6 Prostate Problems in Intact Male Dogs

If you own an intact male dog, it's important to be aware of potential prostate problems. Veterinarian Dr. Ivana discusses various prostate issues seen in non-neutered male dogs.

6 Prostate Problems in Intact Male Dogs

If you own an intact male dog, it's important to be aware of potential prostate problems. Veterinarian Dr. Ivana discusses various prostate issues seen in non-neutered male dogs.

Intact male dogs are prone to various prostate issues

Risks of Not Neutering Your Dog

Your dog's prostate gland can sometimes become the source of health concerns, especially if you own an intact male dog.

When prostate problems occur, it can lead to a wide range of uncomfortable symptoms that can cause distress to your dog and, in turn, can cause you to be concerned.

If you notice your dog suddenly experiencing difficulty urinating, pain and discomfort when trying to defecate, or is suddenly having accidents in the home out of the blue, consider that these are all potential indications of a prostate problem in an intact male dog.

In this article, veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec, a licensed veterinarian graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia, will first cover the general anatomy of a dog's prostate gland and then the following topics:

  1. Prostatitis
  2. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
  3. Prostatic Squamous Metaplasia
  4. Prostate Cancer
  5. Prostatic Cysts
  6. Prostatic Abscesses

The Dog's Prostate Gland: Anatomy And Function

Your dog's prostate gland is a small, oval gland that plays an important role in the secretion of seminal fluid. It is located in the pelvic cavity, close to the neck of the bladder, and encircles the urethra.

The prostate gland has two lobes and a small indentation. The indentation lies on the urethra, and two lobes are on each side of the urethra. Along the indentation, there are several openings through which the prostatic fluid moves from the prostate gland to the urethra.

Morphologically speaking, the two lobes of the prostate gland are identical and built from secretory glandular tissue. The tissue secretes prostatic plasma, thus making the prostate a vital accessory reproductive gland.

When the dog reaches sexual maturity, the prostate rapidly grows to its normal size. After that moment, its growth slows down significantly, but it never really stops.

If the dog is castrated (neutered), the prostate undergoes involution (decreases). This is because the hormone testosterone directly influences the prostate.

A dog's prostate size is influenced by testosterone

6 Prostate Problems in Intact Male Dogs

Prostate problems are quite common in intact male dogs. Some prostate issues are easy to manage, while others can be life-threatening.

It is also possible for different prostate problems to co-exist.

The following six points take a closer look at the most common prostate problems in intact male dogs.

1. Prostatitis

Prostatitis is the medical term for an infection of the dog's prostate gland. There are two types of prostatitis—acute and chronic. Prostatitis is more common in older dogs and dogs with preexisting prostate problems.

Prostatitis is usually caused by bacteria like Escherichia coli, Streptococcus spp, Staphylococcus spp, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Brucella canis, Enterobacter, etc.

Rarely can prostatitis be caused by fungi.

Pathogens can reach the prostate gland via ascending infections (from the lower parts of the urinary tract), descending infections (from the kidneys or bladder), and via hematogenous spread (through the blood).

Dogs with acute prostatitis develop signs and symptoms like loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, lethargy, and discharge from the preputium.

Chronic prostatitis is less dramatic and usually manifests with recurrent infections of the urinary tract and bloody discharge.

Another difference between acute and chronic prostatitis is pain. Upon prostatic palpation, dogs with acute prostatitis will exhibit pain, while chronic cases rarely cause pain.

In both cases, the treatment is the same—a long course of antibiotics (at least four weeks). Trimethoprim sulfa, enrofloxacin, and chloramphenicol are the best antibiotic options because they can penetrate the prostatic tissue.

Castration is also recommended to prevent future episodes. However, it should not be performed during active acute infections.

2. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

Prostatic hyperplasia or hypertrophy is the most common prostate problem in intact male dogs.

It is more common in mid-aged to older dogs, affecting 95 percent of dogs over the age of nine.

However, in some breeds, like Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs and Bernese Mountain Dogs, it can develop earlier in life.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia or hypertrophy results from aging and prolonged exposure to the male hormone testosterone.

The enlarged prostate is prone to infections and cysts (on an ultrasound, it looks similar to Swiss cheese with large craters).

In the early stages, benign prostatic hyperplasia does not cause signs. However, over time, when the enlargement becomes significant, it will pressure the rectum, disabling the normal fecal flow.

Therefore the telltale signs of benign prostatic hyperplasia are constipation and the production of thin, ribbon-like feces.

Other common symptoms of BPH are hematuria (blood in the urine), hemospermia (blood in the semen), and bloody discharge.

If left untreated, benign prostatic hyperplasia results in poor semen quality and even infertility. Also, dogs with BPH are at increased risk of prostatitis.

There are two treatment options for BPH—surgical and non-surgical. The surgical approach (neutering) is recommended for dogs that are not used for breeding.

Following the procedure, the prostate quickly returns to its normal size.

The non-surgical approach uses a medication called finasteride (pharmacologically speaking, it alters testosterone metabolism).

Dogs receiving this medication produce smaller amounts of sperm, but the sperm quality is not altered by the drug, allowing participation in breeding programs.

The surgical approach results in a faster size reduction of the prostate, while the non-surgical method requires more time.

3. Prostatic Squamous Metaplasia

Prostatic squamous metaplasia is a specific issue defined as a non-cancerous prostate gland enlargement. It is associated with excess amounts of the female hormone estrogen.

Prostatic squamous metaplasia occurs when there is too much estrogen in the male dog’s body. In most cases, it results from the estrogen-producing Sertoli cell tumor.

On its own, prostatic squamous metaplasia does not cause clinical signs and symptoms. Histologically there are tissue changes, but they do not manifest on a clinical level.

There is no specific treatment for squamous metaplasia. The issue is reversible and normalizes once the estrogen levels return to normal.

For dogs with Sertoli cell tumors, the treatment of choice is neutering. Once the testicles (and tumor) are removed, there will be no estrogen production, and the prostate will return to normal.

4. Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is a relatively rare condition in dogs. The risk is higher in certain breeds, such as Scottish Terriers and Shetland Sheepdogs.

The most common type of prostate cancer is prostatic adenocarcinoma. It is very aggressive (locally) and forms metastasis (lungs, bones, liver, spleen, and lymph nodes).

The exact cause of prostate cancer in dogs is unknown. Some types depend on hormones, and others do not. For example, adenocarcinoma, the most common prostate cancer, can occur in both intact and neutered dogs (indicating it is not hormone-dependent.

The typical signs of prostate cancer in dogs are pollakiuria (increased urination frequency with no changes in urine volume), stranguria (difficulty urinating), and hematuria (presence of blood in the urine).

The treatment depends on the type and stage of the tumor and may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these.

Sadly, in most cases, the treatment only improves the symptoms instead of treating the problem.

If the treatment is not working and the dog’s quality of life is compromised, it is recommended to consider euthanasia.

5. Prostatic Cysts

Prostatic cysts are closely related to prostatic hyperplasia and can be hard to diagnose, especially in the early stages. There are two types of prostatic cysts—intraprostatic (retention cysts) and paraprostatic.

As explained, there are two types of prostatic cysts, and each type has a different origin. Paraprostatic cysts are, in fact, remnants of the embryonic tissue called uterus masculinus.

Intraprostatic cysts (retention cysts) develop when the ducts that are draining prostatic fluid clog, resulting in prostatic fluid accumulation.

Initially, the cysts are small and do not cause issues. However, as the cysts enlarge over time, they can become one large cyst.

Clinically speaking, the signs of prostatic cysts are similar to those of prostate enlargement and abscesses.

The most notable symptoms are difficulty or inability to urinate and defecate. Both symptoms result from the pressure the cysts exert on the surrounding tissues.

Paraprostatic cysts are larger than intraprostatic cysts and can be palpated (rectally and some even transabdominally).

We should also note that in the initial phases when the cysts are small, they can be asymptomatic (cause no visible signs or symptoms).

Prostatic cysts were traditionally treated surgically. Several possible techniques include debridement, drainage, or even partial prostatectomy. All of these techniques are complicated and not always successful.

Therefore, today most vets use a newer technique called ultrasound-guided drainage.

6. Prostatic Abscesses

Prostatic abscesses are relatively rare and considered severe forms of bacterial infections. They are also a challenge when it comes to treatment.

Prostatic abscesses usually develop when prostatic cysts are contaminated or due to prostatitis.

The two most common clinical signs are tenesmus (difficulty defecating) and dysuria (inability to urinate). Both symptoms are a result of the pressure caused by the abscess. Upon rectal examination and prostate palpation, dogs may or may not feel pain.

Traditionally, prostatic abscesses were treated surgically. However, the surgical approaches are complicated and often have consequences.

Today, more and more vets are using a novel approach—ultrasonography-guided percutaneous drainage.

The ultrasonography-guided percutaneous drainage of the abscess is safer and much cheaper. Following the procedure, the dog will be prescribed antibiotics.

Final Thoughts

The prostate gland is an important part of the male dog’s reproductive system. Like all organs, the prostate is prone to certain diseases and conditions, including prostatitis, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), squamous metaplasia, prostate cancer, prostatic cysts, and prostatic abscesses.

Some prostate problems can be prevented and/or managed through neutering. This is recommended for dogs that are not involved in breeding programs. If breeding is important, talk to your veterinarian about freezing sperm before the neutering procedure.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2023 Adrienne Farricelli


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