Cryptorchidism in dogs is a condition that is congenital (present at birth) and results in one or both testicles failing to descend normally. This is a common condition that usually has no particular ill effects, provided the cryptorchid dog is neutered. If left intact, cryptorchid dogs may pass on the condition to male offspring, and will have a significantly heightened risk of testicular cancer.
How to Tell If Your Puppy Is a Cryptorchid
If your puppy is at least eight weeks old and both testicles have not descended into the scrotum, he probably suffers from cryptorchidism. In some cases, the retained testicle or testicles may descend late at up to one year of age. If you intend to show your dog it may be worth waiting until he is one year old to see if his testicles descend late. However, even if this occurs and you are able to show the dog, you should not use him for breeding. Testicles rarely descend after eight weeks of age, and a dog whose testicles descend late will likely pass on the trait of cryptorchidism to some of his male offspring if used for breeding.
If you found your puppy or for some other reason were not able to obtain his past medical history, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a dog with bilateral cryptorchidism (neither testicle has descended) and a dog that has already been neutered. If your puppy appears to have no testicles but behaves like an unaltered male, consider an abdominal ultrasound or a blood test for testosterone levels indicating the presence of retained testicles.
What to Do If Your Puppy Is a Cryptorchid
If your puppy is determined to have cryptorchidism, the best course of action is to neuter him promptly to reduce his risk of testicular cancer. Most retained testicles are under-developed and may not function properly, which is likely part of the reason a retained testicle is more likely to develop cancer. Additionally, testicles and sperm are sensitive to heat— that’s why they’re normally located outside the body in the first place. If a testicle is inside the abdomen or groin, it’s likely that most sperm produced would not survive.
Neutering a cryptorchid dog is more like spaying a female dog than neutering a typical male. An incision will be made in the abdomen or groin area, and the surgeon will follow the spermatic cord to locate the retained testicle or testicles and castrate the dog. Aftercare is essentially the same as it would be for a female after spaying. Give painkillers or anti-inflammatory medications if your vet prescribes them, keep the patient calm, and prevent licking or chewing at the incision. Return to the vet for a follow-up exam as scheduled, or if you notice excessive redness around the incision or any apparent infection.