Men, it is time to cross your legs and feel very sorry for this chap called Charlie, a 5 year old working Labrador retriever who had a very unfortunate accident.
Charlie presented to us one afternoon with an inability to urinate. This is an extremely worrying scenario, whatever the cause, as it can lead to serious complications which can be detrimental to your dog’s health. Such complications can include an over distended bladder leading to infection or future incontinence issues and, if not treated, the dog would go into acute kidney failure and the bladder could rupture.
Emergency treatment and diagnostic procedures were immediately started and the veterinary team took a blood sample to run in our in-house laboratory.
You may be wondering why blood samples are necessary in a condition such as this? Well they are incredibly important, as when a dog’s bladder is blocked, the renal system including the kidneys is under a huge amount of increased pressure due to the failure of drainage. If left for too long the kidneys can swell and ultimately cease to work. With the build up of urine that cannot be expelled, comes the inability to eliminate waste products. These waste products then build up in the blood stream causing toxicity. One of the most significant parameters we check in a blocked bladder case is for levels of potassium which is normally eliminated by the kidneys. Potassium is acidic and raised levels in the blood (also called Hyperkalaemia) can have a direct impact on the hearts ability to function normally.
Thankfully Charlie’s blood results were within normal ranges and x-rays were taken of the urinary tract to identify the cause of the blockage.
The urinary system comprises the kidneys, ureters (tubes that pass urine from the kidneys to the bladder), the bladder and finally the urethra, which is the long tube shown in the diagram, that is the tube from the bladder to the outside.
Dogs, unlike humans, have a bone that is found in the penis called the os penis or baculum. This bone is located above the male urethra and helps in sexual reproduction, allowing prolonged periods of mating. The os penis surrounds the urethra and the diameter of the urethra narrows as it passes through the bone. Unbeknown to the owner, Charlie had managed to fracture this bone which is clearly visible on the x-ray shown.
We have no idea how this happened but similar cases have been seen in racing injuries, fight wounds, road traffic accidents and it most commonly occurs if the penis twists during mating.
A catheter was inserted into Charlie’s urethra to allow the bladder to empty and the veterinary surgeon investigated the best surgical options. The original thought was to place a metal plate to fix the two broken pieces of the os penis together but research suggests that this is not normally needed as the fractured bits of bone can heal sufficiently, even if there are several pieces. This technique might be considered in other cases involving entire breeding males, where the use of the os penis is needed for breeding, but this wasn’t the case for Charlie as he was already castrated.
Once Charlie was placed under general anaesthetic, it was found that the obstruction was not at the point of the bone fracture but was actually due to massive swelling and bruising at the base of the penis.
The Surgeon performed a procedure called a urethrotomy which means creating a new opening for the urethra. This temporary new opening is created just between the scrotum and the base of the penis and allows the urine to bypass the area of obstruction. The surgery was extremely tricky due to the severe inflammation and lack of visibility at the site. It was hoped that once the inflammation regressed Charlie would regain normal use of his urethra and be able to urinate normally again through his penis. If this didn’t occur Charlie would have needed a permanent opening called a urethrostomy.
After a successful recovery in the hospital overnight Charlie went home the very next day. He came back 5 days later to see Helen and his recovery was excellent as he had already started to urinate through his penis. At his 10 day check the temporary urethrotomy had healed up and Charlie was fully recovered.
Charlie may always have broken ‘tackle’ but this will not affect him at all in the future. Now free from pain and discomfort, he is getting back to his normal duties as a working Labrador. He is loving his work as much as ever as you can see clearly from the video his owner sent us.