Guide to Understanding Canine Prostate Cancer
Can Dogs Get Prostate Cancer?
We generally hear human beings developing prostate cancer. But dogs can also develop prostate issues, including prostatic carcinoma. In fact, prostate cancer in dogs is much more insidious compared to human beings. It accounts for 0.67% of all reported malignancies in dogs. Prostate cancer has a very high metastatic potential and can spread to organs like the lungs, bones, and lymph nodes.
Do dogs have prostates?
Yes, male dogs have prostates, and male dogs can develop prostate problems.
But before we delve into this cancer deeply, it is important for us to understand how the prostate gland functions in male dogs. A dog’s prostate gland looks like a walnut and is located behind the urinary bladder and directly below the rectum. Also called an accessory sex organ, its size is usually determined by the male hormone testosterone and various other disease conditions. Semen constitutes 25-30% of the fluid secreted by the prostate gland. It also provides nourishment to the sperm cells and helps in breeding.
Canine prostate cancer is more common in intact males. The effects of the hormone testosterone on the gland over time trigger the disease. Very often it leads to benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) in older male dogs. Dogs over 8 years are prone to develop prostate cancer.
How do dogs get prostate cancer?
What causes prostate cancer in dogs is largely a mystery, although some research suggests genetics play a key role. Some breeds seem to be more susceptible to prostate cancer, including Doberman pinscher, Shetland sheepdog, Scottish terrier, beagle, miniature poodles, Airedale terrier, German shorthair pointers, and Norwegian elkhounds, according to VCA Hospitals.
Prostate cancer in neutered dogs is less common, as is prostatitis.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer in Dogs
The clinical signs of prostate cancer in male dogs may include general pain, debilitation, and weight loss. Due to the enlargement of the prostate gland, it may push itself up against the wall of the urethra. This exerts pressure on the penis leading to stranguria (difficulty with urination) and hematuria (blood in the urine).
Other male dog prostate problem symptoms include lameness in the hind leg, humped back, weird posture while urinating, urge to urinate more frequently but not producing sufficient urine, and taking shorter steps while walking.
Diagnosing Prostate Cancer in Dogs
It is not very easy to detect canine prostate disease because these symptoms are also present in dogs with other kinds of kidney and urinary bladder infections, as well as prostatitis, a rare bacterial infection that causes inflammation (treated with antibiotics). A prostatic carcinoma malignancy can go undiagnosed until it has reached an advanced stage. A canine enlarged prostate can be detected through tests like urinalysis, contrast X-rays, ultrasound scans, abdominal and rectal palpations, and biopsy.
Ultrasound determines whether the dog’s prostate is actually swollen or it has polyps, cysts or tumors that are causing problems. However, it does not tell us whether the tumor is cancerous. So, in order to find out whether this is a malignant tumor or not, veterinarians go for a biopsy of the rectal wall. If it is found to be a case of malignancy, the examination also tells the veterinarian what kind of cancer this is.
Treatments for Canine Prostate Cancer
Normally, prostate cancer in dogs is non-amenable to surgery because of its location. So, the other options available include chemotherapy and radiation therapy. But if the cancer is hormone-responsive, it can be treated with castration. Unfortunately, prostate cancers are not hormone-responsive. So they do not respond to anti-androgen medicines (hormone receptor compounds that inhibit the growth of male sex hormones).
Life Expectancy for Dogs With Prostate Cancer
The hardest question to answer is how long do dogs live with prostate cancer and, when is the appropriate time to euthanize the dog?
The prognosis for a dog with prostate cancer is guarded. The average survival rate is 6 weeks to 1 year.
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