Waiting for the Ball to Drop: Cryptorchidism



Written by: Dr. Chip Coombs

When male puppies are born (and male cats as well) their testicles are still in their abdomen generally close to the kidneys. Usually over the next 2 months, the testicles will start to descend or migrate from the kidney area through the inguinal canal to take up residence in the scrotum. Sometimes, though, one or both testicles can get hung up along the way and either remain in the abdomen or more often in the inguinal/ groin area just outside the scrotal sac. In these cases, a puppy is known to be a cryptorchid – unilateral (one side is still firing) or bilateral (no cylinders are firing).

In North America it is the usual custom for pet owners to have their dogs sterilized or neutered, for a wide variety of good reasons. In the case of male dogs, neutering is a straightforward procedure that usually involves one small incision just ahead of the scrotum. In the case of a dog being cryptorchid, there usually is more than one incision depending upon where the undescended testicle(s) may be hiding. If one or both are in the abdomen, then there must be an incision into the abdomen to remove it. The surgery is straightforward enough, but it will take longer for your veterinarian to perform the procedure and it is very important to keep your dog quiet for a week or two post-operatively to ensure for proper healing.

Even though a retained testicle is “out of sight, out of mind”, it is even more important to have these affected dogs neutered. In addition to the reasons relevant to all non-breeding dogs – prevention of behavioural problems, prostatic disease, population control, etc. – there are some key medical issues that are not as relevant to non-cryptorchid dogs. Testicles that are retained in the abdomen are about 1 degree warmer in temperature than a testicle in the scrotum and there are two consequences of this scenario:

1. The testicle is sterile, and can produce no viable sperm, but it is significantly more prone to develop cancer. And, because the testicle cannot be seen, the cancer can be well advanced before it is discovered.

2. The other consideration as to the importance of neutering all cryptorchid dogs (and cats) is that the condition is believed to be a genetic trait. So, the only way to prevent this defect from being transmitted through future generations is ensure such a dog is never used for breeding purposes.

As there are no other known associations between cryptorchidism and other body systems, once your dog or cat is neutered, they can look forward to an otherwise happy, healthy & normal life.