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As a pet parent, you’re used to dealing with all kinds of gross things associated with your dog — that includes seeing your dog’s penis stick out from their fur. Technically this is called “paraphimosis” in dogs. Dog erections happen. Typically, you might see it when your dog is excited, nervous, or just rolling over for a belly rub.
While an erect dog penis poking out every now and then is normal, a history of excessive protrusion or long-term erections could be a red flag for a more serious problem called paraphimosis in dogs. Here’s everything you need to know about it and how to address paraphimosis in dogs at home.
What is Paraphimosis in Dogs?
Paraphimosis in dogs is the inability for a dog to retract an erect penis back into the preputial sheath, which is the skin that covers the dog penis. When a dog’s penis won’t go back in, that can quickly turn into an emergency situation; constriction of blood flow will lead to greater engorgement, necrosis (dying off of the tissue), and potential damage to the urethra.
What Causes Paraphimosis in Dogs?
Common causes of paraphimosis in dogs include:
Sexual excitement and humping, or foreign bodies getting up under the skin
More serious causes including neurological disease (such as a herniation of a disc in the spinal cord), penis fractures, or muscular issues
Paraphimosis also needs to be differentiated from priapism, which is a state of continuous erection, usually due to a neurological problem.
How do I know if my dog has paraphimosis?
A diagnosis of paraphimosis is generally based on simple observation of the penis extruded from the prepuce without any physiological reason. Paraphimosis accounts for approximately seven percent of penile problems in dogs, and while not common, it is uncomfortable and can cause distress to dogs (and their humans) and can have more serious consequences if left untreated or if it becomes a recurring issue.
What are the symptoms of paraphimosis in dogs?
Symptoms of paraphimosis symptoms in dogs include:
Licking the exposed penis that has not retracted
Inflammation of the penis
If the penis becomes a different color or the moist tissues dry out, take your dog to a vet ASAP.
How is Paraphimosis In Dogs Treated?
Treatment for paraphimosis is generally conservative in nature, and many of the interventions can be tried at home. Below are some home remedies for paraphimosis in dogs (they’re not for the faint of heart!):
First, thoroughly clean the exposed penis and inspect the dog erection for any foreign material such as foxtails or long fur that is “strangulating” the tissues of the penis.
Mix up a “sugar paste” using ordinary white sugar and enough water to make it into a thick slurry. Apply this mixture liberally to the erect dog penis. The sugar works as a hyperosmotic agent, “pulling out” fluid from the tissues to help reduce the swelling and shrink the penis.
Wrap up a bag of frozen peas in a light towel and place over the area for 5 minutes at a time, which also helps to reduce swelling of the tissues. Packaged peas work well because they are very moldable around the dog’s anatomy.
Lubricants, such as K-Y jelly, should then be applied. Lubrication helps aid in returning the penis back into the sheath.
When should I take my dog to the vet for paraphimosis?
If the swelling does not go down within 30 minutes, and if the penis does not stay retracted into the prepuce despite the interventions above, then immediate veterinary assistance is needed. I have unfortunately seen several cases where the tissue of the penis has died off due to lack of blood supply, and these poor pups required a partial penis amputation — a true pet emergency.
How is paraphimosis treated by a veterinarian?
If your vet decides that treatment is necessary, there is a paraphimosis procedure they will usually follow: Treatment begins with cleansing and lubrication of the exposed penis. Then, the vet will try to retract it back into the prepuce manually. Sometimes, cold or warm packs are applied to reduce the swelling of the penis, making it easier to retract.
In some cases, it is not possible to retract the penis manually and surgical correction is needed: a tension-release incision is the most effective technique to immediately relieve tension on the dog's penis. In severe cases of paraphimosis, the tissue of the penis can die and partial amputation of the penis may be required. Your vet will give your dog pain relief and if there is any sign of infection, and they may also administer antibiotics.
How can paraphimosis be prevented?
Neutering to prevent sexual excitement and keeping the hair around the opening of the sheath around the penis trimmed are easy preventative measures.
Can paraphimosis lead to complications?
Paraphimosis can lead to strangulation of the blood supply to the penis, resulting in partial penile amputation in the worst cases.
FAQs (People Also Ask):
1) How can I recognize paraphimosis?
A diagnosis of paraphimosis is generally based on observation of the penis extruded from the prepuce without any physiological reason, aka your dog’s penis will not go back “in.”
2) Is paraphimosis an emergency?
Often paraphimosis can be treated at home, but if your dog’s penis becomes a different color or the moist tissues dry out, take your dog to a vet asap.
3) Can paraphimosis be a recurring issue?
Paraphimosis can recur, and some dogs do seem predisposed to problems due to anatomical or neurological issues. Discuss strategies to prevent recurrence with your vet.
4) How long does paraphimosis last?
A dog’s penis can usually safely remain outside of the prepuce for about 20 to 30 minutes, but anything longer than that needs to be addressed immediately.
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Dr. Shea Cox, DVM, CVPP, CHPV
Dr. Shea Cox is the founder of BluePearl Pet Hospice and is a global leader in animal hospice and palliative care. With a focus on technology, innovation and education, her efforts are changing the end-of-life landscape in veterinary medicine.
Dr. Bartley Harrison, DVM
Dr. Bartley Harrison, DVM is a small animal veterinarian based in North Carolina who has practiced emergency medicine since graduating from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine. His primary interest areas include pain management, cardiology, and the treatment of shock.
He is a member of the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society, American Veterinary Medical Association, and American Medical Writers Association. In addition to his clinical work, he writes pet health articles to help provide accurate information for both new and experienced pet parents. When he’s not working, he enjoys cooking, traveling, reading, and going on adventures with his dog.