Paraphimosis: Help My Dog’s Penis Won’t Go Back In

Paraphimosis treatments to try at home for dogs.
By Shea Cox DVM, CVPP, CHPV, March 2013, Updated June 2021
dog erection paraphimosis dog

As dog owners we’re accustom to all matter of gross things associated with dogs and that includes seeing dog penis peeking out from beneath the 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

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?

More common causes of paraphimosis in dogs can 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.

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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% of penile problems in dogs, and while not common, it is uncomfortable and can cause distress to pets (and their owners) and can have more serious consequences if left untreated or if it becomes a recurring issue. 

How Do You Treat Paraphimosis in Dogs

Treatment for paraphimosis is generally conservative in nature, and many of these interventions can first be tried at home. Here is what you can do if this condition if noted in your pet. This isn't 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 to 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 resolve within 30 minutes, and if the dog 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 had died off due to lack of blood supply, and these poor pups required a partial penis amputation—this is a true emergency in our pets.

dog penis won't go back in

Boston Terrier Photo: Napoleonia / Pixabay Paraphimosis Photo: Shutterstock

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.

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