Prostate Problems in Dogs – Hypertrophy, Prostatitis, Cancer & Cysts

Prostate problems in dogs are more common than you think. They affect mainly middle-aged (5 years old) and senior dogs. In fact, prostatic diseases represent up to 10% of cases that veterinary surgeons have to attend, and therefore, it is your responsibility as an owner to know more about this issue.

You can find dogs with prostate problems under different scenarios. For example, your pet may have developed prostate issues due to an infection that is affecting the whole gland (prostatitis). Another scenario would be the aging of the gland, which can create problems when your pet tries to urinate or defecate. As you can see, different scenarios can affect the prostate of your dog because they can be internal (normal aging) or external (infection by bacteria).

In this article, we are going to share with you the different types of prostate problems, the symptoms, the causes, and the diagnosis. Furthermore, we will also show you how to prevent and treat such issues. Now that you have been properly introduced to the topic, it is time to review it in detail to bring you the answers you want to know.

What is The Prostate?

The prostate is a gland responsible for producing fluids that are found in semen. More precisely, these fluids are found in seminal plasma components which are implicated in critical events of the reproductive processes in the dog. They contain zinc-binding proteins (ZnBPs) which are excellent markers for canine sperm fertility. Therefore, it is important for the reproductive system of the male dog.

It is located behind the bladder, below the rectum and the urethra passes through it. It lives inside the pelvis. Furthermore, the prostate communicates with the urethra through many openings where the seminal plasma is secreted. Therefore, they are connected to fulfill the function of the gland effectively.

What Are Prostate Problems in Dogs?

A prostate problem most of the time is the enlargement of the gland in middle-aged and senior dogs. It can start as soon as your pet is 5 years old and it affects all breeds alike. As we have seen before, it can occur under different scenarios, but the most common reason is the increase in the size of epithelial cells of the prostate and their number.

It reaches an abnormal size that affects the quality of life of your dog because it creates problems with normal urination and defecation. Furthermore, it can cause problems at the hour of walking, provoke discomfort and reduce the activity levels of your pet.

Furthermore, here are some other consequences of prostate issues:

  • Urinary incontinence
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite

Now that you have a clear idea of what prostate problems are and how they can affect the life of your pet, it is time to explain the four main types of prostate issues in dogs.

Male dogs affected by prostatic problems may find it difficult or even impossible to breed a female dog in heat.

Types of Prostate Problems in Dogs

Most owners are surprised to know that prostate problems have a high incidence rate in dogs, but it is the reality. There are four types that register the majority of prostatic issues.

1. Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy or Hyperplasia (BPH)

It is the abnormal enlargement of the prostate and it is a common issue amongst old dogs. It is one of the most common prostatic problems because it affects 95% of dogs by the time they become nine years old. Hence, it is the most common prostatic problem in dogs. It is caused by the growth of the number of cells in the prostate, and as it is benign, your pet will not suffer pain, and in consequence, most of the time dogs do not show any symptoms. Although, the most common indicator of BPH is blood in the urine and straining to urinate.

2. Prostatitis

Prostatitis is the infection or inflammation of the prostate and it is more prevalent in non-neutered male dogs. It increases the vascularization and volume of the gland, and furthermore, it also causes alterations in the tissue. According to the study by Teske et al, 19.3% of dogs that experienced prostate problems proved positive for prostatitis. It can be life-threatening (when it evolves from acute to chronic and infects the abdomen causing peritonitis), and therefore, you should contact your veterinary as soon as you detect the symptoms because it can have many causes like bacteria, parasites or some types of cancer.

3. Prostate Cancer

From all the prostate problems in dogs, cancer is the most dangerous threat because it has a high rate of metastasis that can spread to other organs quickly, especially the bones, lymph nodes, and lungs. It can be a benign tumor or it can be malign (Adenocarcinoma).

Similar to prostatitis, it is more common amongst non-neutered male dogs, especially when they pass the 8-year old mark. Although, some studies consider neutering as a risk factor for canine prostate cancer. Because the removal of the glands causes a hormonal imbalance, it is believed to be the reason.

4. Paraprostatic Cysts

Paraprostatic cysts lie next to the prostate and connect to the gland using a stalk. They are usually large and their recurrence is prevalent amongst non-neutered dogs. They are caused by the same reasons as prostatic cysts, due to the blockage of ducts in the prostate gland. It is one of the most serious prostate problems in dogs because it requires surgery, drainage, and castration.

types of canine prostate problems
Prostate problems have a high incidence rate in dogs.

Symptoms of Prostate Problems

One of the most problematic aspects of prostate issues is that, in several cases, dogs may not show symptoms at all, especially in the case of a BPH. Nonetheless, here you have the list of the most common symptoms. Consider that one symptom is not enough to determine what type of issue your dog is experiencing, and in consequence, you need to watch out for more clues.

Worry not, because we are going to bring you specific scenarios, so you can diagnose your pet properly.

Pain during and trouble urinating and defecation

If you observe that your dog experiences pain when urinating or defecating, then it might be a case of prostatitis or inflammation. Although other conditions could trigger it (a tumor, for instance), most of the time it is the result of an infection.

Ribbon Shaped Stools

Because the enlargement of the prostate will push up on the rectum, your dog might defecate ribbon-shaped stools, and therefore, they are a strong indicator that something abnormal is happening.

Yelping and straining

Straining and yelping are strong indicators of prostate enlargement. An infection (prostatitis), paraprostatic cysts (when they become too large) or a tumor can cause it.

Constipation and Gastrointestinal Issues

Constipation is a strong sign of paraprostatic cysts because when they become too large, they start to put tons of pressure on the urethra, which in consequence, displaces the colon and rectum. If it is accompanied by abdominal pain and difficulties when urinating and defecating, then cysts might be the issue. In addition, if you observe flattened stools, then you can confirm (almost) that it is a case of enlarged cysts.

Bloody discharge

If you have observed that your dog has a bloody discharge – along with pain and discomfort when urinating – then it might be a case of prostatitis. Also, watch out for poor urine stream and discolored urine.

General signs of pain

When the prostate enlarges, it creates pressure against different organs and parts of the body, which results in pain. A benign case of prostatic hypoplasia will not generate pain; however, when it comes to infection, large cysts or tumors, it is a different case.

Trouble walking

Another sign that your dog is experiencing prostate problems is when it has troubles to walk. Stiffness and paresis are the most common signs.

Lethargy or depression

If you have noticed that the mood of your dog has declined and that its energy levels have decreased, then it is another sign that in correlation with other symptoms, can be a sign of prostate enlargement. More precisely, it can indicate prostatitis, or alternatively, the presence of large cysts. In some cases, it can be an indicator of cancer.

Lack of appetite

If you have observed that the appetite of your dog has decrease significantly, along with other indicators like bloody discharge and difficulties for urinating, then it might be a case of prostatitis. It can also be a sign of prostate cancer.

Fever

Fever is one of the most common signs that an infection is attacking your dog, and when you observe other of the symptoms cited in this list, you can deduce that it might be a case of prostatitis. However, it can also indicate a case of paraprostatic cysts, especially when accompanied by abdominal pain.

Pain in the abdomen

Most of the time, it is caused by large cysts because when they become too big, they apply abnormal pressure on the urethra, and consequently, affect the rectum and colon, which derives in abdominal pain.

Diagnosis of Prostate Problems in Dogs

Your veterinarian will use different methods for diagnosis your dog:

  1. Rectum Exam. The veterinarian will insert a gloved finger into the rectum of your dog to examine the prostate, to determine if there is any abnormality and if your pet feels pain.
  2. Urine Sample. It is the most commonly used test to determine if the prostate of your dog is infected (prostatitis)
  3. Ultrasound. If your vet has the equipment, then ultrasound is a viable option. Furthermore, it can also be used as a non-invasive treatment for cysts and prostatic abscesses
  4. X-Rays. The vet may consider it necessary to measure the size of the prostate and analyze the surrounding structures, to arrive at a more precise diagnosis

Therefore, as soon as you notice the symptoms on your dog, then you need to visit your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis, so your pet can begin the treatment.

purpose prostate in dogs
Diagram of the prostate in dogs.

Causes of Prostatitis in Dogs

As you have seen, prostatitis is one of the most common and serious problems that your dog can face. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the possible causes.

Age

Although it is not a cause by default, it is a risk factor, because dogs between the ages of 7 to 11 are more vulnerable to prostatitis.

Bacteria Spreading from other Parts of the Body

If your dog has an infection in other parts of its body – for instance, a wound – then it can easily spread to other parts of the body, including the prostate. Keep in mind that the infection can be bacterial, viral or parasitic.

Bacteria Moving Up from the Urinary Passage

It is recurrent if your dog has a case of urinary tract infection because it enables bacteria to move up from the urinary passage and reach the prostate, where they can unchain an infection. Furthermore, if your dog develops urinary tract infections (UTIs) frequently, then it might be a sign of chronic prostatitis because it indicates that the infection is compromising several organs and glands.

Weak Immune System

When the immune system of your dog is compromised, then it makes it more vulnerable to infections, including prostatitis. There are certain micro-organisms that cause the majority of prostate infection causes, and they are:

  • Mycoplasma spp
  • Staphylococcus
  • Streptococcus
  • Escherichia coli

Furthermore, if the immune system is faulty, it can allow an acute infection to evolve into chronic rapidly. Therefore, you should consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your dog may require some vitamins or supplements.

Prevention of Prostate Problems

You can prevent your dog from getting prostate issues by following certain methods. Here you will find the most effective ones.

Castration

It is a very hard and sensitive choice, but according to veterinarians, it is the most effective way to avoid prostate problems. However, you need to do it while your dog is still in puberty. Although, certain studies put this statement to doubt, like this one where they discuss how non-testicular androgens have a strong influence on the prostate of your dog.

Regular Checks

As we have seen, issues like prostatitis can be caused by other problems like wounds and UTIs. Therefore, another measure of prevention is to check your dog regularly with the help of a veterinarian, to combat infections early.

Regular Exercise

It is a must for your dog in any case, but it also helps to prevent prostate problems like prostatitis and to combat inflammation. Furthermore, it will prevent your pet from getting overweight, which is another risk factor.

Proper Hydration

You must ensure that your dog is drinking enough water to keep his urinary tract clean and its bladder flushed out. If your dog gets dehydrated, then it will be more vulnerable to urinary tract infections, which as we have seen, can derive into prostatitis.

Hygiene

Cleaning the private parts of your dog can also reduce the danger of infections, and in consequence, it will protect your pet from prostate issues. You can do it while bathing your dog using a washcloth.

Treatment for Enlarged Prostate

As a reminder, you should not attempt to treat prostate problems completely on your own because they are delicate issues that can menace the life of your pet. You should always consult with your veterinarian because the treatment will vary depending on the cause of the inflammation.

Surgery

Depending on the severity of the problem, your veterinarian might opt for surgery. For example, in the case of cysts, your vet will use it to drain them. In some cases, your vet may also suggest to neuter your pet, in order to reduce hormone levels. The ASPCA recommends it; however, we have also given you reasons to doubt it. Therefore, it must be a very well thought decision. You must do it patiently.

Antibiotics

If your dog has a case of prostatitis, then the best treatment is antibiotics. Your veterinarian will decide the length of the treatment, but usually, it takes from 6 to 8 weeks depending on the severity of the infection. The most commonly used antibiotics are:

  • Doxycycline
  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Erythromycin
  • Trimethoprim-sulfonamides
  • Chloramphenicol
  • Enrofloxacin

They are strong enough to penetrate the prostate, and therefore, you should never administer them yourself.

Ultrasound Drainage

An increasingly popular alternative to surgery for treating paraprostatic cysts is ultrasound drainage. It is still a novelty, but it has already shown excellent results, and therefore, it is a valid treatment for this type of prostatic disease.

Radiation and Chemotherapy

In the case of prostate cancer, radiation and chemotherapy are the default treatments in order to reduce pain and discomfort, as well as to mitigate the advance of the disease. The success rate increases if your dog begins the treatment in the early stages.

Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are a common treatment against prostatic cancer (study by Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences) because they have shown anti-cancer properties. The most commonly used drugs are:

  • Piroxicam
  • Deramaxx
  • Previcox
  • Meloxicam
  • Carprofen

They can be used as a stand-alone treatment or in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation.

Other Treatments for Prostate Cancer

Because cancer is such a complex problem, the veterinarian may also opt for alternative treatments like:

  • Laser ablation
  • Palliative-intent radiation
  • Stenting
  • Stereotactic Radiation Therapy (SRT)

These treatments are especially effective when the tumors are also present in the urinary tract.

Natural Remedies

Apart from the official and clinical treatments, you can supplement them with holistic choices like:

  1. Cleavers. Thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties for the urinary tract and health-boosting action on the glands. Glycerin tincture is the most common method of application (0.5-1.0 milliliter per 50 pounds)
  2. Quercetin. This flavonoid can be found in broccoli, fresh garlic, apples, and dark berries. It has shown properties that protect the prostate against cancer
  3. Saw Palmetto. It is worth adding it to the treatment of your dog because it has shown to reduce tumor cell growth in animals

For your information, cranberry is working amazingly well for non-severe mild UTIs, but not at all for prostate problems in male dogs.

Now that you have the most complete guide about prostate dog problems, you can diagnose your dog, identify the causes and choose the ideal treatment. Furthermore, now you can also apply preventive measures to keep your dog away from such issues.

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