Everything you need to know about prostatic disease in dogs

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Everything you need to know about prostatic disease in dogs - A dog facing away from the camera, playing in the grass

Found in male dogs, the prostate gland can develop a variety of conditions, leading to urinary symptoms and signs of pain. If you have a male dog you suspect may have prostate issues, read on to find the answers to question such as:

  • What types of conditions affect a dog’s prostate?
  • What are the symptoms of prostate disease?
  • How does a vet diagnose and treat my dog’s prostatic disease?
  • Can prostate diseases be prevented?

In dogs, prostatic hyperplasia and bacterial infections leading to acute or chronic prostatitis are common. Prostate cancer is less common. Prostatic diseases can also contribute to frequent urinary tract infections, and lead to constipation, abdominal pain, and other symptoms. Neutering is the best way to prevent the majority of prostate conditions in dogs.

What is canine prostate disease?

There are a variety of diseases that can affect the prostate gland in male dogs. All male dogs have prostate glands; they are not removed when dogs are neutered. However, the glands never fully develop in dogs neutered before puberty, and they shrink in males neutered as adults. Prostate diseases vary in severity.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is the most common disease that affects the canine prostate gland. Dogs with BPH have an enlarged prostate due to high levels of sex hormones. The condition only affects intact male dogs, otherwise known as dogs who have not been neutered. More than half of intact dogs develop BPH by the age of four, and nearly all intact males develop the condition at some point in their lives.

Bacterial prostatitis

Bacterial prostatitis is a bacterial infection of the prostate gland. The condition is usually associated with BPH, and treating only the infection without also addressing the BPH usually isn’t successful. Prostatitis can be acute or chronic. Acute prostatitis often has sudden, severe symptoms. Chronic prostatitis may be asymptomatic with few to no symptoms. The condition most commonly affects dogs that have not been neutered.

Prostate cancer

Prostatic cancer in dogs is uncommon but is usually malignant with a high fatality rate. In around 80 percent of dogs with prostate cancer, the cancer metastasizes before it is diagnosed. At this point, the cancer is not curable. Some research suggests that neutered dogs are at a higher risk of prostatic cancer, though any male dog can develop the condition. This finding does not mean that neutering causes cancer.

What are the clinical signs of prostatic disease in dogs?

Clinical symptoms of prostate disease in dogs can vary depending on the type and severity. Benign prostatic hyperplasia and chronic prostatitis may have few to no symptoms, while acute prostatitis can have sudden, severe symptoms. Clinical symptoms of prostatic conditions can include:

Dogs with prostate problems may feel pain when they walk and consequently take careful steps, sometimes referred to as “walking on eggshells.” After leaving the bladder, urine is carried through a tube that goes through the prostate gland, so prostate disease commonly interferes with a dog’s ability to urinate. Unproductive straining or being completely unable to urinate is a medical emergency. In addition, an enlarged prostate may press on the colon, potentially leading to flattened stools or constipation. Symptoms of a prostate infection or disease can mimic other medical conditions and warrant prompt attention for a definitive diagnosis and proper treatment.

Are prostate diseases common in dogs?

Benign prostatic hyperplasia is an extremely common condition in intact male dogs, affecting nearly all unneutered dogs in their natural lifespan. The condition is rare in neutered dogs. Bacterial prostatitis is common in dogs and occurs mostly in intact males, and prostate cancer is uncommon in dogs and most often affects neutered senior dogs.

How are prostate gland issues in dogs diagnosed and treated?

An accurate diagnosis is needed due to the differences in treatment required for various prostate diseases. In addition, prostate conditions can mimic other health issues. Diagnosis for prostate disease may involve:

  • A physical exam, including a rectal examination
  • Urinalysis with a urine culture
  • Prostate cell analysis
  • Blood tests
  • Imaging such as X-rays or an ultrasound
  • Prostate biopsy

Treatment options vary depending on the type and severity of the prostatic condition. Neutering affected, intact males is the most common treatment for prostatic hyperplasia and bacterial prostatitis. Antibiotic therapy may also be used to treat prostatic bacterial infections, although the infection usually clears up once the dog is neutered. When neutering is not an option, hormone therapy and other symptomatic care may be alternatives, but the expense and side effects may make them less practical solutions.

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The majority of dogs diagnosed with prostate cancer do not benefit from treatments such as chemo and radiation therapy. “Unfortunately, prostate cancer in dogs tends to be aggressive and spreads before it causes significant symptoms and is diagnosed,” states Dr. Jo Myers, a veterinarian on the Vetster platform. “Treatments for prostate cancer are usually palliative, with many dog owners choosing humane euthanasia not long after diagnosis.”

Can I prevent my dog from developing prostatic disease?

Neutering significantly reduces the risk of hyperplasia and infection, which are common prostatic diseases. Prostate cancer cannot be prevented but is very rare in dogs. Intact males may be less likely to develop prostate cancer but are more likely to develop more common prostate problems. Neutering dogs does not cause prostate cancer and provides many benefits for dogs and their owners.

What should I do if I think my dog has prostate disease?

Talk to a veterinarian any time your dog shows urinary symptoms. Urinary tract infections, urinary crystals, and bladder stones can cause urinary symptoms also associated with prostate disease. Being unable to urinate or straining to urinate is a medical emergency that needs immediate care. A hunched posture and reluctance to walk due to abdominal pain are common with prostate inflammation, but many other conditions can cause abdominal pain as well. Constipation that lasts more than twenty-four hours or is accompanied by other symptoms also warrants a veterinary consultation.

An online virtual care appointment is an excellent way to talk to a veterinary professional for advice when your dog has symptoms, even if they seem minor.

FAQ - What are the signs of prostatic disease in dogs?

What are the symptoms of prostatitis in dogs?

Prostatitis is a bacterial infection in the prostate gland that usually only occurs in dogs who haven’t been neutered. Acute prostatitis in dogs has severe symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloody urine, fever, and dehydration. Chronic prostatitis may have few to no clinical symptoms other than recurrent urinary tract infections.

What are the signs of prostate cancer in dogs?

Dogs with prostate cancer often have urinary symptoms such as frequently urinating small amounts, bloody urine, and nearly constant dribbling of urine. Constipation can also occur, along with abdominal pain. As the cancer progresses, other symptoms may occur, such as weight loss, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Early stages of prostate cancer may have no symptoms.

At what age do dogs get prostate problems?

More than half of unneutered dogs develop prostatic hyperplasia before the age of four, and the majority of dogs develop the condition at some point in their lives if they remain intact. Prostate cancer is rare and is usually found in senior dogs.