Prostatitis can affect male dogs similarly to male humans, causing urinary tract infections, pain, and difficulty urinating or defecating. It is not a common problem, but it can become serious if left untreated. Prostatitis may also indicate the presence of another prostatic disease, making veterinary evaluation all the more important.
What Is Prostatitis?
Prostatitis is a term used to describe inflammation of the prostate gland, a reproductive structure found in male dogs only. It surrounds the bladder where it meets the urethra and is responsible for the production of fluids found in semen. When the prostate becomes inflamed, it can affect the surrounding tissues, leading to problems with urination and defecation.
Symptoms of Prostatitis in Dogs
Dogs with chronic prostatitis may exhibit no signs of illness. Chronic recurrent urinary tract infections often occur when a dog has chronic prostatitis, and this may be the only sign that leads the vet to a diagnosis.
Acute prostatitis typically causes lethargy, pain, and fever. It's common for a dog with prostatitis to have a concurrent urinary tract infection. Acute prostatitis may lead to dehydration, septicemia (bloodstream infection), and shock. These are serious and potentially fatal conditions.
Urinary tract infections often occur along with bacterial prostatitis. This is because prostatic fluid spills into the bladder, spreading the prostate infection to the urinary tract.
Dogs with bacterial prostatitis may also develop prostatic abscesses. A ruptured abscess can lead to peritonitis (inflammation of the lining of the abdominal cavity), a dangerous condition that could lead to death.
Prostatitis may cause enlargement of the prostate that leads to difficulty urinating or defecating. This enlargement can also cause pain and affect the dog's rear gait.
Causes of Prostatitis
Prostatitis can occur in any male dog, but it is much more common in unneutered dogs than in neutered dogs. Dog breed does not appear to play a factor in prostatitis risk. Most dogs that develop prostatitis are middle-aged or older.
The most common causes include:
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia
- Prostatic or paraprostatic cysts
- Prostate cancer
Prostatitis is generally bacterial. Bacterial prostatitis is seen in two different forms. Acute prostatitis is a sudden infection in the prostate that causes a dog to become ill. Chronic prostatitis is a long-term prostatic infection that goes undetected. Acute prostatitis may lead to chronic prostatitis.
Bacterial prostatitis occurs when the prostate becomes infected with bacteria. This bacteria may originate from the bladder, another part of the body, the blood, or an external wound. Dogs with compromised immune systems are at greater risk.
Prostatitis sometimes occurs secondarily to another condition. Many cases of chronic prostatitis are caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia. BPH is a hormone-related condition that commonly occurs in unneutered male dogs.
Prostatitis may occur in conjunction with prostatic or paraprostatic cysts as well as prostate cancer.
How Vets Diagnose Prostatitis in Dogs
Your veterinarian will begin by discussing your dog's medical history and performing a physical examination. Your vet will palpate the prostate during a rectal exam. Prostatic inflammation may be felt during palpation via the rectum.
Next, your vet will perform a urinalysis and urine culture to look for infection. Additional lab tests may be recommended to assess organ function and blood cell counts. The vet may also recommend diagnostic imaging like x-rays or ultrasound in order to visualize the prostate.
In some cases, the vet may wish to collect prostatic fluid to send to a lab for analysis.
How to Treat Prostatitis in Dogs
Bacterial prostatitis requires antibiotic treatment. Dogs with acute prostatitis typically require hospitalization with intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration. Hospitalized dogs are treated with antibiotics and closely monitored in case sepsis or other complications develop.
Dogs with chronic prostatitis are treated with antibiotics as well. However, antibiotics alone are not effective if benign prostatic hyperplasia is present.
Castration, or neutering, is the ideal treatment for BPH. Some owners opt not to have their dogs neutered (often dogs intended for breeding or the show ring). In these cases, a drug called finasteride can be administered to control the hormone changes related to BPH.
Surgery may be necessary if prostatic or paraprostatic cysts are discovered.
Prostate cancer is often treated with a drug called piroxicam.
Prognosis for Dogs with Prostatitis
With prompt treatment, most cases of prostatitis can be cleared up quickly. In chronic cases of inflammation, neutering usually improves the dog's condition. Prostate cancer carries a more guarded prognosis due to the more serious nature of the disease.
How to Prevent Prostatitis in Dogs
Prostatitis is uncommon in neutered dogs, so the best way to prevent prostatitis is to neuter your male dog. Early detection of prostatitis can prevent complications, so bring your dog to the vet if you notice something is not right. Your vet may also be able to detect prostate changes on a routine rectal exam. Be sure to bring your dog to the vet for recommended wellness visits that include a rectal examination.