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Can Dogs Get STDs?

Picture of 3 dogs

Sexually transmitted diseases affect humans and animals alike, and dogs are no exception to the rule. But how can you know if your canine pooch suffers from an STD? What are the most common STDs that dogs can get?

We’re answering these questions and more in today’s article.

What sexually transmitted diseases can dogs get?

There are three main types of STDs that can affect our canine friends:

  • Canine herpes virus
  • Brucellosis
  • Canine transmissible venereal tumors

Although the herpes virus that causes the disease in dogs is from the same family as the one that can show up in people, it is not the same. This is why it cannot be transmitted from dogs to humans. Fortunately, most cases aren’t fatal, but puppies are considerably more vulnerable compared to adults, whose immune systems are better at handling the attack of various pathogens.

Canine herpes virus is mainly transmitted through mating. However, other sources of infection, such as sharing the same food and water bowls and sniffing or licking another dog that your pooch might come across at the park, cannot be overruled. Puppies can contract the disease from their mother.

Brucellosis is a disease that can affect male and female dogs alike. It is a very common disease in other animals, and it can also be developed by humans. Like canine herpes virus, it can be transmitted through mating, but the urine and genital secretions of other animals can be vectors, too.

CTVT (canine transmissible venereal tumors) is transmitted through mating, as well. Unfortunately, it is also very challenging to treat, and it often goes unnoticed until it becomes severe. This type of cancer spreads quickly from the penis or vulva. Since dogs lick themselves in order to soothe the pain, they could also get tumors on their lips or various other body regions.

How to know if your pooch has an STD

First of all, there’s virtually no chance of a dog becoming infected with a sexually transmitted disease if he or she has had no intercourse in the recent past. If you have neutered or spayed your canine companion, the likelihood of your pet getting an STD is close to non-existent.

However, as previously mentioned, dogs can still contract such diseases by sniffing or licking each other, so that is a possibility, too.

The most common symptoms that you might notice in a dog that has an STD are the following:

  • Discharge or bleeding from the genitalia
  • Open sores on the same area
  • Swollen genital area
  • Ulcers shaped in the form of cauliflowers (a symptom of CTVT)
  • Shortness of breath, a tender abdomen, or yellow to green feces (a sign of herpes virus)
  • Miscarriages, infertility, or stillborn puppies (a possible sign of Brucellosis)

How can STDs in dogs be treated?

Since there are three diseases, each calls for different types of therapies. For example, canine transmissible venereal tumors can be treated with chemotherapy and surgery, but there is a chance that they might not work, especially if the cancer has progressed to other areas of the body. This disease can be deadly to immunosuppressed dogs (such as geriatric ones undergoing treatment for chronic health problems) and puppies.

While brucellosis can be treated with antibiotics, it will never really go away. So, your dog will be a carrier for the rest of his or her life.

Canine herpes virus is the most challenging one to treat, especially in puppies. The most common treatments used for it are antiviral medications and supportive care. Unfortunately, if a mother becomes infected with the virus, the likelihood of her passing it on to the puppies is extremely high.

Can they be prevented?

Although STDs can be transmitted through a variety of other means besides sexual intercourse, getting your dog spayed or neutered largely minimizes the risk of him or her catching such a condition.

Stray dogs can be carriers of all of the three STDs mentioned in this article, so it would be a good idea if you were to avoid leaving your pooch to come in contact with dogs that you don’t know and that seem to be roaming in the park or in the woods. Moreover, stray dogs can be carriers of other infectious diseases and parasites, not just STDs.

These days, many veterinarians recommend neutering or spaying your pet as early as six months of age. While there are both pros and cons to the procedures, and they impact the way the dog grows and lives in the future, they prevent a wide array of health issues and complications.

Can you get an STD from your dog?

Brucellosis is a zoonotic disease, and what you might not know is that you can actually get it from many other animals, not just dogs. Cattle (through their milk) are a carrier and a possible vector, too, for example.

Even though the cases of people getting brucellosis from their canine companions are these days very rare, one cannot overrule the possibility. Breeders are particularly exposed to contracting Brucellosis since they are in close contact with many dogs and their secretions (such as cleaning their living space, their food and water bowls, giving them baths, etc.).

In the end, being informed and knowing that neutering and spaying largely reduce the possibility of your canine friend getting an STD is truly helpful. You should ask your vet about these diseases and what you can do to prevent them the next time you take your dog to the vet clinic for a check-up.

It’s not something you should worry about all the time. Still, if your dog regularly comes in contact with other pooches, especially unneutered and unspayed ones, it’s definitely something to prevent.

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