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Prostate Cancer in Dogs

A tan dog lies on a tiled floor looking sad

Dr. Sara Ochoa author of Prostate Cancer in Dogs

Is your older male dog having trouble urinating? There may be many things causing him to have these issues. One common reason is prostate cancer. This is commonly seen in intact male dogs and can cause them to have trouble urinating or pain when they urinate. Your vet can examine your dog to help your figure out what is causing these issues.

What is prostate cancer in dogs?

Prostate cancer is a cancer of the prostate gland.  This gland lives behind your dog’s bladder beneath their rectum.  This is most commonly seen in intact older male dogs.  It is usually seen in large breed dogs but can sometimes be found in smaller dogs.  This type of cancer is usually an aggressive form of cancer that can easily spread to your dog’s lungs and lymph nodes. 

If your dog does have prostate cancer, the prostate gland will become enlarged and put pressure on the surrounding organs.  Since this gland is near the bladder and urethra, it will cause issues when your dog is urinating. 

Prostate cancer can resemble many different types of cancer, such as:

  • Carcinoma
  • Fibrosarcoma
  • Leiomyosarcoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Transitional Cell Carcinoma or Bladder Cancer

Prostate cancer is thought to be caused by hormonal imbalance, but the true origin of this disease is unknown.  If your

Symptoms of prostate cancer in dogs

There are many different signs and symptoms. These are commons signs that are seen with prostate cancer:

  • Difficulty going to the bathroom, urine, and excrement, with decreased frequency
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pain around the rectum and prostate
  • Scooting to relieve discomfort around the anus
  • Ribbon-like stool
  • Hunched back and holding the tail between the legs
  • Loss of appetite, resulting in extreme weight loss
  • Fever and lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing and resistance or refusal of exercise

While these signs can also mean that your dog has a urinary tract infection or some other disease-causing their issues, prostate cancer only accounts for 0.3 to 0.6% of cancer in dogs making it very rare.

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Diagnosing Prostate Cancer in Dogs

If you notice any of these signs in your dog, it would be best for them to see your vet. Your vet will fully examine your dog and can palpate your dog’s prostate gland to see if it is enlarged. They will also take x-rays or ultrasound the prostate gland to see if it is enlarged. They will also check your dog’s lungs, liver, spleen, and other internal organs for signs of metastasizing, if cancer has spread

There are certain breeds that seem to be at a more increased risk of developing prostate cancer. These breeds are:

  • Bouvier des Flandres,
  • Doberman Pinschers,
  • Shetland Sheepdogs,
  • Scottish Terriers,
  • Beagles,
  • Miniature Poodles,
  • German Shorthaired Pointers,
  • Airedale Terriers, and
  • Norwegian Elkhounds

If your vet suspects that the prostate gland is enlarged, they can take a small sample of the prostate with a needle and look at these cells under the microscope to see if there are any cancer cells. Older intact dogs can have benign enlargement of the prostate gland called Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH) that can resemble prostatic cancer and can be very hard to distinguish without a fine needle aspirate (FNA).

Treatment of prostate cancer in dogs

If your dog is diagnosed with prostate cancer, there are many different ways to treat this disease.

Surgical Treatment

A veterinary surgeon who has done extra training in learning how to do more difficult procedures can remove the prostate gland. Many general practice veterinarians do not do this procedure and would have to be done at a specialty hospital. That means that this surgery is more expensive.

This can be a more risky surgery, too, since there are many important surrounding structures that surround the prostate. A common issue that is seen after removing the prostate is incontinent. This is when your dog will have trouble holding their urine in their bladder and may dribble urine when they walk or during their sleep. If cancer has metastasized or spread, the surgery will be ineffective.

Medical Treatment

The most common way to treat prostate cancer is medical treatment. This involves a combination of Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), Chemotherapy, and Radiation.

Chemotherapy and Radiation

Chemotherapy and radiation will be done at a veterinary specialty clinic to help shrink the prostate tumor and help treat the masses that may have spread to other locations. Radiation will also damage the surrounding tissue and can cause other unwanted side effects. Chemotherapy has also not shown an increase in a dog’s lifespan. The pros and cons of these procedures can

Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs will help decrease the pain and inflammation as well as certain NSAIDs also have anti-cancer properties. These medications can be given on an everyday basis to help provide your dog comfort and decrease their pain

Prognosis of Prostate Cancer in Dogs

The prognosis of prostate cancer in dogs is poor. Most dogs are euthanized due to metastasize or the prostate gland obstruction urine outflow. If your dog can ever not urinate, this is a medical emergency and will need veterinary care right away.

If your dog is diagnosed with prostatic cancer, there are many things that you can do to help them live as long as possible while dealing with this disease. Many times, by the time that you notice that they have prostatic cancer, it has already spread to other organs making treatment a little difficult. Discuss with your veterinarian the different treatment options and how you can keep your dog comfortable for as long as possible.

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Meet The Author 

Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM author of Prostate Cancer in Dogs Why Is My Dog Itching So Much

Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM

Since she was a little girl, Dr. Ochoa knew that her dream was to become a veterinarian. With a tremendous passion and love for animals, she is now a great source of knowledge for others. Dr. Ochoa lives happily with her husband Greg and her babies: Ruby the Schnoodle and Bam-Bam the bunny.

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