Diseases of the Dog’s Prostate
Do dogs have prostates? Do they develop similar problems as men when they get older? The answer is, yes…male dogs can develop prostate problems. And male dogs that aren’t neutered (castrated) are at an increased risk of developing certain prostate diseases. Keep reading to learn about the symptoms, treatment, and prevention of these common problems.
What is the prostate and what does it do?
The prostate is a gland found in male dogs that makes semen. It is located near the bladder in the pelvic area.
Male dogs that aren’t castrated have higher levels of androgens (which are male sex hormones) that can contribute to prostate problems.
Types of Prostate Diseases in Dogs
- Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH): Also known as prostatic enlargement, prostatomegaly, or cystic BPH. It often occurs in older intact (not castrated) male dogs as a normal aging process. BPH usually isn’t painful, but it can lead to prostatic cysts, acute or chronic prostate infection, and abscess.
- Acute Prostatitis is a sudden infection of the prostate caused by bacteria.
- Chronic Prostatitis is an ongoing infection of the prostate caused by bacteria which can lead to bladder inflammation, inflammation of the testicles, and inflammation of the testicular tube where sperm is stored.
- Prostatic Abscess is an area of fluid and pus within the prostate, which often develops when a dog has chronic untreated prostatitis.
- Prostate Cancer: There is an increased risk for certain breeds including the Bouvier des Flandres, Doberman Pinscher, Shetland Sheepdog, Scottish Terrier, Beagle, Miniature Poodle, German Short-Haired Pointer, Airedale Terrier, and Norwegian Elkhound.
Signs of Prostate Disease in Dogs
Because the diseases of the prostate cause enlargement of the gland, symptoms can often be similar. Acute prostatitis, abscess, or cancer of the prostate will usually cause more severe symptoms. Common signs include the following:
- Difficulty and pain associated with having a bowel movement or constipation
- Stool is abnormally long and flat instead of the normal log shape
- Blood is seen in the urine, abnormal discharge from the penis
- Difficulty or unable to urinate
- Chronic or recurrent urinary tract infection
- Infertility and reluctant to breed a female dog in heat
- Urine accidents (an older dog that suddenly has urine accidents in the house)
- Pain in the lower back or belly area
- Change in normal behavior such as inactive or reluctant to move. Dogs may become aggressive when petted or when picked up.
- Fever, not eating, laying in one spot
- Neurologic signs such as difficulty walking or noticeable stiffness to rear legs
How are diseases of the prostate diagnosed?
Diagnosis starts with your vet gathering a thorough history and performing a physical exam, including a digital rectal exam. A digital rectal exam involves your vet wearing a disposable exam glove with lubrication and placing their finger in your dog’s rectum to evaluate the size of the prostate, any associated pain, and if the gland is shaped normally. Your vet will often recommend sedation as this can be uncomfortable or painful in affected dogs.
Depending on your dog’s symptoms, bloodwork tests and a complete urinalysis, x-ray or ultrasound will determine a diagnosis so that appropriate treatment can begin. In some cases, a surgical biopsy of the prostate is needed for an accurate diagnosis.
Dogs diagnosed with infectious prostatitis should be tested for Brucella canis, also called brucellosis. This is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted from dogs to people. Dogs with brucellosis can have symptoms similar to those listed above. Always wash your hands after handling your dog to help prevent transmission.
How are these prostate diseases treated?
Treatment goals are to decrease the size of the prostate, alleviate pain, and prevent complications such as inflammation or infection. Treatment depends on the diagnosis.
Castration is the first-choice treatment for most dogs with BPH, causing a rapid decrease in the size of the prostate by more than 50% in 3 weeks and 75% in 3 months. Treatment options include both surgical and chemical (injectable) castration. Talk to your vet about which type of castration is recommended for your dog based on their age and any health risks.
Prostatitis (acute or chronic), abscess or infection, and cancer require various treatments including pain management, castration and/or prostatic surgery, antibiotics, chemotherapy, and palliative therapy (focusing on pain management and quality of life).
If your dog is diagnosed with a prostatic disease, you must give all medications as instructed by your vet. Follow-up appointments are important to make sure your pet is improving and to determine if adjustments to medication are needed.
Preventing Prostate Disease in Dogs
All male dogs should have their prostate checked during their wellness exams. Male dogs that aren’t neutered are at increased risk of developing prostatic disease. However, prostatitis can be seen in dogs that have been recently castrated and older castrated male dogs can sometimes develop prostate cancer.
You can greatly decrease your dog’s chances of developing prostate disease by doing the following:
- Castration (surgical or chemical)
- Decrease exposure to female dogs in heat
- Yearly or twice-yearly veterinary wellness exams for your dog
When to Call the Vet
If your dog is showing any of the signs listed above you should contact your vet as soon as possible. If your dog is straining or unable to urinate, this can indicate a medical emergency, and he should be taken to a nearby clinic or emergency hospital right away.
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