Goals of Treating Retained Testicles
Cryptorchidism is the failure of one or both testicles to descend normally from the abdomen into the scrotum of young intact male dogs. The goals of treating this disorder are to prevent subsequent torsion of the retained testicle(s) and to prevent development of testicular cancer. Treatment is also designed to prevent propagation of genetic abnormalities and to eliminate undesirable male behavioral traits associated with testosterone.
The therapeutic goals for cryptorchid dogs are all best accomplished by castration and removal of both testicles, whether they are retained or in the proper anatomical location. There is anecdotal evidence that certain medical “therapies,” such as hormone injections, may stimulate descent of retained testicles in puppies treated before 4 months of age, although this has not been proven. The ethics of such techniques are highly questionable given the genetic component of this disorder. Most breeders agree that cryptorchid dogs should not be considered candidates for breeding. Their fathers, male siblings and any male offspring have an increased chance of being genetic carriers of the condition, even if they do not have it themselves.
Undescended testicles can be difficult to locate. Transabdominal ultrasound can be very helpful to veterinarians trying to find retained testes, especially before surgery. Removal of retained testicles usually is more expensive than a normal castration procedure, because it almost always involves abdominal exploration. In rare cases, a retained testicle can be manually massaged down into the scrotum, making it easier and less costly to remove. A procedure that surgically relocates a retained testis into the scrotum – called orchiopexy – is not considered to be ethical among veterinary professionals or reputable breeders. Moreover, artificially relocated testicles carry the same increased risk of becoming cancerous as do testicles that remain retained.
After surgical removal of undescended testes, the dog will need some down time to recover. He should be given soft, thick bedding in a quiet area, with free access to fresh water. His activities should be restricted for a week or two, until the surgical incision has healed and the swelling has resolved.
Dogs with retained testicles have a much greater risk of developing testicular cancer than do dogs whose testicles both descend normally. In fact, neoplastic tumors occur in roughly 50 percent of undescended testicles – a ten-fold increase over the risk of cancer in non-retained testes. Surgical correction of cryptorchidism should involve removal of both testicles, regardless of their location in the scrotum, inguinal canal or abdomen. With this treatment and appropriate post-operative supportive care, the prognosis for affected dogs is excellent.