The dog's body shares several similarities with humans and therefore it's not surprising for dogs to also have a prostate gland. Of course, prostate glands are only present in male dogs, and just as in humans, it has reproductive purposes. Also, just like in humans, dogs also share some disorders that affect their prostate glands. So today, we'll be discovering more about a dog's prostate gland, where it is located, what functions it serves, and some disorders this body part is prone to.
Introducing Your Dog's Prostate Gland
Howdy, there, it's your dog's prostate gland talking! My name dates back from the 1640s and derives from the ancient Greek word "prostates" which means "leader, ruler, guardian; "the one standing in front". I am called this way because of my position at the base of the bladder, just by the dog's rectum.
I am just a small bi-lobed gland that communicates with the dog's urethra, a tube that carries Rover's urine from his bladder to the outside so that he can effectively urinate on your neighbor's mailbox.
I am ovoid in shape and considered quite large for the size of a dog, but that's most likely because, unlike in humans, in dogs I am the only male accessory gland. On average expect me to measure anywhere between one and two inches in diameter in a forty pound dog.
However, my size for a good part depends on whether your dog is neutered (had testicles surgically removed) or not. In intact males I am larger, whereas, in dogs neutered before the onset of puberty, I will just develop to a tiny budge of tissue. And if your dog is neutered when he is mature, I will instead shrink to a fourth of my former size.
Did you know? According to VCA Animal Hospital, intact Scottish terriers are known for having a prostate that is about four times greater in weight compared to other dog breeds.
I Help Manufacture Puppies
I play a big role when it comes to the manufacturing process of puppies. When Rover mates with his girlfriend Missy, he will ejaculate several fluids created by me in three distinct fractions: first comes the pre-sperm which consists of just a small volume of clear fluid, next comes the cloudy, sperm-rich fluid and then comes an abundance of clear prostatic fluid once the dogs are stuck in a tie. Since my ducts communicate with the dog's urethra, expect these fluids to travel outside Rover's body and then right into Missy. Quite a trip there, huh?
What's the purpose of this fluid? It add volume and helps sperm travel so to successfully reach its destination (yup, talk about motility!) and it's also believed to have some special antibacterial properties.
Did you know? When a intact male dog cocks his leg to urine mark a lamp post, urine isn't the only thing coming out. According to Tim Glover, author of the book "Mating Males: An Evolutionary Perspective on Mammalian Reproduction" prostatic fluid is discharged as well and dogs produce quite an amount of it!
"Dogs have no other accessory sex glands and, therefore, no other source of seminal fluid; all fluid present in the ejaculate arises from the prostate. Prostatic fluid is secreted at all times, whether the dog is being used for breeding or not. Most accumulates in the urinary bladder and is voided with the urine. Some runs down the urethra and accumulates at the opening of the prepuce, forming the mass of greenish discharge that often is visible on intact male dogs. "~Dr. Peggy Root Kustritz
When Things Go Wrong
While most of the problems listed below affect older intact male dogs, don't count your blessings yet if you own a neutered dog. Neutered dogs may also occasionally suffer from prostate problems too.
Benign Prostate Hyperplasia
Just as in men, as intact male dogs start to age, I start enlarging. Yes, dogs are prone to benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) too! Statistics assume that 100 percent of adult intact dogs over the age of 7 will develop BPH. What causes me to enlarge are the hormonal changes associated with aging. While in men, the tell-tale sign of prostate problems is difficult urination since I end up pressing against the bladder, in dogs, I am more likely to cause painful defecation. So when I enlarge, I am known to cause poor Rover to strain and act constipated.
And if you notice ribbon-like or pencil-thin stools in an intact male dog, suspect problems with me too. On top of causing trouble defecating in dogs, when I enlarge I may also cause straining during urination and sometimes I may even cause affected dogs to walk in an unusual gait, taking short steps as if walking on eggs. For persistent cases causing significant enlargement, most vets suggest neutering the dog considering that once testosterone is removed, I will shrink and things get better from there.
"As the prostate increases in size, it expands backwards in four-legged animals, that means toward the spine. If there's significant enlargement, it can obstruct the rectum, causing straining during defecation, constipation, and even fecal impaction. Once in a while, an enlarging prostate pushes forward rather than backward, pressing on the urethra. This can cause a dog to strain while urinating."~Dr. Karen Becker
Did you know? There is no prostate-specific antigen blood test in dogs as there is in humans, explains veterinary Betsy Brevitz. Dogs are therefore subjected to the humiliating rectal exam with the vet's gloved finger and other diagnostic tests.
At times, I may also get infected. When this happens, the dog is said to have developed prostatitis. After BPH, this is the second most common condition of the prostate affecting dogs. It is estimated that about 45 percent of dogs will get an infection of the prostate at 7 years. How do I get infected? These infections may stem from the dog's blood stream or from the urinary tract. Fortunately, a course of the right type of antibiotics (they must be able penetrate into the prostate gland) and for the right amount of time (often several weeks or months) will help me feel better.
And then there is cancer, yes, this can affect me too. The most common types of cancer affecting me are transitional cell carcinoma and prostatic carcinoma. However, the good news is that unlike in humans, cancer of the prostate is less common so on this I can count my blessings. When it happens though, prostate cancer in dogs is quite an aggressive cancer that can metastasize (spread to many organs) and wreck havoc.
Did you know? According to a study published by the August, 2007 issue of the journal "Prostate" it was found that male dogs who had been neutered had a higher risk for transitional cell carcinoma.
As seen, I am quite important for intact dogs meant for passing on their genes, while in neutered dogs, well, to put it bluntly, let's just say I am pretty much quite useless. While many problems with me are more common in intact male dogs, consider that neutered dogs may also occasionally have problems too. So keep an eye for problems with me and report promptly to your vet upon noticing them.
Your Dog's Prostate
- Glover, Tim (2012) Mating Males: An Evolutionary Perspective on Mammalian Reproduction Cambridge University Press, page 31. ISBN 9781107000018.
- Young W.C. – Sex and internal secretions, 1961, Third Edition, vol. 1, Ed. The Williams&Wilkins Co., Baltimore
- Pet Education, Prostate Enlargement in the Dog, retrieved from the web on November 14th, 2016
- CANINE PROSTATE PATHOLOGY GABRIELA KORODI, VIOLETA IGNA, H. CERNESCU, C. MIRCU, ILINCA FRUNZĂ, RENATE KNOP Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Timişoara Calea Aradului 119, 300645 – Romania
- A population study of neutering status as a risk factor for canine prostate cancer. Bryan JN, Keeler MR, Henry CJ, Bryan ME, Hahn AW, Caldwell CW.Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, USA. Prostate. 2007 Aug 1;67(11):1174-81
- Wikipedia, Created by US government agency National Cancer Institute - Permission details public domain
- Flickr Creative Commons, Luca Conti Cani sposati CCBY2.0