Most people shy away from getting their dogs neutered or spayed because the operation will make them fat and lazy. This is a myth. Only inadequate exercise and overfeeding does that.
Just as in humans, the prostate gland in dogs functions to provide nourishment to the sperm, and enhances its motility so that it is fit for fertilization. A common problem with this gland is its abnormal growth causing it to enlarge and give rise to unpleasant urinary symptoms. This condition is known as prostatomegaly, and its risk increases with age and is most common in uncastrated canines. Neutered dogs, on the other hand, are less likely to have this condition.
Prostate enlargement in canines may indicate...
BPH (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia)
This is the most common form of prostatomegaly in dogs. A benign and symmetrical enlargement of the prostate gland, BPH is triggered by the release of the sex hormone testosterone. This hormone triggers an increase in and size of prostate cells which enlarges the prostate gland. Vets have mostly found this problem only in uncastrated dogs.
Uncastrated male dogs also have a high predisposition to prostatitis - inflammation of the prostate gland caused by bacterial infection. The infection could be acute or chronic. The chronic form is known for causing infertility in affected animals.
While the above two conditions are more likely to occur in uncastrated dogs, prostate cancer can affect even neutered ones. This condition, however, is rare in canines. Prostate enlargement caused by cancer is usually asymmetric.
Depending on what has caused the condition, symptoms may vary. Common symptoms that surface include:
» Constipation (the enlarged prostate keeps pressing against the rectum)
» Fecal straining (the dog strains to defecate but it only adds to the pressure on the enlarged prostate)
» Flat stool (due to compressed space, the stool attains a flat shape while it is excreted)
» Abnormal gait (to avoid pressure on the prostate gland; people call it "walking on eggs")
» Occurrence of symptoms like fever, blood in urine, vomiting, loose stools, and painful urination are strong indications of prostatitis
» Prostatomegaly caused by prostate cancer may have the same symptoms as listed above. However, symptoms that may actually indicate the cancer usually surface in advanced stages of the disease.
Not all dogs with BPH suffer from urinary discomfort or distress and so, treatment is recommended for dogs who do. This approach is called "watchful waiting". Recommended treatment is neutering as it shrinks the enlarged prostate gland thereby relieving the discomforting symptoms. As neutering will leave the animal infertile, some dog owners do not prefer this method. In such cases, there are medicines that help shrink the enlarged gland temporarily without affecting fertility. Such medicines, however, have their own share of side effects and owners must discuss them with a vet.
For dealing with prostatitis, long-term antibiotic therapy is needed. In case of prostate cancer, by the time the cancer is diagnosed it is already advanced; this happens in most cases. But the usual method of treatment includes surgery and radiation. While neutering helps prevent and cure BPH, it has no such effect on cancer.
Neutering - the Best Prevention
The basic definition of neutering in animals is to remove the organs which are responsible for reproduction. This practice is considered to be the most effective when performed on the animals before they are 6 months of age. This process prevents the prostate gland to develop as there is no production of testosterone. A matured male dog, when neutered, will have the gland shrink to about 1/4th of its previous size. So if the prostate does not increase in size, which it normally does, there will be minimal possibility of prostatomegaly.
Neutering has other benefits apart from decreasing the risk of prostate enlargement. A neutered dog will be less susceptible to perineal hernias or penile tumors. The dog will be less aggressive, less territorial, relatively calmer than uncastrated canines, and less prone to contagious diseases as he would be least interested in pursuit of females in heat. Most dog owners vouch for the fact that neutered canines are more affectionate.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a qualified vet.