Paraphimosis in Dogs

Barri J. Morrison, DVM
By Barri J. Morrison, DVM on Nov. 13, 2023
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In This Article


What Is Paraphimosis in Dogs?

Paraphimosis occurs when a dog is unable to retract his penis into the loose sheath of skin that protects it, known as the prepuce.

Paraphimosis is diagnosed when the penis is stuck outside of the prepuce for more than two hours. This condition differs from priapism, which occurs when the penis is erect for more than two hours. 

Once a dog’s penis becomes stuck, the tissues of the penis swell and it becomes even more difficult to retract.

The exposed, sensitive mucosal tissue on the surface of the penis quickly becomes dry and painful. Dogs often respond by excessively licking the irritated tissue, which causes more damage.

Dogs with paraphimosis are unable to mate, as mating can significantly damage the tissues of an affected penis.

If your dog has paraphimosis, you can try to clean the area with gentle soap and warm water. Pet parents can also apply a sterile lubricant that could help ease your dog’s penis back into the sheath.

Even if you are successful in doing so, it's important that your dog have a checkup with their vet as soon as possible. This is to ensure there’s not any internal damage and that it won’t happen again.

Paraphimosis is painful and is considered a medical emergency. Paraphimosis should be immediately treated by your dog’s veterinarian or an emergency veterinary hospital. Waiting to treat this condition can cause dire consequences.

Symptoms of Paraphimosis in Dogs

Some signs of paraphimosis in dogs include:

  • Excessive licking of the exposed penis (this is often the only sign)

  • Visible swelling and redness of the penis

  • Abnormal penile discharge

  • Urine dribbling

  • Trouble urinating

  • Edema or fluid accumulation in the tissues surrounding the penis

  • Posthitis (swelling of the foreskin)

If your dog’s penis is stuck outside the sheath and you are unable to reduce it, they must be evaluated by a veterinarian right away.

Causes of Paraphimosis in Dogs

Paraphimosis isn’t common in dogs who naturally mate. This condition typically occurs after a dog has an erection after manual semen collection for breeding purposes.

Commonly, matted hair forms a ring around the base of a dog’s penis that cuts off blood flow. This ring acts as a tourniquet, and as a result, the dog’s penis and surrounding tissues become swollen.

Additional causes of paraphimosis include:

  • Edges of the penile sheath rolling inward

  • Foreign objects or materials stuck in the sheath

  • Infection

  • Trauma, such as fracture of the os penis (the penis bone)

  • Neurologic disease

  • Muscle weakness

  • Priapism

  • Cancer

Although any male dogs can develop paraphimosis, it’s more common in unneutered male dogs since the condition is typically triggered by ejaculation.

Genetics may also play a role. Bouvier des Flandres, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers are the most commonly affected breeds.

Some dogs may be born with a narrow sheath opening, while others may have sustained an injury or disease that leads to paraphimosis.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Paraphimosis in Dogs

Paraphimosis is often diagnosed with a physical examination and the taking of a dog’s medical history. Your vet should be able to visualize the issue without diagnostic testing.

However, a urinalysis and biopsy of the affected penile tissues may be needed if there’s an abnormality of the penis, such as the presence of a growth, or if your vet suspects an infection.

If a fracture of the os penis is suspected, an X-ray may be indicated.

Treatment of Paraphimosis in Dogs

Paraphimosis can easily be treated by your veterinarian if it’s caught early and your dog is seen before severe swelling and pain develops.

If paraphimosis has just occurred and minimal swelling is present, you can apply dog-safe lubrication and gentle pressure to help reposition the penis into its sheath. However, most cases of paraphimosis must be treated by a veterinarian.

Your vet may place an intravenous (IV) catheter into your dog in their lower front leg. They will administer pain medication or sedation before correcting the paraphimosis.

They will gently clean your dog’s penis and prepuce and clip the surrounding fur. They will then apply a lubricant to the exposed penis and attempt to move it back into the sheath.

If the penis does not retract easily, a sugar solution, cold compress, or pressure with a gloved hand can be used to help reduce the swelling before replacement is attempted again.

If your dog’s penis will not remain in the sheath once it’s retracted, a special suture technique called a purse string can be used to keep the penis in the prepuce.

Severe cases of paraphimosis may require general anesthesia and a surgical procedure to correct the issue and ensure that your dog’s urethra (the tube that takes urine from the bladder and is emptied outside the body) is not affected. If the urethra is affected, a urinary catheter will be placed while the urethra heals.

If a dog’s paraphimosis is due to an anatomical anomaly, such as a small preputial opening, reconstructive surgery can be performed. This will create a larger opening for your dog and prevent paraphimosis from happening again. 

Recovery and Management of Paraphimosis in Dogs

After paraphimosis correction, your dog will need to wear a comfy collar until they have completely healed to prevent them from licking the area.

Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat any infection present or to prevent infection from developing. Anti-inflammatory and pain medications may also be prescribed.

If surgery was performed, suture removal will be needed approximately 10 to 14 days after your pup’s procedure.

Prevention of Paraphimosis in Dogs

There are a few things you can do to prevent paraphimosis in your dog:

  • Keep the hair around their prepuce short and free from debris.

  • Ensure your dog’s genitalia is clean and lubricated before breeding.

  • Clean your dog’s penis and prepuce after breeding or semen collection.

  • Inspect your dog’s penis and prepuce regularly to ensure there are no issues. This can be part of your bathing and grooming routine.

Paraphimosis in dogs can be treated easily if caught early. While this condition can occur in any male dog, pups that are bred are usually most affected and should be monitored very closely when doing so.

Remember—even if you can get your dog’s penis back into the sheath, a vet visit is always recommended to ensure your dog has a full recovery.

Paraphimosis in Dogs: FAQs

Can dogs live with paraphimosis?

A dog can't live with untreated paraphimosis, as it will cause significant pain and death of the penile tissue over time.

Infection can also develop and spread throughout the body, causing severe illness and life-threatening sepsis.

Can paraphimosis in dogs go away on its own?

Paraphimosis correction rarely occurs without intervention from a vet. If your dog’s penis is stuck outside of its sheath for more than two hours, they must have medical treatment immediately.

Featured Image: infinityyy/iStock / Getty Images Plus

Barri J. Morrison, DVM


Barri J. Morrison, DVM


Barri Morrison was born and raised and currently resides in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She went to University of Florida for her...

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