rough play permitted to prevent stitch complications.
  • Consider crate rest to limit activity, especially if the dog is crate-trained.
  • Utilize an e-collar (cone) to prevent licking at the incision site, minimizing the risk of infection and preventing the incision from reopening.
  • Monitor the incision site daily for signs of redness, swelling, drainage, or odor. Any such observations should be promptly reported to the local veterinary hospital.

Vulvoplasty typically resolves recurring skin infections and ongoing urinary tract infections if the recessed vulva was the underlying cause. However, should a dog gain weight post-vulvoplasty, a hooded vulva may recur, potentially leading to vaginitis or UTIs.

Failure to address ongoing vaginitis and UTIs resulting from a recessed vulva can escalate into a kidney infection. Left untreated, this condition can progress to kidney failure, characterized by decreased appetite, weight loss, vomiting, increased thirst, increased urination, urinary accidents, and a diminished quality of life. Thus, it is imperative to treat a recessed vulva causing recurring symptoms to prevent long-term health complications.

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