You may have seen medical advertisements on television about men who have trouble “going.” Believe it or not, our canine friends have similar troubles as they age. The prostate gland serves the same function in dogs as it does in man, and just like humans, older dogs are prone to prostatic disease.
What is the prostate?
The prostate is an accessory sex organ. It sits in the pelvis, surrounding the urethra behind the bladder and under the rectum. The prostate produces fluid that provides nutrients to sperm and aids in their movement. Prostatic disease results in enlargement of the prostate, which can cause problems for your pooch’s outdoor habits. Because of its location, an enlarged prostate can cause fecal obstruction, constipation and rarely, urinary blockage if its enlargement encroaches on the urethra.
The three most common causes of prostatic disease are benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlargement of the prostate), prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) and prostatic neoplasia (cancer).
Benign prostatic hyperplasia
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is common in older dogs who have not been neutered. BPH is a result of normal aging changes and hormonal influences. Hormonal fluctuations in older age play a role in prostatic hypertrophy (or growth).
Early signs may include intermittent bleeding from the urethra and progress to fecal blockage (constipation) or more rarely, urinary outflow obstruction. Your veterinarian will be able to feel your dog’s enlarged prostate on a routine physical exam – another reason not to skip those regular trips to the vet!.
The treatment of choice for BPH in dogs is castration. Within seven to 10 days of neutering, an appreciable decrease in prostate size can be felt, and a 50% decrease is seen within three weeks.
Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate and is most often caused by bacterial infection. Prostatitis is more common in older dogs and often accompanies Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia.
In acute prostatitis, your pet will likely feel sick. He will have a fever, may go off his food and may be in pain. Abscesses (or pockets of infection) are common in acute prostatitis and may lead to life-threatening complications if rupture occurs. Acute prostatitis can lead to chronic prostatitis. Chronic cases are usually subclinical with little to no symptoms other than an enlarged prostate and infertility.
The treatment of prostatitis includes neutering, as well as long-term oral antibiotics.
In some cases, an enlarged prostate may be caused by cancer. However, it is a much less common cause than benign hyperplasia or prostatitis. Prostatic cancer can spread to the lungs, local lymph nodes, liver, and bones. There are some options for chemotherapy, and radiation therapy may be helpful as well. Of course, these can be expensive treatments, so protecting your pet with a Petplan dog insurance policy before health problems arise can help cover the costs of caring for your best friend.
Prostate problems are more common in older dogs, though sometimes a prostate exam can get overlooked at your dog’s wellness exam. If your veterinarian is not checking your dog’s prostate, speak up. Getting a heads-up on prostatic enlargement can help your dog escape painful symptoms.
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