Prostate Problems in DogsProstate problems in dogs are primarily a problem in middle-aged to older male dogs that have not been neutered.
The prostate gland is a bi-lobed structure that lies within the pelvis just behind the bladder and directly below the rectum in a male dog. The prostate is classified as an accessory sex gland and produces fluid that protects the sperm and makes up a large percentage of the seminal fluid.
The prostate starts to develop before the dog reaches puberty and grows to its maximum size by the time the dog is two years old. From then on, the male hormone testosterone and/or various disease conditions determine its size.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia
The most common prostate problem is benign prostatic hypertrophy. More than 80% of dogs older than five years suffer of a benign enlargement of the prostate. With age the gland slowly enlarges under the influence of testosterone. Cysts may also develop inside the gland, which add to the enlargement problem. While at first it's rarely painful, eventually problems with defecation result in inflammation and pain.
The most common symptoms of an enlarged prostate in dogs include difficulties in urination and constipation or difficulties when excreting feces.
The prostate gland lies right below the rectum within the pelvis, therefore, when the prostate increases in size, it gradually expands backward and may eventually obstruct the rectum, causing constipation and straining while defecating.
Rarely, the prostate pushes forward and presses on the urethra, causing straining during urination. Blood in the urine can be a sign of benign prostatic hyperplasia.
If prostate disease is suspected the vet will insert a gloved finger into the rectum and palpate (examine) the prostate. Size, consistency, symmetry, shape and signs of any pain can be determined in most dogs. However, in some, the prostate will, as it enlarges, fall back into the abdomen and be hard to feel. In these cases X-rays or ultrasound scans will be used to assist the diagnostic process. Urine samples can be useful to look at for evidence of infection, inflammation or cancer cells.
In almost all cases of hypertrophy (enlargement) in the entire male, castration is the treatment of choice for dogs who are not intended for breeding. A significant decrease in the size of the prostate gland occurs shortly after neutering.
An alternative to surgical neutering is a chemical castration, for example by means of Suprelorin®, a small implant (similar size to a microchip) that contains the active ingredient deslorelin, that slowly dissolves and stops the production of the sexual hormones and causes the testicles to shrink. It is effective for about 6 months whereafter the treatment will have to be repeated. If treatment is stopped, the testicles will recover and full fertility will return within about 9 months.
Caution: In Hunden of October 2012, the Danish Kennel Club (DKK) has announced that they regard chemical/medical castration of dogs as doping as it has a documented effect on the aggression between males. Such males may therefore not participate in conformation shows or working trials arranged by DKK as long as they are under the influene of this treatment. Males with clearly shrunken testicles will be considered as being under the influence of Deslorelin® even though more than 6 or 12 months have elapsed since the last treatment.
Surgically castrated males, on the other hand, are not excluded from shows or trials provided the owner/handler can produce a veterinary certificate.