Hyperplasia of the prostate gland is a benign enlargement due to an increase in the number of cells within the gland and occurs in about 2/3 of older male dogs. However, only a small percentage of these dogs ever show any noticeable signs of the abnormality. The underlying cause is unknown but is thought to be an imbalance of the hormones produced in aging testicles. As the prostate is located directly below the rectum, the enlarged gland may press up against the rectal wall and cause difficulty and discomfort while defecating, straining, and constipation. Unlike man, there is rarely any pain or difficulty in urinating.
Medical treatment with an estrogen injection generally stops the symptoms, reduces the size of the prostate within five or six days, and will keep it that way for several months, in most cases, and occasionally for several years. Some few dogs respond poorly, or not at all, and can be helped only by castration, which causes a permanent shrinking of the prostate.
Should your dog need this operation, he will be home from the hospital in just a few days, but you should keep him quiet and resting for at least one week. A low-bulk diet may be advised for several days. He will probably walk cautiously at first, experiencing some slight discomfort each time he moves a rear leg. This may prompt him to lick or bite at the stitches. Restraint collars or tranquilizers may be used for a short time until the operation is healed and the stitches can be removed.
Cancer of the prostate is rare in dogs and fortunately so, because by the time any noticeable symptoms develop, the tumor has almost always spread to other parts of the body, making it inoperable. Severe loss of weight, lameness in one or both rear legs, pain and difficulty during urination, blood at the beginning of urination, and low back pain may be present in addition to difficult defecation and constipation. Castration or estrogen therapy offer temporary relief of symptoms, but the tumor continues on its destructive course. A recent discovery holds out hope that immunotherapy may be successfully used to treat prostatic cancer but such research is still in its infancy.
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