Balanoposthitis in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

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small dog curled up in sunlight

small dog curled up in sunlight

What is balanoposthitis in dogs?

Balanoposthitis, or inflammation of the penis and prepuce, is a common problem in intact male dogs. It can be caused by injuries, tumors, bacterial infections, or phimosis (constriction of the prepuce opening). Symptoms that you want to look out for include excessive licking around the affected area, discharge, and inflammation. Balanoposthitis often occurs during sexual maturity or in unneutered males.

Causes of balanoposthitis in dogs

The most common causes of balanoposthitis are:

  • Bacterial infection

    Bacterial infection is one of the most common causes of balanoposthitis. It can be caused by bacteria in the external environment at home or while walking, or by opportunistic infections caused by bacteria in the mouth when licking the genital area. Balanoposthitis can also be caused by urinary tract infections.

  • Viral infection

    If a dog has not been fully vaccinated, they can be susceptible to many viruses. The main cause is typically sexually transmitted diseases, such as herpes virus or canine calicivirus.

  • Trauma

  • Insect and animal bites

  • Ingesting a foreign body

  • Atopic dermatitis

  • Poor hygiene

  • Phimosis

  • Tumor

    Although transmission from cancer is rare, inflammation may be present in the presence of transmissible venereal tumors (TVTs).

Symptoms of balanoposthitis in Dogs

Balanoposthitis in dogs typically causes a yellow or green discharge from the penis, occasionally observed with blood. Dogs may lick their genitals excessively due to the discharge or discomfort from inflammation.

Other symptoms that may accompany balanoposthitis include:

  • Swelling and redness of the penis and foreskin
  • Wounds on the penis and foreskin
  • Abnormal tissue growth on the penis
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Discomfort and pain
  • Lethargy, fever, loss of appetite, and necrosis of tissue when there is a severe infection

Risk of balanoposthitis in dogs

Balanoposthitis typically starts with mild symptoms and may resolve on its own. However, prolonged or worsening symptoms can indicate infection or pain, potentially causing urinary tract issues and even tissue necrosis. If symptoms persist for over a week or your dog shows discomfort or illness, seek veterinary care promptly.

Is there any home treatment for balanoposthitis in dogs?

When dealing with suspected balanoposthitis, maintaining proper hygiene is essential. The exposed foreskin and genitals are susceptible to external infections, so ensure that your pet’s living environment is clean to avoid bacterial contamination.

To effectively sanitize the affected area, wash your dog's genitals with sterile water or use an antiseptic solution like diluted chlorhexidine or diluted povidone-iodine. Additionally, applying an antibiotic ointment can also be beneficial. It's advisable to consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate type and concentration of disinfectant to use.

Diagnosing balanoposthitis in dogs

veterinarian with lab equipment

When visiting the hospital, the veterinarian will inquire about symptom onset and progression, conducting a physical examination to rule out wounds, foreign bodies, pus, ulcers, or tumors. In most cases, a physical examination is sufficient for diagnosis, but additional tests may be done if another condition is suspected or if the dog doesn't respond to treatment.

  • Bacterial culture test

    Discharge is collected and examined through cytology and bacterial culture tests.

  • Other tests

    Blood tests, urinalysis, X-rays, and ultrasounds can be performed to confirm and rule out other conditions for an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment for balanoposthitis in dogs

Balanoposthitis in dogs requires proper treatment based on the underlying cause. Mild cases can be resolved naturally by maintaining cleanliness, while severe cases may require medical intervention. Treatments include keeping the area clean, preventing self-trauma with a neck collar, and addressing the underlying root cause.

  • Surgery

    Treatment options for severe or chronic cases such as tumors, adhesions, or abnormal tissue, can be solved through surgical removal. Phimosis, often genetic, can lead to balanoposthitis and may require surgical treatment. Neutering may be considered to prevent a recurrence.

  • Antibiotics

    For bacterial infections, washing with antiseptics, applying antibiotic ointment, or prescribing antibiotics is recommended.

  • Medication

    Atopy-related balanoposthitis can be managed with immunosuppressants like steroids.

Establishing a management plan after treatment is essential, as balanoposthitis often recurs.

Preventing balanoposthitis in dogs

girl washing wet dog with soap suds all over

To minimize recurring balanoposthitis in dogs, it is important to follow your veterinarian's instructions and complete the recommended therapy duration. While there are no guaranteed prevention methods, intermittent flushing of the prepuce and neutering the dog can help reduce the chance of infections. Maintaining cleanliness by keeping the foreskin and surrounding hair short, and washing the area after urination or walks can be helpful. If your dog excessively licks their genitals, a neck collar is recommended to prevent the chance of infection.

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