Evie is a beautiful white female Japanese Spitz dog that has been coming to us since she arrived at her new home as a puppy. Evie's owners had noticed from the start that she looked a little different in her private parts, but the slight swelling was considered to be relatively normal by the vets who checked her. However as she got older, the swelling was getting bigger and bigger, and Evie would lick at it. It seemed to be causing her some irritation so they brought her back to the clinic to have the area checked again.
We decided the lump was becoming larger than we would expect and admitted her to the hospital so the lump could be examined and possibly removed surgically with Evie under anaesthetic. With her fast asleep, we could examine this sensitive area much better. The lump felt very firm and an x-ray of the area confirmed a small length of bone within the lump. The shape of the bone looked very much like a small version of the bone we would see within the normal anatomy of a male dog's penis! Occasionally female dogs can have a very small bone too, but it is usually round, not long and straight. Although Evie looked for the most part like a normal female dog, she also had some male anatomy, suggesting she was born a hermaphrodite – an animal with a mix of male and female reproductive organs.
Since the lump has been there since she was born, it is likely that there was an error in the chemical signals affecting her body when she was developing inside her mother. She had grown and appeared to be normal in every other way. Hermaphrodites can show a mix of male and female behaviours, and it is unlikely that Evie would have been able to function completely as a normal mother to have puppies of her own. So although her owners had previously considered breeding from her, the safest thing to do was spey her (remove her internal reproductive organs), because it was likely that her ovaries were also abnormal and could lead to problems later in life.
Evie's operation proceeded smoothly, during which her internal organs appeared to be normal from their outward appearance. The little bone in her vulva area was removed so that hopefully she will no longer feel irritation in that area. Evie is recovering well from her surgery, and has been a very brave little dog throughout all of this!