Prostatic Disease in Cats

By Malcolm Weir, DVM, MSc, MPH; Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM

What is the prostate?

The prostate is a small gland located near the neck of the urinary bladder of male cats. The urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body) passes under the prostate shortly after leaving the bladder.

In cats, the prostate does not encircle the urethra entirely as in dogs; it covers only the top and sides. The purpose of the prostate is to produce some of the fluids found in semen.

Prostate disease is extremely rare in cats.

What are the clinical signs of prostatic disease in cats?

Enlargement of the prostate gland is common with most prostatic diseases. Since the urethra passes under the prostate, enlargement of the gland compresses the urethra and urination can become difficult and uncomfortable. Complete urethral obstruction may occur with prostatic disease.

"Cats with prostate enlargement often have a history of straining to defecate or urinate."

If the prostate is very enlarged, the colon, located just above the prostate, may also become compressed, causing difficulty with passing bowel movements. Cats with prostate enlargement often have a history of straining to defecate or urinate. Bloody urine may be seen with a prostatic disease but may also be seen with other diseases.

What are the diseases that cause the prostate to enlarge?

Because of the significant lack of noted prostate disease in cats, not much is known. They may experience similar conditions to dogs, though only rare cases of prostate cancer have been noted.

How is prostatic disease diagnosed?

Enlargement of the prostate may be noted by your veterinarian on a rectal exam. Radiographs (X-rays) or an ultrasound examination may be required to diagnose an enlarged prostate gland.

Other tests to determine the exact cause of a patient's condition may include:

  • Culture of the cat's urine to determine if there is a bacterial infection
  • Microscopic examination of the cells in the urine
  • Microscopic examination of the cells in prostatic fluid or in the prostate itself from a fine needle aspiration (FNA). FNA involves taking a small needle with a syringe and suctioning a sample of cells directly from the prostate, then placing them on a microscope slide. A veterinary pathologist then examines the slide under a microscope.
  • Complete blood count (CBC) to look for systemic inflammation or infection and a biochemical panel to look for abnormalities in other organ systems

Prostate cancer in cats is extremely aggressive and, often, the first noted sign may be a sudden and progressive onset of illness.

How is prostatic disease treated?

Because of the rare occurrence of prostate disease in cats, very little is known about treatment. Surgery has been used in a few rare cases. Radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be useful, but its effectiveness is unknown. Long-term anti-inflammatory medications used in dogs are not recommended for use in cats due to the risk of sudden onset of kidney failure and death. Supportive care to alleviate urinary or fecal straining may be recommended. Surgery to remove part of the urethra or to redirect the urine flow may be used but is not without complications.

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