Cryptorchidism (Retained Testicles) In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

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Cryptorchidism in dogs happens when one or both testicles are retained in the abdomen and fail to descend into the scrotum. Usually the testes descend by the time a puppy is two months old, and though it may be earlier or later in some breeds, it rarely happens after the age of six months. Generally, if one or both testicles haven’t descended by the age of four months, cryptorchidism is suspected. The right testicle is twice as likely to be affected by cryptorchidism as the left testicle, and when only one testicle is affected, the condition is known as unilateral cryptorchidism. When both testicles are affected, it is called bilateral cryptorchidism. The un-descended testicles may either be retained in the inguinal canal, a passageway that connects the spermatic cord to the testes, or they may be retained elsewhere in the abdomen. Cryptorchidism can lead to serious complications in dogs, including testicular cancer, so it is important to treat it as soon as possible. If you suspect your dog suffers from cryptorchidism, contact your veterinarian right away so they can diagnose the condition and begin treatment. Here is what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for cryptorchidism in dogs.

Symptoms Of Cryptorchidism In Dogs

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There may be no direct symptoms of cryptorchidism in dogs, but there are several complications that might occur because of it. The main sign of cryptorchidism is that one or both testicles haven’t descended by around the age of four months. If an un-descended testicle is retained in the inguinal canal, a veterinarian will likely be able to feel it by using abdominal palpitations, but if it is located elsewhere in the abdomen, an ultrasound may be needed to determine its location.

One of the complications that may occur with cryptorchidism is spermatic cord torsion, which happens when the spermatic cord twists around itself, cutting off the blood supply to the testes. This will result in severe, acute abdominal pain. Another common complication of cryptorchidism is testicular cancer. The risk of testicular cancer is ten times higher in dogs with cryptorchidism than dogs that do not have the condition. Symptoms depend on the type of cancer. Dogs with cryptorchidism may be infertile, as the testicles that haven’t descended generally fail to produce sperm, though they continue to produce testosterone.

There are a few developmental abnormalities that tend to occur alongside cryptorchidism, including deformities in the legs, tail, eyes, and eyelids. Dogs with cryptorchidism may also suffer from hip dysplasia, luxating patellas (dislocated kneecaps), and a life-threatening heart defect called tetralogy of the Fallot.

Cause Of Cryptorchidism In Dogs

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The exact cause of cryptorchidism in dogs is not known, though it is suspected that there is a genetic component. While cryptorchidism can affect dogs of all breeds, it appears more commonly in toy breeds such as toy Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, and Pomeranians. It is suggested that dogs that have cryptorchidism be neutered so they cannot pass on the condition.

Some suspect that the issue is not genetic, but instead appears as the result of something that happens within the uterus during fetal development. It may be an environmental condition that only affects members of the same litter. Whatever the case, the condition is currently not preventable.

Treatments For Cryptorchidism In Dogs

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - SEPTEMBER 28: A dog lays on makeshift operating table as volunteer veterenarians conduct free spaying and neutering services during World Rabies Day celebrations on September 28, 2013 in Rizal, Philippines. World Rabies Day is an international campaign which is held on September 28th. Launched in 2007, World Rabies Day aims to raise awareness about the public health impact of human and animal rabies. (Photo by Veejay Villafranca/Getty Images for WSPA)

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The treatment for cryptorchidism in dogs is neutering. It is important to get this done both to prevent complications such as testicular cancer and to prevent the dog from potentially passing on the condition to offspring. The procedure for neutering a dog with cryptorchidism is more complicated than it is with dogs who do not have cryptorchidism. This is because it usually involves cutting open the abdomen and, in cases where the testicle cannot be found with an ultrasound, some medical exploration. Both testicles should be removed, even if only one is affected.

There are a few experimental treatments that have been attempted, including hormone injections in puppies and artificially descending the testicles, but even testicles that have been artificially descended retain the same high risk of testicular cancer. These treatments are considered unethical, and when breeders have tried to continue a line in spite of a dog’s cryptorchidism, it usually results in pain for the affected dog. Neutering is generally safe and allows a dog to live a normal, healthy life in most cases.

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