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Prostatic Abscess in Dogs

By: Dr. Douglas Brum

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The location and anatomy of the prostate is important in understanding the clinical signs associated with prostatic abscesses. The prostate is located just behind the urinary bladder and under the colon. The prostate encircles the urethra – the tube that carries urine from the bladder through the penis and out of the body – as it exits the bladder. The prostate is made up of two symmetrical parts, or lobes, located on either side of the urethra. When the prostate is small it sits within the pelvic canal, but as it increases in size, it moves forward into the abdomen.

The clinical signs of prostatic abscesses vary with the type and severity of the prostatic disease. Prostatic abscesses usually arise from chronic infections of the prostate gland. The abscess forms as the immune system attempts to isolate, or wall off, an area of infection. E. coli is the most common bacterium that causes prostatitis and abscessation. There may be single or multiple abscesses within the prostate. The abscess can be small or very large. The largest abscesses probably develop from paraprostatic cysts (large fluid filled sacs connected to the prostate by a thin stalk) that become infected. These abscesses may become large enough to put pressure on other internal organs.

When the abscess enlarges to the point of putting pressure on the colon and decreasing its functional diameter, your dog will strain when defecating (tenesmus). The occasional "ribbon-like" appearance to the stools is a result of this compression. The decreased diameter can also result in constipation. If the abscess places pressure on the urethra, your dog will also strain when he urinates and there will be a urethral obstruction. Dogs with prostatic abscesses are usually ill. They may have either acute (rapid) or chronic (long standing) illness.

Animals may become critically ill if there is a urinary obstruction, or if the bacterial infection has spread to the blood (septicemia). Occasionally a large thin walled abscess may rupture, and release it's contents into the abdominal cavity. This requires emergency treatment, as peritonitis, or inflammation within the abdominal cavity, and possibly septic shock would result. Other diseases that may cause similar signs as a prostatic abscess include:

  • Paraprostatic cysts. Paraprostatic cysts are fluid-filled sacs that are connected to the prostate by a thin stalk. The cysts may be developmental in origin and arise from remnants of fetal tissue that normally degenerates (uterus masculinus). The cyst can also be directly of prostatic origin. Cysts can occur singly or in multiples, and they can get very large. Animals usually only feel ill if the cysts become large enough to compress other internal organs.

  • Prostatic neoplasia (cancer). Animals with prostatic neoplasia also tend to be systemically ill, and have a history of weight loss. Tumors of the prostate are almost always malignant. The most common tumors involving the prostate are adenocarcinoma and transitional cell carcinoma. In contrast to most other types of prostatic disease, prostatic cancer occurs with the same frequency in both intact and neutered dogs. In a neutered male dog with significant prostatomegaly, prostatic neoplasia would be high on the list of potential causes.

  • Acute prostatitis. Prostatitis is a bacterial infection of the prostate gland. Usually, the prostate is painful to palpation, and the dog acts ill. A large prostate and a bloody discharge from the penis or blood in the urine are also common signs. Animals with the acute disease may also present critically ill with septicemia.

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