Common problems of the canine reproductive system

Common problems of the canine reproductive system include breast and testicular tumors, venereal diseases, infections, and congenital defects.


The reproductive system in dogs is a composite of the necessary organs to generate puppies.

In the male, the system will include the testicles, vas deferens, urethra, and penis. The female's reproductive system will include the breasts, ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, and vagina. With both males and females, certain urinary problems can cause reproductive problems so these will also be discussed.
An owner or veterinarian may suspect reproductive problems if either of the sexes exhibits signs of genital discharge, distended or pain upon the palpation of the abdomen, loss of appetite or energy as well as excessive drinking and urination. In males undescended testicles, lumps or inflammation in the testicles or penis, and the inability to reproduce.

Females may have inflammation or lumps in the breast or genital area repeated spontaneous abortions or a failure to be able to conceive.

Some reproductive problems can be caused by adjustable reasons. The thyroid gland secretes a hormone that affects most systems in the body. When it is making an insufficient amount of the hormone, the condition known, as hypothyroidism is the result.
This condition can be diagnosed by a simple blood test and thyroid replacement medication can be given.

Nutritional deficiencies may also be a cause of an inability to reproduce. Considering the number of stray animals in the country reproducing at alarming rates, this may seem to be unfathomable. I have personally bred Collies and Shelties over more years than I would like to count and have found they have a fewer conception, prenatal and postnatal difficulties when fed the higher digestibility foods from such companies as Iams/Eukanuba, Nutra Max, and Purina Pro Plan. Other breeders find Science Diet to be better for their dogs due to the corn base. These products are more expensive short term but average out in price over the course of months.

Brucellosis is a disease that is usually spread by sexual intercourse or vaginal excretions. It is bacterial based and can cause sterility, swollen lymph nodes and poor coat condition, as well as painfully swollen joints in both males and females In females brucellosis, can also cause abortion while in males swollen or shrunken testicles may appear. Breeders who which to ensure the health of their dogs will often require a brucellosis test to be done and the results brought with the dog to be bred. A positive result is an automatic denial for breeding.

Herpesvirus in dogs often goes unnoticed in adult dogs because the symptoms simply don't become drastic enough to be observed. A female will occasionally show mild vaginitis but the ones to suffer are the newborn puppies. These puppies become infected as they pass through the birth canal or by infected saliva from the mother. At birth, puppies will appear healthy only to die suddenly after a very short period (no longer than 24 hrs) of illness. If herpes virus is suspected or has been confirmed by a veterinarian, the dog should be spayed or neutered to keep from possibly infecting other dogs.

Venereal Granulomas are also the result of intercourse with an infected dog. The disease causes soft tumors in the genital areas of both male and female dogs. As with other venereal diseases, venereal granulomas can be passed on to puppies from an infected mother.

Females have several reproductive problems of their own. A few of these are:

Breast or mammary tumors are one of the most common of all tumors in female dogs that weren't spayed before their first heat cycle. Statistically speaking, nearly half of the mammary tumors seen by veterinarians are benign. These benign tumors are usually small, firm lumps near the breasts nipple. They can start out feeling like a BB under the skin and rapidly grow into a rapidly growing mass. Malignant tumors are actually in the breast tissue itself. These tend to spread rapidly from the breasts, into the lymph system as well as the lungs. One of the best preventative measures for mammary tumors is to have females that are not breeding material spayed before their first heat cycle. By removing the incidence of drastic hormonal changes that occur during heat cycles, the studies have shown the incidence of mammary tumors to be greatly diminished.

Pyometra is a uterine infection that turns deadly if left untreated and can still be fatal with proper medical intervention. This infection can of course only occur in unsprayed females since it involves the inside of the uterus itself. Pyometra can occur after or during a heat cycle, as a result of a retained puppy or placenta after having given birth or from the use of non-sterile whelping instruments. The uterus literally fills with pus and in some cases actually ruptures. The symptoms may include a foul-smelling, thick and/or bloody vaginal discharge, and distinct lack of appetite, lethargy, depression, vomiting, and diarrhea as well as an elevated temperature. The best course of action in cases of pyometra is to immediately spay the dog and place it on antibiotics.

Yeast infections or vaginitis may not be noticeable except by excessive licking of the genital area by the female or an unexpected display of interest on the part of a male dog. Vaginitis can cause a discharge that can stain the vulva area as well as signs of a painful urination. The most common medical treatment involves the administration of antibiotics over a course of several days.

Not to be left out, males have their own particular reproductive problems.

Undescended testicles not only inhibit the ability to produce sperm, but they can also become problems later in life as the testicular tissue becomes cancerous. The testicles of most male dogs will descend into the scrotum shortly after birth. Some dogs seem to have the ability to draw them upward while being examined as puppies. By six months both testicles should be down and stay that way. Those in which both testicles are retained are called Cryptorchid and those with one descended are called Monochids. Dogs exhibiting either condition should not be bred, as it can be a hereditary problem. The best thing an owner can do for a dog with undescended is to have him neutered as definite links between the condition and testicular cancer have been established.

Inflammation of the testicles or orchitis can cause infertility if not treated promptly. It can be caused by disease or injury to the testicles. The symptoms are usually inflamed, excessively firm, enlarged testicles that are painful for the dog. The first sign an owner has that something is amiss may be the dog walking strangely or spraddle legged and a desire to lay on cold surfaces like tile or in tubs. Dogs having these symptoms should be seen immediately for treatment by a veterinarian. Those that are not for breeding purposes should be neutered; those that are to be bred could become infertile if proper treatment isn't received.