Prostate Gland Cancer in Dogs

Photo Credit: Shirley Zindler

I periodically force myself to write about one of a handful of diseases I truly despise, and canine prostate gland cancer definitely falls into this category. Why do I dislike this disease so much? There is no cure for it and, for as long as I’ve been alive, there remains no effective treatment that consistently keeps it at bay for a significant length of time while preserving quality of life.

The only good news about prostate gland cancer is that it is relatively rare, accounting for 0.67% of all reported malignancies in dogs. And, it is far less common than the other far more treatable forms of prostate gland disease such as bacterial prostatitis, cystic disease, and benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Behavior of prostate gland cancer

The most common form of cancer within the prostate arises from its glandular cells and is called adenocarcinoma. Transitional cell carcinomas are less common than adenocarcinomas. They arise from transitional cells that line the urinary tract.

Prostate gland cancer is a disease primarily of middle-aged and older, large breed dogs. It occurs most commonly in neutered male dogs. This is a bit counterintuitive and we used to believe just the opposite, so I will state this fact again. Prostate gland cancer is more likely to occur in dogs who have been neutered.

Invariably, prostate gland cancer is a very aggressive disease. Not only does it expand within the prostate gland, it readily spreads (metastasizes) to other sites in the body beginning with local lymph nodes and then moves on to the lungs, abdominal organs, and/or bones.


There are often no symptoms whatsoever until the prostate gland becomes significantly enlarged and/or painful. Common symptoms include:

Straining to urinate

Straining to have a bowel movement

Bowel movements that are “ribbony” or small in diameter

Hind end/back stiffness

Hind leg lameness

Blood in the urine

Abnormal discharge from the prepuce

If there is a secondary bacterial infection within the prostate gland, symptoms can include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, and vomiting.


The diagnosis may be suspected based on clinical signs and palpation of a large, irregularly shaped, prostate gland that may be painful for the dog. Urine and blood testing are routinely performed as part of the diagnostic workup. A definitive diagnosis relies on biopsy samples collected from the prostate gland. Biopsies are typically collected using ultrasound guidance.

Once the diagnosis of prostate gland cancer is confirmed, other tests are commonly performed to determine the extent of metastasis. This process is referred to as “cancer staging.” Such testing usually involves imaging studies such as ultrasound evaluation, radiographs, and CT (computed tomography) scanning.

Treatment and prognosis

Effective treatment options for dogs with prostate gland adenocarcinoma are pretty much nonexistent. Neither chemotherapy nor surgery provides significant benefit. Radiation therapy is of limited value. Chemotherapy can provide temporary relief of symptoms for some dogs with transitional cell carcinoma. For most dogs with prostate gland cancer, treatment is primarily palliative, aimed at reducing the discomfort associated with the disease and enhancing quality of life.

Ultimately, the cancer-related symptoms become life limiting. It is at this point that either euthanasia or intensive hospice care is indicated.

Have you ever had or known a dog with prostate gland cancer?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.


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8 Comments on “Prostate Gland Cancer in Dogs

  1. I lost my 11 yr old Dachshund to prostate cancer. Unfortunately, there was extensive local spread by the time he was diagnosed so I only had a month with him. I’m glad it’s rare in dogs because it’s an awful disease.

  2. When I got my first male dog, I planned to neuter him. But shortly thereafter, I was injured and the healing took all my attention. When I finally came up for breath, I realized he still needed to be neutered; but then I realized that he never went after females in heat, never started fights, and was a perfect gentleman, so I saw no need. When he was 9 years old, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Immediate diagnosis was followed with immediate surgery. We must have caught it early, because my vet got it all; we followed up with sonograms every 6 months for a few years, but thank doG it never came back! Of course, he was neutered during the surgery. He lived to 15 and 1/2.

  3. Hi Kimberly. Wow, what an extraordinary response to treatment you have described. It sounds as though you and your veterinary team managed to catch the cancer very early. I too would be concerned about your Aussie’s ongoing symptoms given that he has been receiving an antibiotic for 10 days. Is there any chance you can have him evaluated by the team that treated him back at the time of the diagnosis? I imagine this was at a veterinary teaching hospital. I discourage stopping the antibiotic until you know more (or trying another antibiotic that the culture suggested should be successful). Fevers can be caused by inflammation (without infection) as well as infection, and it’s not uncommon for prostate carcinomas to produce inflammation. Best of luck with this.
    Dr. Nancy

  4. I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like your Murphy was a very special boy. Best wishes to you.

  5. Hi Dr. Kay,
    My 8.5 year old neutered Australian Shepherd was diagnosed with a prostatic carcinoma in May 2015. I was lucky and we caught it before it metastasized or caused any discomfort or clinical signs. He was started on Palladia 3x a week and anti-inflammatory meds on alternating days.
    He just had a trial surgery where he underwent a prostatic embolization a month and a half ago. His CT scan 2 weeks ago showed that his tumor has shrunk and still has not metastasized! I’m crossing my fingers that he can still continue to beat the odds 🙂
    I did have a question for you, if you wouldn’t mind. My dog got his first UTI about 12 days ago, and it was a doozy – not eating, lethargic, straining, abdominal spasms, dribbling urine, and running a fever (the fever tends to spike in the evening). Ran a culture and started him on Zeniquin (marbofloxicin) 10 days ago (which the culture said the bacteria is sensitive to). He’s eating, his energy has improved, he’s barely dribbling urine, and there’s much less straining. However, he’s still running a fever in the evenings (~103.5) and is still sedate, straining to defecate, and PU/PD.
    Should I be concerned that after 10 days he’s still feeling poor? His course of antibiotics will be up in 4 days, and I’m concerned about stopping them. His veterinarian is brand new to us (I just moved 2 months ago) and is still pretty green from vet school and isn’t familiar with his case (but she has been wonderful and as thorough as she possibly couldve been!), so I’d appreciate a second opinion if you wouldn’t mind.

  6. Hi, Dr. Kay
    Having recently lost my Bloodhound Murphy at age 8 years, 10 months to prostate cancer, I believe your words ring very true. Murphy was neutered at about 8 months of age, before we got him. He was healthy and strong his entire life, until the cancer got him. He started with subtle symptoms probably 2 months before we discovered it, having occasional loose stools. In his last 4 weeks, I noticed him standing funny – like an “old dog” with hunched back. We were back and forth to our regular vet six times trying to figure out what was wrong with him. He started having very small diameter and soft bowel movements, more the size of my pinky instead of the 1-1/2″ diameter ones. Never did we suspect any cancer. In his last two days, he was picky with food, and strained to produce a bowel movement. Of course, all bad things seem to happen on a weekend, and we ended up going to the emergency vet on a Sunday night, because he refused to eat, and started shivering every time he exhaled. Their conclusion by x-ray was that he believed he had cancer in his abdomen, and wanted to do an ultrasound the next day to further diagnose, with a biopsy if warranted. We got the bad news by phone that Murphy was full of cancer, that it probably originated in his prostate and was spread to the spleen, liver, intestines and spine. They offered that he might live a month, maybe six if we did radiation and chemotherapy. They were concerned that the clots in his spleen could cause it to rupture at any time. I couldn’t see putting Murphy through any more suffering, as he hid his pain so well in the past couple of months. I elected to let him go that day. Thank you for writing “Speaking for Spot”. I know that I was able to make a better informed decision with a clear head regarding Murphy’s fate.

  7. Prostate cancer is indeed a tragic disease.

    Every male dog should have a digital rectal exam at their regular veterinary visits once they reach middle age, whether they are neutered or intact. Early diagnosis does not help change the outcome for dogs with adenocarcinoma but it can help with transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) The dogs with tcc respond for a while to piroxicam and antibiotics.

    I have heard a veterinarian once quip “there are not 2 reasons a dog should not have a rectal exam – if the dog does not havea Rectum or the veterinarian does not have a finger.” Now that’s extreme and there are some dogs who will not tolerate a rectal exam (I am a fear free visit fan) but it does help highlight the importance of a comprehensive physical exam and history.

    If your veterinarian is not routinely performing a rectal exam, it is in your dogs (,? male and female) best interest t have you request it.

  8. Hi Dr Kay,
    My Cody was diagnosed with prostatic adeocarcinoma, you’re right, it’s hideous. My vet ignored me for 4 months while he was showing the typical symptoms, along with other cancer symptoms, he wasn’t diagnosed until he totally blocked. Through hard work and miracles, he lived 3 years and 9 months post diagnosis, given 30-60 days. Now that they have stents, these dogs can have a better longer outcome hopefully. We had 3 years in remission, we were very lucky.

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