Foster’s Problem

D. E. Larsen, DVM

Jim was waiting for the exam when I came through the door. He wasn’t smiling today, and Foster, his old black Lab, was standing with his head down.

“What going on with Foster today?” I asked.

“That’s what we are here to find out,” Jim answered. “We were over at Joseph this weekend, and I noticed that he had some blood in his pee. It has been getting worse every day. We got home last night, and it took him forever to get done peeing before he came in the house, and that’s not him at all, Doc. He can usually mark every post with no problem. Last night he was just standing out there dribbling blood.”

“That doesn’t sound very good for an old dog,” I said. “Let me get him up on the table and look things over.”

“You be careful, Doc,” Jim said. “You know he’s over a hundred pounds.”

Foster was an older black Lab and a constant companion for Jim. He was an old-time Lab, with a large dog with a large head that was almost square. Foster was getting older now, approaching ten years of age. And like many of the older Labs, he had some arthritis in his knees and back. But his heart was still strong. And he was still an intact male.

I took a deep breath, bent over, and with my left arm across his chest and my right arm under his abdomen, I swooped Foster up and placed him on the exam table.

“Keeps me in shape,” I said to Jim with a smile.

Jim was a timber faller and was used to hard work and working with men who worked hard and used their muscles. He finally cracked a smile.

I looked Foster over, checking everything before getting to his urinary tract. When I finally palpated his abdomen, Foster registered his discomfort. I could feel his bladder was pretty full, which would help get a urine sample. Then I could feel his prostate immediately behind his bladder, and I should not have been able to feel his prostate. This prostate gland was the size of a large grapefruit, and Foster groaned when I palpated it.

“Jim, his prostate is the size of a large grapefruit,” I said.

“That’s what my sister-in-law suspected,” Jim said. “She a vet over by Madras, you know. Do you think it is cancer?”

“I have only seen one case of prostate cancer in the dog,” I said. “Most of the time in an older intact male, it is a benign hypertrophy, along with an infection.”

“How do confirm that, and what do you do to treat it?” Jim asked.

“We play the odds a bit,” I said. “If it were to be cancer, he is probably a dead dog. We need to get a urine sample to look at and do a culture. We need to get an x-ray to make sure there aren’t any bladder stones involved and do some blood work to ensure his kidneys are okay. Then with some medication and neutering him, most of these guys clear up in a few days. Getting those testicles out of the picture is the important thing. I had one old dog about Foster’s age that belonged to an old man who couldn’t afford much. We neutered that dog and put him on some antibiotics, and he was well in a few days. His prostate was almost back to normal when I took the sutures out. When I neutered him, the infection in the prostate was extending down the spermatic cords all the way to the testicles.”

“Doc, you know I don’t want to neuter this dog,” Jim said. “Can it be done without neutering him?”

“It can be done,” I said. “But it won’t be as fast, and you will be back in here with the same problem sometime in the future.”

We did the diagnostics on Foster and sent a urine culture off to the laboratory. The x-rays show a massive prostate hanging over the brim of the pelvis. It was so large it was interfering with the colon even though it was mostly out of the pelvis.

I sent Foster home on medication and checked him back in a few days when we would have the culture results.

***

Foster bounced through the door for his recheck, and Jim followed with a smile on his face.

“He is feeling like his old self, Doc,” Jim said.

“That’s a good thing,” I said. “We cultured an E. coli out of his urine. Sometimes that can be serious, but our antibiotic we started him on was the correct one.”

I palpated his abdomen with Foster on the floor and did a rectal exam. 

“It’s not back to normal quite yet, but much smaller today,” I said to Jim.

“What do we do now?” Jim asked.

“Now we finish the antibiotics and then recheck a urine sample in a couple of weeks after they are through,” I said. “Then, if the urine is okay, it is just a matter of watchful waiting. It will happen again, maybe next month or next year, and you just have to be watchful and catch things early.”

***

Over the next year and a half, Foster was in for his prostate problem several times. It was always the same. Jim had learned to notice as soon as Foster’s urinary habits changed a bit. His prostate was always large, but never the size it was on his initial visit.

“Jim, you know, Foster isn’t getting any younger,” I said. “One of these episodes will run into some major issues with kidneys or something. We could bring this all to an end by neutering him.”

“Okay, Doc, let’s go ahead and neuter the old guy,” Jim said. “He has slowed down in his old age, and I would guess he won’t get much use out those things at this stage in his life.”

We scheduled Foster’s surgery for the following morning. I wanted to get it done before Jim had second thoughts.

Veterinarians do neuter surgeries on dogs often, maybe not every day, but certainly, every week. They are always cautioned against calling a surgery routine, but a neuter is almost a routine surgery for most veterinarians. But they rarely neuter an eleven-year-old large dog.

The procedure is the same, but the tissues are different. Squeezing the testicle and its tunic out of the scrotum in a young dog is no problem and takes little effort. That same testicular tunic in an old dog is solidly attached to the inside of the scrotum. It is a real struggle to free from its attachment. But I got it done.

Foster went home a new man, and when we checked him back for suture removal, his prostate gland palpated normally. And he lived out his life without another issue with that gland.

Photo by Matthis from Pexels.

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

6 thoughts on “Foster’s Problem

    1. So true, but it does happen. Usually, they use an injection that blocks the production of testosterone. It essentially does the same thing, but old guys accept it better because it is not permanent.

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    1. Old guy dogs have little say in the decisions. Many old guy humans, are reluctant to neuter their old guy dogs, I can only guess at any discussion that goes on in the doctor’s office when the doctor brings up castration. The injections are used only in men. I don’t know the cost if the injection, I would guess it would far exceed the cost of neutering a dog.

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  1. Like GP said, people should listen to expertes more! After all you studied veterinary medicine – and after some years you also had enough expertise to back up the theory.

    I don’t get the hang up in some men about neutering their pets. My father was the same. Neuter the tomcat? No, only over his cold, stiff limbs .. I bet when we moved and left the cat there, the old “spinster” (she may have been a widow for all I know) next door did the right thing and had our Peter neutered in no time!
    When 3 years later a female cat showed up at my maternal grandparents we took her to the vet after she had her kittens (she came along pregnant) and had her spayed. No hang ups with my grandparents or sister and me. Only our father was so squeamish.

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