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Help! My Dog’s Penis Won’t Go Back In

It’s no laughing matter. Try these at-home treatments — and if they don’t work, take your dog to the vet ASAP.

by Dr. Shea Cox
March 18, 2013
Dog laying on couch looking embarassed
Photo: Dimitrije Tanaskovic / Stocksy

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As a pet parent, you’re used to dealing with all kinds of gross things associated with your dog — and that includes seeing your dog’s penis stick out from their fur. 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. Here’s everything you need to know.

What is Paraphimosis in Dogs? 

Paraphimosis 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, as 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 chronic licking, sexual excitement and humping, or foreign bodies getting up under the skin. However, there are 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.

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 7 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. 

Ask a Vet

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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 things you can do (they’re not for the faint of heart!):

  1. 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.

  2. 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. 

  3. 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. 

  4. Lubricants, such as K-Y jelly, should then be applied. Lubrication helps aid in returning the penis back into the sheath.

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. 

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Dr. Shea Cox

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.