In the ‘Pet Corner’ columns just before Christmas, we concluded our discussions on maladies associated with the female genital tract and reproduction. Let’s look now at the problems associated with infertility in the male dog.
Very often, the inability of dogs to mate and reproduce can be placed squarely on deficiencies of the male genital system. The inflammation of the testicle(s) (orchitis), an infection of the foreskin and the head of the penis (balanoposthitis), the ability of the penis to protrude because of a strictured foreskin (phimosis), or a condition which precludes the penis from returning to the sheath (paraphimosis), undescended testicle(s) are some ailments that spring to mind. One can even include prostate gland problems in this list. And I suppose that if the quality of the sperm is greatly compromised, infertility would be the consequence. So, over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking more closely at these ailments associated with the male dog that will impair reproduction.
Infection of the prepuce and head of the penis (balanoposthitis)
A small amount of white or yellowish discharge from the prepuce (foreskin) is present in nearly all mature males, especially when bitches are in heat nearby. However, an excessive purulent discharge is associated with overt infection. Awns or pieces of grass can get caught beneath the foreskin of the male and cause irritation of the skin of the penis, followed by an infection and abscesses in the sheath. Such an infection is called balanoposthitis.
If the dog begins to lick himself excessively and has a purulent, foul-smelling discharge from the prepuce, probably he is suffering from balanoposthitis. This condition also may be due to prolonged sexual intercourse. Such infections can be transmitted to the female during mating.
I should mention that every other dog in Guyana has a bit of discharge which comes and goes, usually in relation to the mating season. If the animal does not seem to be in any great discomfort, or if the purulent discharge is not so heavy as to be unaesthetic or health challenging, then a wash (as described below) with ordinary surgical soap would suffice. In mild cases, do not introduce heavy treatment regimes, eg with antibiotics.
NB: I have heard people call this ailment ‘dog syphilis’. Such a title is incorrect. Dogs do not contract syphilis. The bacteria involved in the discharge of pus are usually of the more ubiquitous type of cocci.
First, clip away the coat hair on or near the foreskin. Push back the foreskin to expose the head of the penis. Wash the area thoroughly with surgical soap and apply an antibiotic ointment. If the dog will not allow you to retract his foreskin, using a syringe flush the sheath with one per cent hydrogen peroxide solution twice daily. Then infuse an antibiotic ointment. Repeat until all signs of discharge and inflammation are gone.
For persistent cases, flush the sheath with an astringent solution made up of five per cent tannic acid mixed with two parts of propylene glycol and continue the treatment for four days.
2. Strictured foreskin – Penis can’t protrude (phimosis)
In this condition, the opening of the sheath is too small to let the penis extend. The opening may be so small that urine can escape only in small drops. Some cases are due to infection. Many are due to a congenital abnormality, ie, puppies are born that way. Several male puppies in a litter may be so affected.
If the condition is due to an infection of the sheath, treatment of the sheath infection may correct the phimosis as well. If it is due to a congenital abnormality, a surgical intervention may be required.
3. Penis that can’t retract (paraphimosis)
In this condition, the penis is unable to return to its former position inside the sheath. The sheath may serve as a constricting band around the shaft of the penis, cutting off the blood supply. A predisposing cause is long hair on the skin of the sheath which causes the foreskin to roll under when the penis is partly retracted. Often, it follows mating. It can be prevented by cutting the long hairs from around the foreskin prior to breeding. Check your male dog after using him as a stud, to be sure that the penis has returned to its sheath.
The penis should be returned to its normal position as quickly as possible in order to prevent permanent damage.
Apply ice packs to reduce swelling. Push the prepuce (foreskin) backward on the shaft of the penis, rolling it out so the hairs are not caught. Lubricate the surface of the penis with mineral oil or olive oil. With one hand, gently draw the head of the penis forward while squeezing it so as to reduce the swelling. With the other hand, slide the prepuce forward. If these measures are not immediately successful, notify your veterinarian. It might even entail placing the animal under a full anaesthesia.
In most cases if the skin of the penis is severely irritated it will be necessary to flush the sheet twice daily with an antiseptic solution as described under the treatment of balanoposthitis (see above).
Again, please accept my best wishes for 2013!
Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals. Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.