You might be surprised to hear that 80% of un-castrated dogs over five are likely to be suffering from prostate disease. The most common condition is benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH - a hugely under-diagnosed condition. What is it? Can it be treated? And how can you check whether your dog is suffering?
Basically, as in men, as a male dog gets older, the size of its prostate tends to increase under the influence of testosterone. Eventually, it can start pushing on surrounding organs, causing symptoms including:
Painful urination, frequent urination or hesitancy to urinate
Passing ribbon-like faeces
However, many dogs show no obvious signs at all, suffering significant pain and discomfort without you knowing. Dogs in the at risk category are non-castrated males over the age of five. Because the prostate enlarges as dogs age, it is older dogs that are most likely to be affected.
To check for the disease, we can conduct a manual examination or give your dog a blood test. If we detect signs of BPH, we may suggest immediate treatment or, depending on the health of your dog, we may need to carry out further investigation.
In terms of treatment, castration is one option. Removing the testes means that the source of testosterone is no longer present in the dog and, over time, the prostate will shrink back to almost nothing. The symptoms associated with the condition then disappear. This solution works well but it does take a long time for testosterone levels to drop, meaning that the dog continues to suffer for several weeks following castration. Some owners are also reluctant to have their dogs castrated.
As an alternative, a new treatment has been introduced in recent years. It involves a seven-day course of tablets which causes the prostate to shrink very quickly. It stays shrunken for up to six months - after which another weeks worth of tablets is necessary. The key benefit of this treatment is that the prostate shrinks almost immediately, providing quick relief from discomfort for the dog and usually stud dogs can even continue to sire offspring. It also removes the need for surgery for owners who prefer to leave their dogs entire.
BPH is easily treatable but the problem is that its still relatively unknown. If you own a dog in the at risk category, its important to be aware of the problem, likely symptoms and the discomfort that BPH can cause. He may be suffering in silence.