The Prostate

A rare opportunity arose the other day to involve innocent bystanders in matters that neither involved nor interested them and I dove right in. You gotta love people who help. Ask, and they rise to the occasion. So when my first call of the morning was with a lovely young Chinese- speaking woman, I turned to one of my staff. I knew that her mother spoke both Mandarin and Cantonese in the Chinese language and FINALLY I had opportunity to make use of this! I love languages. At work we cover Spanish and Portuguese fairly well with a little of French thrown in. But Chinese! Now THAT was above and beyond! Excited, I asked Monique to get her mother on the phone. Mother and daughter were obliging and soon sing song words were flying through the air interspersed with dog panting. The discussion about ear care was well under way when Monique looked down and whispered to me, “look, he’s bleeding.” We both stared at the floor. No one had mentioned bleeding. A few pinkish droplets were scattered about. Where was it coming from? We had barely touched the dog. I wiped his drool and mouth with a paper towel. No. Looked at his teeth and toenails. Nope. Practically turned upside down to look under his tummy at his private parts – yes! The quick list of differentials for causes of blood in the urine included prostate disease, bladder infection, bladder stones (or uroliths). He was young to consider cancer, but no list is complete without it. And suddenly, there I was, deep into conversation with a woman I’ve never met, directing her to translate information about prostatic disease into Chinese, over the phone, to a woman she’d never met. It was many hours later before I realized that many English speakers aren’t too sure about the prostate and maybe my Good Sam translator wouldn’t know the word in Chinese? Not to mention I’d asked to discuss a potentially “intimate” subject, as in veterinary medicine much is compared and related to human medicine for better understanding. What if she’d told the client that the dog had hemorrhoids of the prepuce? (Which is impossible.) You get my drift. It has given me much to think about. Mostly that MYOB (mind your own business) is always a good idea and that I could have written the word “prostate” down and hoped the owner would find a good dictionary. I owe Monique’s Mom some flowers. Ooooh!


But back to that prostate. Only one “r”, thank you. ProstRATE is to lie down flat on the floor and it’s easier to say. ProSTATE is a gland found only in male pets. Unneutered male dogs often suffer from diseases of the prostate gland. The prostate in the dog is about the shape and size of a walnut. It sits below the bladder and makes fluid that develops in response to the hormone testosterone. If a dog is neutered at a young age his prostate tissue doesn’t develop and the dog is at very low risk of having problems there. For adult dogs, increases in testosterone may cause the gland to swell- and that hurts! The swollen prostate bumps up against the colon and traps it against the pelvis – your dog cannot have a bowel movement and may become severely constipated or strain to produce ribbon-like feces. He may walk hunched up. Sometimes the gland becomes infected or worse, develops cancer. You may see blood in his urine and he may strain to urinate or just drip blood and urine. Neutering is always part of the treatment plan to provide relief because the gland will shrink in the absence of testosterone. I am glad to say that for the dog in question the outlook is favorable. No infection was present. He was given anti-inflammatory medication and surgery recommended as soon as possible, as it takes roughly 60 days for testosterone levels to fully drop. Relief is on its way!


Speaking of helpers, I have a friend who’s a nurse. Sometimes she scowls and declares “R.N.” does not stand for “refreshments and narcotics”! I about laughed myself sick the first time she said that. Sounds to me like registered nurses get all the fun. If anyone has something equally great for “D.V.M.” please let me know. A “Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine” sounds a bit stuffy.


Christine B. McFadden, DVM

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