About half of intact male dogs will develop some form of prostate disease by the age of 5, and 95% by the age of 9. And even neutered dogs are not spared from this. Male dogs of any size, from middle-aged to senior, can experience an enlarged prostate.
Here’s what you need to watch for and what you can do if your dog experiences prostate problems.
What Is An Enlarged Prostate In Dogs?
Prostate disease, usually in the form of an enlarged prostate, is also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). It may give you some relief to know that it’s often caused by normal aging of the prostate, which becomes larger as your dog gets older. You’ll know if your dog is affected because it can cause discomfort or difficulty when he pees or poops.
The canine prostate gland is inside the pelvis, behind the bladder and below the rectum. It reaches maturity by the time he’s two years old. The prostate produces fluid for urine production and helps control ejaculation. It surrounds the urethra which carries urine from the bladder out through the penis. If it becomes enlarged or swells around part of the urethra it may cause dribbling, frequent accidents and other signs of urinary incontinence. A tumor in the prostate, a urinary tract infection or a urethral obstruction cause similar symptoms.
Causes Of Enlarged Prostate In Dogs
There are many different reasons for your dog to have an enlarged prostate. Larger breeds have higher risk factors for developing this problem than others.
- BPH is the most common form of prostate enlargement. Older intact male dogs are more prone to develop this disorder as part of the aging process and hormonal influence. But neutered dogs are not immune, contrary to what you may have heard from your veterinarian. BPH can cause benign cysts causing discomfort and symptoms.
- A bacterial infection called prostatitis leads to inflammation and an enlarged prostate in your dog. Acute prostatitis can appear suddenly or it can be chronic prostatitis and develop over time. Prostatic infections can lead to abscesses or collections of pus in the prostate. You’ll also see other symptoms such as fever or lethargy.
- A prostatic cyst can enlarge the prostate and impede the flow of urine.
- Neutering is a risk factor for prostatic neoplasia … meaning tumors that form within the prostate. A 2020 review of two decades of studies confirms this effect of neutering on prostate disorders. Neutering also leads to tumors (cancerous and non-cancerous) throughout the dog’s body. Studies show a significantly increased risk for these conditions in castrated males and females compared to intact dogs.
It’s still promoted as fact that neutering greatly decreases a male dog’s risk for prostate disease, but that’s not the case. In fact, neutering may increase the incidence and/or hasten the progression of prostatic tumors in male dogs.
- In rare cases, prostatic neoplasia can result in an enlarged prostate in dogs. This is a precursor to prostatic cancer. And it can occur in neutered dogs. It can also spread to other areas of the body such as the kidneys, liver, lungs, other organs and bones.
How To Prevent Enlarged Prostate in Dogs
Your dog’s immune system is the key to good health. You need to support his immune system with a whole food, raw meat diet to prevent infections from prostate disease. When you remove processed food, you give your dog’s other organs more opportunity to detox and fight bacteria instead of the chemicals and toxins from their food.
Antioxidants can assist the prostate in preventing infections along with improving the health of mucous membranes. Vitamin C is a natural anti-inflammatory and can help shrink the prostate to its original size.
Adding probiotics to your dog’s diet increases the beneficial bacteria in your dog’s gut, which is the foundation of 90% of his immune system.
If you notice your dog has difficulty in peeing or pooping, you can gather a urine or stool sample and have it tested for possible infection. Then you can use natural antibiotics to eliminate the infection before it becomes serious.
If your dog has prostate problems it might not be obvious, or you might start to notice these things.
What Are The Signs Of Enlarged Prostate In Dogs?
Clinical signs of an enlarged prostate or prostate disease in your dog can be minimal or very obvious:
- Difficulty urinating or changes in urination habits
- Producing only a thin stream of urine
- Urinary incontinence with frequent accidents
- Stool may be ribbon-shaped
- Excessive licking of genitals
- Blood in the urine
- Urethral discharge
- Recurrent infection
- Lethargy, depression or change in disposition
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Stiff gait
- Bloody discharge from the penis
How Is An Enlarged Prostate Diagnosed?
Your veterinarian needs to do a physical exam, including a rectal examination of your dog. She will feel the prostate either through the abdominal wall or through the rectum. The normal prostate is symmetrical and smooth, with a distinct dorsal median groove. She will also be looking for inflammation or bleeding. It should not be painful for your dog.
X-rays or ultrasound might be needed for smaller breeds. These tests might also reveal paraprostatic cysts. These are rare cysts that form outside the prostate.
Your vet may also collect prostatic fluid and may do a blood test or urine culture to see if there are other underlying medical conditions or an infection that led to BPH.
Animals with acute prostatitis may have increased white blood cells and bacteria in the urine, which are signs of infection. A bacterial culture will confirm a persistent infection.
Although rare, if canine prostate cancer is suspected, the only way to confirm it is with an ultrasound-guided biopsy of the prostate, which is much less invasive than surgery. Neutered dogs have been found to be at a higher risk than intact dogs. They are at higher risk for urinary bladder transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), prostate TCC, prostate adenocarcinoma, and prostate carcinoma.
Treatment For Prostate Disease In Dogs
BPH in intact dogs can fluctuate, especially if females in season are nearby. This progressive condition doesn’t resolve on its own. Most types of antibiotics are ineffective for BPH treatment as they must cross the blood-prostate barrier to work.
Veterinary Treatment for Enlarged Prostate In Dogs
If your dog has an enlarged prostate and isn’t neutered, most vets will recommend neutering. This isn’t always the best idea because the assumption is BPH led to the enlarged prostate. So if you neuter your dog and the prostatic size doesn’t shrink, then there is another reason for the enlargement and further testing and treatment is still needed!
Diseases associated with excessive hormone levels like BPH, are typically treated by neutering. The prostate is expected to return to its normal size within one month after surgery when hormone production reduces. Certain medications or hormone replacements, such as finasteride, megestrol acetate, and GnRH, may be used for specific prostate conditions.
If there is an infection that led to the enlargement, antibiotic therapy will be prescribed. It’s difficult for most antibiotics to penetrate into the prostate gland, so several weeks to months of treatment is often necessary.
Antibiotic therapy includes drugs like enrofloxacin (Baytril), erythromycin, ciprofloxacin, chloramphenicol, doxycycline, and trimethoprim-sulfonamides (Bactrim). These medications have varying side effects … including, for chloramphenicol, “deadly blood problems.”. Most notable with any antibiotic use is the damage to the beneficial bacteria in your dog’s microbiome … and his immune system.
If there are paraprostatic cysts and prostatic abscesses, your vet will recommend surgery to drain and remove them.
The Merck Veterinary Manual agrees that antibiotics will not be effective but if the right type and amount are used to penetrate the blood-prostate barrier, there is a protocol that can be followed for more than 4 weeks. The Manual states:
“Chronic bacterial prostatitis will not resolve without also treating for benign prostatic hyperplasia. In fact, most cases of chronic bacterial prostatitis will resolve with only treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia, whether surgical (castration) or medical (finasteride).”
Home Remedies For Enlarged Prostate In Dogs
There are some safe, natural methods to support your dog’s good health while you address prostate disease.
Homeopathic remedies have resulted in successful treatment for chronic or recurring cases of enlarged prostate. There is no specific prostatitis remedy that can be given to all dogs with this condition. You’ll need to contact a professional homeopath to examine the constitution of your dog so she can prescribe accordingly. Find a veterinary homeopath at The Academy Of Veterinary Homeopathy.
Bacterial infection can cause prostatitis but you want to avoid standard antibiotic treatment. This can lead to antibiotic resistance. Although it may fight the pathogenic bacteria causing the infection, it also destroys the beneficial bacteria in your dog’s gut that supports his immune system. Instead, use natural antibiotics that fight bacteria while supporting your dog’s immune system. Here are some to consider: oil of oregano, olive leaf, garlic and turmeric.
This isn’t to suggest you give your dog a vegetarian diet … but you can give him plenty of fibrous veggies. Japanese studies show that men who eat a vegetarian diet have the lowest rates of prostate cancer. Men on a low-fat, high-fiber diet absorb generous amounts of phytochemicals from fruits and vegetables. These phytochemicals include genistein, resveratrol, diallyl sulfide, S-allyl cysteine, allicin, lycopene, capsaicin, curcumin, 6-gingerol, ellagic acid, ursolic acid, silymarin, anethol, catechins and eugenol. You’ll know some of these from their common sources of garlic, tomatoes, hot peppers and turmeric. They’ve been found to reverse, suppress or induce apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells.
While managing your dog’s enlarged prostate, make sure you’re adding fiber to his diet. Veggies will provide him with some valuable nutrients and fiber will make it easier for him to poop without straining.
RELATED: The best sources of fiber for dogs …
Antioxidants may help stop persistent infection and increase the health of mucous membranes. Vitamins C and E are natural antioxidants. You can add foods to your dog’s diet that are high in antioxidants. They include broccoli, raspberries, bell peppers, kale, red cabbage and green leafy vegetables. Be sure to chop, grind or lightly steam vegetables for your dog for better digestibility.
Lycopene is a phytochemical as noted above, and a powerful antioxidant that deserves its own mention. You’ll find it in fruits and vegetables, particularly cooked tomatoes. There are studies that show people who eat diets with foods high in lycopene have lower cancer rates. Some researchers believe lycopene may slow the growth of prostate tumors.
Zinc is a mineral that’s essential for prostate health. It’s found in red meats, liver and fish, or you can add sesame seeds, raw almonds and pumpkin seeds to your dog’s diet. Add a scant teaspoon for small dogs and up to a tablespoon or 2 for larger dogs.
Caution: Zinc excess is rare, but can happen, and it can cause copper deficiency as well as GI tract irritation. When it happens, it’s usually due to dogs eating something metallic, like pennies. It’s best to give your dog food sources of zinc rather than a supplement.
This palm plant and its berries have become associated with men’s health. They’ve also been used to manage prostate problems in dogs. A number of studies show that saw palmetto can be effective with BPH related urinary problems and against tumor cell growth in animals. That’s why it’s used to help against prostate cancer.
Use saw palmetto as a long-term preventative or as part of a treatment protocol. The suggested dose is a 1/4 of the human dosage for small dogs and the full human dose for large dogs.
According to Herbs for Pets by Gregory L Tilford and Mary L Wulff, cleavers is used in conditions characterized by general or localized swelling. It’s also used in situations where lymphatic circulation is impaired by scar tissue, ulceration or infection. So when inflammation is linked to BPH, as well as other prostate problems like prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland), cleavers is an option. Its glandular and urinary tract benefits are also helpful for prostate problems.
Tilford and Wulff recommend dosing 0.5-1.0mm of glycerin tincture per 50 pounds of weight twice a day.
Often your dog’s enlarged prostate is just part of the aging process. Maintaining your dog’s good health and a strong immune system should ensure it’s just another step along the journey you share.
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