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Prostate problems in dogs

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Prostate problems in dogs are primarily a problem in middle-aged to older male dogs that have not been neutered. The prostate is a ball-shaped gland that surrounds the urethra as it passes out of the bladder. The prostate produces fluid that protects the sperm and makes up a large percentage of the seminal fluid.

The most common prostate problem is benign prostatic hypertrophy, or BPH. In this condition, the prostate gland has increased in size over time because of exposure to the male hormone testosterone. The prostate gland can also become larger in cancer or infection (known as prostatitis).

Signs of prostate disorders in dogs are similar in all three conditions: BPH, prostate cancer, and prostatitis. Early signs usually include straining to urinate or have a bowel movement, because the enlarged prostate can squeeze the urethra or push up on the rectum. Dogs often urinate frequently, passing only a small amount each time. An enlarged prostate can also put pressure on nerves in the pelvis, leading to pain or weakness in the rear legs. Other possible signs in prostate cancer and prostatitis include fever, sluggishness and poor appetite. Dogs with prostatitis often have urinary tract infections that keep coming back and sometimes a milky or bloody discharge from the penis.

Your veterinarian can gauge the size of the prostate gland and check for signs of pain or inflammation by inserting a gloved finger into the rectum. In many cases, x-rays are helpful to measure the size and shape of the gland more accurately. A urine sample can be examined for signs of infection or inflammation, or for cancerous cells.

Neutering is a key part of treatment. It can dramatically reduce the size of the prostate in BPH, as well as speed recovery of prostatitis. In the prostate is infected or abscessed, a long course (many weeks) of antibiotics may be needed. Prostate cancer can be very aggressive and difficult to treat.

Fortunately, most prostate problems can easily be prevented by having your male pet neutered at a young age.

Q&A

What is the prostate gland?

The prostate is a ball-shaped gland that surrounds the urethra as it passes out of the bladder.  The prostate produces fluid that protects the sperm and makes up a large percentage of seminal fluid.


Why does the prostate gland enlarge?

In intact male dogs, the prostate gland increases in size because of continuous exposure to the male hormone testosterone.  The prostate gland can also become enlarged in cancer or infection (known as prostatitis).


How can I tell if my male dog has an enlarged prostate?

Your veterinarian can gauge the size of the prostate by inserting a gloved finger into the rectum, or by taking an x-ray to measure the size and shape of the gland. 


What is the best way to treat or prevent prostate problems in my dog?

Neutering is a key part of treatment and prevention.  This surgery decreases testosterone levels, dramatically reducing prostate size and preventing enlargement in the first place.

Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS 
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