Male dogs are susceptible to prostate issues, similar to male humans. Prostatitis in dogs is not a common problem, but it can be a serious disease if left untreated. Prostatitis may also indicate the presence of another prostatic disease.
What is Prostatitis in Dogs?
Prostatitis is a term used to describe inflammation of the prostate. The canine prostate gland is 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 the semen. When the prostate becomes inflamed, it can affect the surrounding tissues, leading to problems with urination and defecation.
Prostatitis is generally bacterial in nature. 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.
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.
Symptoms of Prostatitis in Dogs
Signs of Prostatitis in Dogs
- Recurrent urinary tract infections
- Blood in urine
- Abdominal pain
- Back pain
- Stiff gait in rear limbs
- Lethargy or depression
- Loss of appetite
- Straining to urinate
- Straining to defecate
- Stools with a thin, ribbon-like shape
- Prostatomegaly (enlarged prostrate); can be detected by a vet
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.
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.
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.
Be sure to contact your veterinarian if your dog is showing signs of prostatitis or other signs of illness.
Causes of Prostatitis in Dogs
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.
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.
Diagnosis and Treatment
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 radiographs (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.
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.
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 rectal examination.