Not only can paraphimosis be a little concerning for pet owners, but it can also embarrass them whenever they take their dog for a walk, go to the vet clinic, or just have people over for a visit.
In today’s article, we’re looking at everything you should know about paraphimosis – from what it is and its symptoms and causes to how it can be treated or prevented.
What is paraphimosis?
As you might know by now if you have been a dog parent before, dogs’ penises don’t tend to stick out of their sheath all the time. In order to copulate with a female, a male dog’s penis actually needs to come out of the prepuce (which is just the scientific name for the foreskin).
Paraphimosis is a condition where the dog’s penis is out of the prepuce at all times or for just more than it is normal. In terms of clinical manifestations, some dogs might experience paraphimosis continuously and fully, whereas the penis of others might stick out just partially.
Besides being a little weird and perhaps embarrassing for the dog guardian, it’s important to correctly diagnose this condition as it could be caused by a number of serious health issues.
Causes of paraphimosis in dogs
Paraphimosis can be physiological or pathological depending on whatever factor has caused it. For example, some dogs can be born with a different shape or size to their prepuce, which means that their penis might be out more simply because it is a congenital defect.
However, this condition can also be caused by actual health complications, such as having recently been involved in an accident and sustained trauma to the area or, maybe even worse, to a portion of the animal’s spine.
Paraphimosis can also be caused by local tumors, which make it impossible for the sheath to maintain its normal position. If your dog is diagnosed with a genital tumor, the growths may need to be excised surgically or your pet may have to receive treatments such as chemotherapy.
Finally, there could also be something making your dog’s sensitive area uncomfortable, and in an attempt for their body to alleviate the local irritation and inflammation, the penis will stick out in this situation, too.
Most commonly, there could be tiny hairs growing in an abnormal direction and ending up in the sheath.
As you might have noticed from the previous section, there could be a number of different causes leading to a dog experiencing paraphimosis. An accurate diagnosis can lead to the correct treatment being administered, which is why the vet may find it a little challenging to determine what is at the root of the problem.
When local causes such as the hairs that we just mentioned are the problem, removing them can solve the issue. But when more complex factors are leading to paraphimosis, your dog may have to undergo a variety of tests.
When you bring your pooch to the vet clinic, some standard diagnostic methods, such as a complete blood count and biochemistry, will be performed.
You will also be asked about the issue itself, such as when it started and when you first noticed it, how often it happens, if the penis goes into the sheath and when, and generally if you’ve also noticed strange colors or secretions coming from the canal, for example.
Needless to say, if your dog was hit by a car or was involved in any other type of accident, the diagnosis process will be a little more lengthy and perhaps involve other techniques such as imaging ones (an X-ray, an ultrasound, or MRI).
Treatment of paraphimosis in dogs
How your dog will be treated is going to depend on what the cause of the condition is. In local issues, the hairs or any foreign object that might have ended up in the sheath will be removed. An anti-inflammatory cream will be applied and recommended to the pet owner, and it might also contain an antibiotic depending on whether it has caused harm to the penis.
A lack of lubrication can also be a cause, so the dog parent will be instructed on how and how often they should apply the lubricant.
The veterinarian might also prescribe specific neurologic medication if a lesion to a nerve or nucleus of nerves has occurred. Physical therapy, along with laser therapy, could be two alternative treatments in this case.
If your dog has a penile tumor, a more detailed diagnosis will be necessary in the sense that the type of cancer needs to be discovered, its progression, as well as its malignancy – and only after all this has occurred will the appropriate treatment be applied.
Can paraphimosis be prevented?
To some extent, yes. You can pay attention to your dog’s behavior every day, especially in the warmer seasons, just to ensure that no foreign object (whether a foxtail, a tiny rock, or something else) has ended up in the sheath.
Some cases might subside after thirty minutes or so by applying a cold compress or a bag of frozen food over a towel in your dog’s genital area. If it happens frequently, your dog needs to be properly diagnosed by a veterinarian.
Do keep in mind that some situations call for immediate veterinary assistance, such as an event where your dog’s penis becomes entangled in wire, string, or the stem of a plant – some portions of the penis can be affected by necrosis if the blood supply to them is stopped, and the treatment for that is partial penis amputation.
Disorders of the canine penis, M. V. Root Kustritz, 2001 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11265490/
Paraphimosis in Dogs and Cats, Autumn P. Davidson, MSD Veterinary Manual, 2020 https://www.msdvetmanual.com/reproductive-system/reproductive-diseases-of-the-male-small-animal/paraphimosis-in-dogs-and-cats