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5 Common Reproductive Conditions in Male Dogs

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By Leslie Ingraham

Published: 11/25/2021, edited: 11/25/2021

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Overview

The canine male’s reproductive system can be vulnerable to various conditions, some of which may result in infertility. Often the inability to produce puppies is the first sign something is going wrong in the male dog’s genitourinary system. While most professional breeders have their male studs examined prior to mating to ensure they’re healthy and fertile, casual breeders may not. A visit to the vet may help them figure out what’s happening.

Are you curious about some of the more common conditions that can occur in your male dog's reproductive system? Let’s take a look.


Cryptorchidism

Often called “undescended testicles,” or "retained testicles," cryptorchidism is the term used when one or both testes fail to descend naturally into the scrotal sac located outside the abdomen. The condition causes infertility because the temperature inside the body is too high for sperm to form normally and survive. Cryptorchidism is the most common sexual development disorder in male dogs.

Symptoms

  • Inability to produce offspring
  • Absence of one or both testicles 

  • Inability to successfully breed if both testicles are undescended

The presence of cryptorchidism may indicate the development of other congenital disorders such as:

Causes

Cryptorchidism is caused by genetics, inherited from one or both parents. Because it’s inherited, dogs with the condition should not be bred to avoid passing the gene along to future generations of puppies. 

The condition can occur in any breed, but those especially affected include toy and miniature Poodles, Pomeranians, Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, Maltese, Boxers, Pekingese, English Bulldogs, miniature Schnauzers and Shetland Sheepdogs.

Diagnosis

If the testicles have not descended by the time a male fur buddy is 8 weeks old, cryptorchidism is the likely reason. However, it’s safe to put off confirming the diagnosis until the dog is up to 4 months old. At that time, a physical exam, blood and urine tests, X-rays and ultrasounds can be used to positively diagnose the condition.

Treatment

Dogs with cryptorchidism should be neutered because they’re capable of passing their disease on to their offspring. More importantly, these pups should be neutered because the risk of testicular cancer is higher in unneutered dogs with cryptorchidism.

Average cost of treatment: $300 - $1,500


Inflammation of the testes and epididymis

Inflammation can occur in the testicles and the epididymis, the tube that connects the testes to the urethra in the penis. The condition may be short-term or long-term. If left untreated, it can cause irreversible damage to the epididymis, including the formation of abscesses. Abscesses decrease blood flow to the testicle, resulting in testicular death and infertility. 

Symptoms

  • Pain

  • Testicular swelling

  • Swelling of the epididymis

  • Scrotal swelling

  • Visible abnormalities in the skin of the scrotum

  • Decrease in testicular size 

  • Softening of the testicles

Causes

Conditions that can cause short term inflammation include:

Conditions that can cause long term inflammation include:

  • Unresolved short-term epididymitis 

  • Tumors

  • Previous exposure to excessive pressure, heat, cold or toxic agents

  • Hormones, especially estrogen

  • Immune disorders

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of epididymitis requires a physical examination and a full medical history to rule out other causes of the symptoms. Pet parents should expect to provide a description of the symptoms they've noticed. Blood tests will demonstrate the dog's overall health and urine tests will show whether the inflammation has affected the urinary system. Swabs of any skin rashes or open wounds will be sent for cultures to determine the microorganism involved, and urine will be cultured as well. 

Ultrasound imaging can visualize inflamed areas and abscesses if they're present. Needle aspirations of an abscess may be sent for cultures as well, and they may be examined for abnormal cells to rule out cancer. Because the physical exam can be uncomfortable, the dog may need to be sedated or anesthetized.

Treatment

The correct treatment can be difficult unless the exact cause of the inflammation is discovered. Some of the measures that can be taken are placing of cool water packs to decrease the risk of testicular damage, prescribing antibiotics for bacterial inflammation, and neutering. For immune disorders, medication can be given to suppress the immune system. 

Average cost of treatment: $200 - $1,500


Brucellosis infection

Brucellosis canis (B. canis) can cause a highly contagious infection affecting the entire reproductive system in male dogs, including the testicles and epididymis, and the urinary tract. Involvement of the testes and epididymis, if not treated, can cause infertility by blocking the blood supply to these structures with swelling and abscesses, leading to organ death. The bacteria can be detected in dogs’ saliva and other body fluids well after the acute infection recedes. For this reason, veterinarians consider it to be a lifetime condition. 

Brucellosis is a reportable disease in the United States, where it’s found mostly in southern regions. It’s rare for humans to contract a Brucellosis infection from their dogs, but immuno-compromised people should avoid contact with known carriers.

Symptoms

  • Increased scrotum and testicle size

  • Skin rash on scrotum

  • Infertility

  • Enlarged lymph nodes

  • Long-term testicular atrophy

Because the B.canis can infect other organs and systems, symptoms related to those systems may occur, including in the urinary system, the brain, spinal cord, and eyes.

Causes

  • Transmission through contact with infected body fluid of another dog, usually by licking 

  • Sexual transmission

  • Inhalation of bacteria

  • Contact with mucous membranes like the eyes

Diagnosis

A blood test called a rapid slide agglutination test (RAST) can detect the Brucellosis canis infection for 3 to 4 weeks. However, a false positive is common with this test, potentially complicating the diagnosis and treatment. An agar gel immunodiffusion test (AGID) can also confirm infection between 12 weeks and 1 year after the initial infection, and can deliver a definitive diagnosis. 

Treatment

There is no completely effective treatment for brucellosis, but there are interventions that may help slow down bacterial growth. Antibiotics may be administered, including minocycline, doxycycline, and enrofloxacin. Surgical sterilization or neutering may decrease the shedding of the bacteria, decreasing the risk of infection to other dogs.

Average cost of treatment: $400 - $1,200


Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH)

Benign prostatic hypertrophy is the most common disorder of the prostate in older male dogs. Almost all unneutered dogs over the age of 6 years will develop it. Some dogs show no symptoms, so the condition is usually discovered during a physical exam.

BPH is an enlarged prostate that causes pressure on the nearby urinary tract and rectum, causing difficulty in both urination and defecation. It can also put pressure on the structures involved in semen formation (testes), storage (epididymis), and ejaculation (urethra), sometimes resulting in an inability to mate. The prostate can grow either forward or back. If the prostate grows toward the back of the dog, the discomfort will cause the dog to walk stiffly with its back legs apart. Forward growth causes symptoms in the urinary tract and obstructs reproductive function and fertility. BPH can sometimes appear with cancer and infection, which need to be ruled out or treated.

Symptoms

  • Straining at defecation and urination

  • Pain with defecation and urination

  • Bloody urine or semen

  • Abnormal discharge from the penis

  • Diffuse abdominal pain

  • Reduced urine volume  

  • Urinary frequency

  • Stiff back legs and abnormal walking

Causes

Benign prostatic hypertrophy is typically an age-related condition. It is almost always caused by the over-secretion of the male hormone progesterone, which affects prostate growth. Abnormal growth of the prostate may also be caused by tumors or infection within the organ.

Diagnosis

To diagnose benign prostatic hypertrophy accurately, a physical exam and a number of tests are required. The physical examination will include a rectal exam to determine the size of the prostate. During the exam, the veterinarian will be interested in learning the symptoms observed at home.  

Blood, semen, and urine tests will look for infection and other abnormalities. The discharge from the penis is also tested with cultures and cytology. Imaging with x-rays and ultrasound can assist with diagnosis by providing direct visualization of the prostate and any abscesses, urine retained in the bladder, or packed stool. If cancer is suspected, a fine needle biopsy may be done as well. The biopsied tissue is examined under a microscope to look for abnormal cells.

Treatment

Neutering the dog will usually reduce the size of the prostate gland within a few weeks. If the dog will resume breeding, medications like finasteride may also decrease the size of the gland without neutering. 

Average cost of treatment: $700 to $1,500


Prostatitis

Prostatitis is inflammation in the prostate gland, the organ that assists with ejaculation. This condition is common in unneutered male dogs, especially those with benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) disease. There are 2 types: acute (short-term), and chronic (long-term). Chronic prostatitis follows acute prostatitis that hasn't resolved from treatment or hasn't been treated at all. 

Symptoms

  • Fever

  • Malaise

  • Enlarged prostate gland

  • Straining to urinate and defecate

  • Blood in urine

  • Repeated urinary tract infections

  • Poor appetite

  • Stiffness

  • Pain

  • Dehydration

  • Shock associated with severe bacterial abscesses

Causes

Prostatitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection, especially if the dog also has BPH. 

Diagnosis

A physical examination that includes a rectal exam can detect a painful, swollen prostate. To narrow down the cause of the condition blood, semen and urine are tested. An infection will show increased white cells in the blood, while semen and urine tests should reveal the microorganism that's involved or abnormal cells from inflammation or cancer. The prostate forms the fluid that carries sperm during ejaculation, and a culture of this fluid may reveal inflamed cells and bacteria. 

Treatment

Treatment for acute prostatitis includes intravenous fluids for dehydration and shock and antibiotics. Once the course of antibiotics is complete, and the pup is stable, recommended treatment includes neutering, making the dog infertile. If left untreated, abscesses and expanding inflammation will affect all of the reproductive organs, making infertility likely.

Chronic prostatitis will resolve with treatment of any underlying BPH. Antibiotics alone are seldom fully effective. Neutering may be prescribed to shrink the prostate. Medications also designed to reduce the size of the prostate may be given.

Average cost of treatment: $300 - $1,000


Be prepared for anything

Male reproductive problems can be expensive to treat. If you suspect your dog is at risk of a reproductive problem, start searching for pet insurance today. Wag!’s pet insurance comparison tool lets you compare plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Embrace. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

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