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Canine Prostate Cancer

Canine prostate cancer mostly occurs in the form of carcinomas (prostate adenocarcinoma). Prostate cancer in dogs is rare but can be fatal. Neutering does not protect dogs from developing prostate cancer. Dogs with this type of cancer show urinary problems, such as frequent urination and straining to urine.

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The prostate is a gland in males that surrounds the urethra at the neck of the bladder. The prostate is responsible for producing fluids that provide nutrients to the sperm and assist the movement of the sperm.

Prostate cancer is not common in dogs (amounts to about 0.2 to 0.6 percent of all canine cancers); however, it is an aggressive form of cancer and is often fatal. Canine prostate cancer is not influenced by testosterone and as such it can affect all male dogs, whether they are neutered or not. Neutering does not protect a dog from developing prostate cancer.

Carcinoma (e,g. prostatic adenocarcinoma) is the most common form of prostate cancer, which is a highly aggressive and invasive form of cancer and can metastasize rapidly to other sites in the body, such as the lymph nodes, bones and lungs.

Causes of Canine Prostate Cancer

The exact cause of prostate cancer in dogs remains unknown. As mentioned above, this form of cancer is testosterone-independent; therefore, it happens to both neutered and intact male dogs with similar frequency.

Prostate cancer is not breed specific either - it can occur to all breeds of dogs, and it occurs more frequently in older dogs.

Symptoms of Canine Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is one condition that causes prostate enlargement (other conditions include benign prostate hyperplasia and prostatitis). An enlarged prostate presses against the wall of the urethra, making it very difficult for the affected dog to urinate. Thus, a dog with prostate cancer shows symptoms related to difficulty urination, including: In addition, prostate cancer can also cause a dog to walk in an abnormal gait - the rear legs look stiff and the dog takes very small steps. This is due to the effect of the cancer on the dog's bones. The affected dog may also suffer from constipation and/or difficulty defecating. Other possible symptoms include fever and lethargy.

How is Canine Prostate Cancer Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of prostate cancer in dogs is not easy since, unlike humans, dogs do not produce prostate specific antigens (PSA) which are markers that can be used to identify prostate tissue. Instead, dogs produce canine prostate specific esterase (CPSE). However, CPSE does not allow easy diagnosis since it is difficult to determine the origin of the cancer, i.e. if the cancer started in the prostate or somewhere else in the body but has spread to the prostate.

Diagnosis involves the use of urinalysis, X-rays and abdominal ultrasound to check for abnormalities in the prostate. If a dog is suspected to have prostate cancer, a definitive diagnosis can be made by biopsy of the rectal wall.

Conventional Treatment of Canine Prostate Cancer

Conventional treatment options are limited and not too effective. Neutering a dog with prostate cancer does not stop the cancer from developing and spreading. Removal of the prostate surgically can cause numerous complications such as urinary incontinence; therefore surgery is usually not an option.

Only chemotherapy and sometimes radiation can be used to try to shrink the cancer. However, note that these treatments are far from effective and they seldom extend the dog patient's life for too long.

Prostate cancer in dogs is aggressive and invasive with a fast rate of metastasis. As such, it carries an extremely poor prognosis. Because the cancer is not usually detected and diagnosed until at its later stage, the median life expectancy of dogs with prostate cancer is approximately thirty days after diagnosis.
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