Can We Talk Vulvas For a Second?


Your dog’s vulva should not look like this.

I have a couple reasons for this post. One of them is to provide a backup for “Find My iPhone” in the hopes that, should I ever lose my phone, the Good Samaritan who finds it, thwarts my pass code, becomes terribly confused/worried by the 17 photos of Karmann’s vulva on my “Karmann’s Bits” camera roll, and subsequently googles “dog vulva pictures iPhone” will be led to this site and thus, to me. (Hi! Thank you so much for finding my phone!)

[Note: if you did not find my iPhone but still discovered this blog using those search terms, welcome! Though I respectfully suggest that you take a good hard look at how you’re living.]

But mainly it’s because vulva. The word. The part. THE VULVA.



So close to uvula and yet, so very far.

Between March and July 2013 I uttered the word vulva more than I could ever hope to in the entire rest of my life, even taking this post into consideration. For it was in March that I discovered Karmann’s vulva was in bad shape. Blistered. Ulcerated. So supremely uncomfortable that once she was shaved up and vetted the doc handed me a bottle of Tramadol and told me to keep her asleep and sedated as often as possible for the better part of a week. He had never seen a dog in so much discomfort.

We were in the process of moving, so there was a mad rush to figure out what was going on with her before we were set adrift, vetless, in a new land. She had doctors appointments every week or two and so I had many opportunities to say “vulva” and the vet had many opportunities to give me amazing advice, like:

Vet: Keep her shaved. Every week or so trim it up. Like a Brazillian!
Me: Oh, god.
Vet: Nooooooo! It’ll be fine! Make it, like, date night. Put on some soft music, pour a glass of wine . . .
Me: Oh, god.
Vet: I mean for you and [Schmoopie]!
Me: Oh, god.


Vet: So, we need to document this. Take pictures. On your phone. Daily, or every few days, as needed. That way I can judge how the treatments are going, and you’ll have a record for your new vet if the issue continues or returns.
Me: Oh, god.
Vet: And never, ever let anyone look at your phone.


Just making sure you’re still awake.

So, after rotating through potential diagnoses of Lupus, thyroid issue, and Lupus again, the vet finally had a moment of genius whereupon he exclaimed, basically, “oh! RECESSED VULVA AND NIGHTTIME SPAY INCONTINENCE!!!” And there was much rejoicing and Proin and Karmann’s vulva is a-ok now. *thumbs up*

But that brings me to a pet peeve of mine. It’s a body part, yo. And, moreover, it is–in this specific case–a canine body part which, all veterinary humor aside, should not, in any way, be embarrassing or sexualized. It should not be a “thing” to say the word. Not for men. Not for women. Because, hey ladies reading this? I totally know you have your own vulva. It’s ok. I have one, too. And the men know you have one, even though they probably incorrectly call it a vagina (which is a whole ‘nother pet peeve about which I have no silly, critter-related anecdote–only a searing furor about the inability of some to parse “inside” and “outside” as general concepts.)

I digress.

So imagine the state of my cranial pressure when I took my mum’s cat to the vet and witnessed the following transaction between a dog steward and the (also clearly, delightfully irritated) receptionist:

the scene is a small, crowded waiting room of a small vet office. A woman enters with her puppy.
Receptionist: What are you here for?
Lady: (from across the waiting room) She has a limp.
R: ok
L: and also (whispers) mrrrmohhfrmmrph mrrrphmm.
R: and what?
L: (makes circular motion in general vicinity of her abdomen, continues whispering) her mmmprrmppppps is mrrrmohhfrmmrph.
R: her what is what??? I can’t hear you.
L: her (ongoing gesticulation) . . .

. . .

(tiny voice) private . . .

. . . Area . . .

Is swollen.
R: (a look of recognition, followed immediately by a smirk) her WHAT is swollen?
L: her . . . Area.
R: what? What area? I have no idea what you’re saying.

giggles rise from the peanut gallery. Women exchange knowing looks. Everyone is thinking it. VULVA. Well, everyone except the men. They are probably thinking: VAGINA

L: (moving closer to the desk) her, you know, private parts. Are, you know, swollen.
R: her private parts?
L: yes. Her, you know, the outside . . . Area . . . Private area . . .
L: yes, her . . . That . . . Is swollen.


I–deeply feminist, resentful of the patriarchy me–will eagerly concede that women are sexualized and our . . . You know . . . Areas . . . Our . . . private . . . areas . . . Are stigmatized out the wazoo. It irritates me TO NO END when people can’t speak about their own anatomy, but given all the societal hang-ups, I will cut a bit of slack. But for your dog? No. Just . . . Vulva.


Say it seventeen times consecutively, if necessary, but SAY IT. I’m doing this for you, people! I care! I don’t want you to find out the hard way that others WILL LAUGH AT YOU if you stand in a vets office flailing at your abdomen while trying to convey “vulva” (also: I think you need a lesson in either anatomy or charades, or possibly both.) I don’t want you–heavens forfend!– to become the subject of a cranky blog post.

That would just be the worst.