Hearing the news that your dog has an enlarged prostate is bound to be alarming. However, enlargement of the prostate is a common occurrence in male dogs who are entire (uncastrated). Some studies estimate that up to 80% of dogs over six years of age have some degree of prostate enlargement.
What exactly is the prostate and what does it do?
The prostate is a gland, which lies close to the neck of the bladder in the male dog (only), has two lobes which sit either side of the urethra. The urethra is a duct which takes urine out of the body from the bladder. The prostate gland is responsible for producing some of the fluids present in semen.
The most common condition which causes prostate enlargement is known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The prostate becomes enlarged due to the effects of the male hormone testosterone, and as the name suggests, is “benign” in nature.
What are the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia?
Often you may not notice any changes in your dog’s health or behaviour, as the enlargement may not be causing any problems. However, in other cases the enlargement of the gland leads to noticeable symptoms such as:
- Changes in urination, because the prostate lies next to the urethra. An abnormally large prostate can compress the urethra making urination problematic. Urinary signs might include struggling to pass urine, straining to urinate, seeing blood in the urine, or only passing a small or intermittent stream of urine.
- Changes in defaecation, if the prostate is very enlarged, it can sometimes push into the colon making it difficult for the dog to pass stools. You may notice this if your dog is straining to go to the toilet or passing thin ribbon like faeces.
- Blood dripping from the prepuce.
These signs can be ongoing, but for some dogs the problem may be more intermittent.
How is an enlarged prostate diagnosed?
A history of straining to urinate or defaecate may make your vet suspicious that the prostate is enlarged. In many cases the enlarged prostate can be felt by the veterinary surgeon during a rectal examination. Further tests such as an x-ray or ultrasound may be needed to give further information about your dog’s condition. In some cases, samples may need to be taken from the prostate to allow a definitive diagnosis and rule out other problems such as infections.
What can be done to treat an enlarged prostate?
The most common treatment for an enlarged prostate is castration. This is a popular option as it provides a permanent solution. No more testosterone is produced, so the prostate becomes inactive and starts to shrink. Within about a month of castration symptoms usually start to improve. If the dog in question is elderly or has other health conditions surgery may not be the first choice. Chemical castration might be considered instead.
Although chemical castration eliminates the need for surgery, it does mean there will be repeated visits to the vet for treatment over the coming years. Another option is medication. This is given for a week at a time and needs to be repeated roughly every five or six months. Your veterinary surgeon will be able to discuss all of the options taking into account your dog’s medical history.
What is the outlook for my dog?
Benign prostatic hyperplasia usually responds very well to treatment, and in most cases can be completely resolved. However, in some cases there can be complications arising from the abnormal enlargement of the prostate, this can include:
- Chronic inflammation (prostatitis) with infections of the prostate gland and urinary tract. There may not be typical symptoms of prostate enlargement, instead symptoms may be limited to recurrent urinary tract infections. Treatment of BPH is needed as well as treatment for the chronic infection.
- Prostatic cysts which are pockets of infection, walled off from the prostate. This type of prostate infection can occur more acutely and cause the dog to become more unwell with symptoms including a fever, lethargy and pain. In such cases more aggressive treatment is needed and may include surgery.
If you are concerned that your dog may be showing signs of prostate enlargement or is having difficulty passing urine or stools, then book an appointment with your vet.
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