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Yes, unfortunately sexually transmitted diseases are not confined to just humans, dog’s are also susceptible to getting them. Canine STDs occur when one infected dog has intercourse with another dog, therefore passing on the disease. This can have severe, detrimental health effects to your dog or any puppies that they then birth. Additionally, although it may be rare, it is possible for your dog to transmit a sexually transmitted disease to you.1
To keep your furry friend safe, you should know the precautionary measures to try and prevent your pup from getting or spreading STDs. You should also know the tell-tale signs that your dog may be suffering from a sexually transmitted disease by knowing what a dog STD symptom will look like and how to spot it.
STDs in Dogs
There are three main STDs that affect dogs. These are brucellosis, canine herpesvirus and canine transmissible venereal tumor. Although there are other STDs that can be transmitted in dogs, these three are the most common. All three of these diseases are not transmitted or treated in the same way that human STDs are - something to bear in mind throughout this article.
Brucellosis is a bacterial infection that can have severe effects on both male and female dogs fertility.2 It can also lead to miscarriage in pregnant dogs and infection of the sexual organs in male dogs.2 Brucellosis can be transmitted one of two ways - through sexual transmission or through ingestion of infected fluids.2
Typically, brucellosis is known as a rarer sexually transmitted disease.2 Dogs that are often found with this disease are farm dogs who have been around livestock, which is where this bacteria strain can be commonly found.2 Both sexes of dog are susceptible to this disease, neither being more at risk than the other.
Brucellosis is also very dangerous for puppies.1 Puppies can contract this disease from their mother during the birthing process, which can then lead to health complications.1 Puppies with brucellosis do not often live long due to these health complications and will often seem lethargic and weak.1
This form of canine sexually transmitted disease can also be passed on to humans by coming into contact with infected dogs, particularly through discharge or birthing fluids. This is usually caused by Brucella melitensis and can have very serious implications to infected humans.2 3
Canine herpesvirus is a sexually transmitted disease which affects the upper respiratory region, eyes or genitals (vagina or penis).4 This disease does not just affect us here in the United States, it is a globally spread disease that can often be fatal to puppies, especially those less than 3 weeks old.4 Like brucellosis, canine herpesvirus can be transmitted to a puppy if the adult birthing female is already infected.4
In these cases, the infection will often kill the puppies when they are between 1 to 3 weeks old.4 Puppies that reach one month, can sometimes also die from the disease, but once they reach 6 months old, death as a consequence of the disease is rare.4 The disease may occur suddenly, resulting in death only 24 hours after the puppy is showing symptoms.4
Transmission can occur prior to birth or between dogs physically if the infected area makes contact with another dog. Any humans that make contact with infected dogs should ensure they wash their hands thoroughly and take extra precautions when touching the dog.5
Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumor
Canine transmissible venereal tumors are almost always located on the genitalia, though they can also occur on the nose.6 This sexually transmitted disease is a tumor, which you can rarely see upon first glance and there can even be trouble locating it during a cursory examination, as this disease can often root far up in the body.6 These tumors are often described as “cauliflower-like” in appearance, ranging in size from 5 mm all the way up to 10 cm.6 They can occur as one solitary tumor or appear in clumps.
TVTs are located in dogs all around the world, with the exception of Antarctica.6 Unfortunately, these tumors are cancerous but studies have shown that treatment can often work well on infected dogs.6 7
Dog STD Symptoms
So, how do you notice whether or not an STD is present in your dog? STD symptoms in dogs are not dissimilar to those of a bacterial infection or an allergic reaction, so they can often be confused for other illnesses. It is important to remember any times your dog has been sexually active and make note of it so you can update your veterinarian.
A typical symptom of brucellosis can be found in female dogs during pregnancy. Frequent miscarriages during late-stage pregnancies, without any record of previous stillbirths or abnormalities, is often linked to this disease.2 Female dogs may also have vaginal discharge for a long time after their miscarriage or during other pregnancies.2
Meanwhile, male dogs with brucellosis may have inflamed epididymides, testicles, or prostate.2 This can cause a number of behaviors, such as reluctance to mate, whimpering or crying, depending on the severity of the swelling and soreness.
Canine herpesvirus can sometimes be spotted visually, depending on the infected area. If it is associated with the upper respiratory system, the signs are not always visible. However, any changes to the dog’s eyes can be a sign that they have contracted the disease.7
For female dogs, other symptoms include inflammation around the vulva that may be sore and painful for your poor pup. This can occur alongside a pus-filled discharge from the vagina. Meanwhile, male dogs may have an inflamed sheath on their penis, which can be indicative of the canine herpesvirus. If you notice any changes in your dog's appearance, ensure they are looked at by a veterinarian as soon as possible to prevent further issues.
STD Prevention and Treatment
What does it mean if your dog is diagnosed with an STD? Is it fatal? Can it be cured? The answer varies from disease to disease.
Brucellosis is difficult to diagnose and treat. Although laboratory tests can be run, their success and accuracy is questionable. Likewise, the treatment that is often prescribed is long term antibiotics, but your own veterinarian can best decide what action to take.2 Unfortunately, dogs with any history of brucellosis cannot be bred due to this difficulty with diagnosis and treatment.
Like the herpesvirus present in humans, canine herpesvirus does not currently have a cure.3 The infection will remain in the dog's body throughout their entire life. You veterinarian may still suggest some treatments that have occasionally worked to reduce puppy’s discomfort, but typically the severity of the flare-ups calms over time.3
However, if your dog has been diagnosed with this disease, talk to your veterinarian if you notice they are going through serious discomfort so you can make a plan on how to ease this pain for them. To best prevent puppies from infection, keep your pregnant dog away from other dogs at least 3 weeks before they are due to give birth.3
Canine transmissible venereal tumors are often treated through a number of steps, including surgical removal, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.5 Typically, most veterinarians will opt for chemotherapy as the success of this treatment is good.5 However, in rare cases, the tumor has already spread throughout the body, which can then be harder to treat.
How do I know if my dog has an STD?
You should watch for any symptoms but also ensure that you keep an eye on your dog’s sexual activity. Routine checkups with your veterinarian are the best way to keep an eye on your dog’s overall health and well-being, as well as keeping a watchful eye for any changes in behavior.
How do I know if my dog has an STD?
There are a multitude of STDs that dogs can get, but the three most common are brucellosis, Canine Herpesvirus and Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumors. If you suspect that your dog has been sexually active or might have an STD, take them to the vet to get checked up on and ensure that you wash your hands thoroughly after touching them.
Can dogs expose humans to STDs?
Yes, if your dog was diagnosed with brucellosis, then there is a chance they can pass this disease onto you. This is caused by Brucella melitensis and your veterinarian can give you sufficient advice on how to prevent yourself from contracting the disease and measures you can take.
Every female dog goes through the heat stage and there is no need to fear if your dog is sexually active. Staying aware, taking your pup for lots of checkups and keeping an eye on them is all that is necessary from you as a pet parent. However, getting your dog vaccinated and neutered is important if you do not want puppies or are going to be having your dog in close proximity with other dogs.
Consult our other Dutch blogs for more information on the best care tips in identifying possible reactions, symptoms, medicines and more. Whether you’re a dog owner or a dog-fanatic, there are some handy tips and tricks on dealing with these adorable furballs, as well as interesting facts that are sure to get your attention. With everything from getting your dog leash-free and tips for hiking with dogs, to nutritional and health-related care facts.We also have a team of licensed veterinarians on hand, ready to answer any questions you may have about your own personal pup or kitty. They can help to diagnose any symptoms your pet may be having, or you can get personalized treatment plans from a licensed professional that really knows your pet. Browse the website to learn more about our services and explore other Dutch blogs for more information on your favorite, furry, four-legged friends.
“Can my dog get an STD?” DogsBestLife 2 April 2019 https://dogsbestlife.com/dog-health/canine-std/.
Nicoletti, Paul. “Brucellosis in Dogs” MSD Veterinary Manual, Oct 2022 https://www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/reproductive-disorders-of-dogs/brucellosis-in-dogs#:~:text=Brucellosis%20is%20infection%20with%20the,rapidly%20among%20closely%20confined%20dogs.
Nicoletti, Paul. “Overview of Brucellosis in Dogs - Reproductive System.” Merck Veterinary Manual, 13 June 2023, www.merckvetmanual.com/reproductive-system/brucellosis-in-dogs/overview-of-brucellosis-in-dogs?query=std+dog.
E. Creevy, Kate. “Canine Herpesvirus” MSD Veterinary Manual, Oct 2022 https://www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/disorders-affecting-multiple-body-systems-of-dogs/canine-herpesvirus?query=canine%20herpesvirus.
Creevy, Kate E. “Canine Herpesvirus - Dog Owners.” Merck Veterinary Manual, 13 June 2023, www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/disorders-affecting-multiple-body-systems-of-dogs/canine-herpesvirus?query=Canine+Herpesvirus.
Kutzler, Michelle. “Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumor” MSD Veterinary Manual, Oct 2022 https://www.msdvetmanual.com/reproductive-system/canine-transmissible-venereal-tumor/canine-transmissible-venereal-tumor?query=canine%20transmissible%20venereal%20tumor.
Kutzler, Michelle. “Transmissible Venereal Tumor in Dogs - Dog Owners.” Merck Veterinary Manual, 13 June 2023, www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/reproductive-disorders-of-dogs/transmissible-venereal-tumor-in-dogs?query=Canine+Transmissible+Venereal+Tumor.