Cryptorchidism in Small Breed Dogs: How to Detect and Treat
A Guest Post by Jennifer Humeny
Small dogs have big benefits: Their hearts and personalities are so large that they can seem even bigger than their tiny bodies. But there are some unique challenges with owning and breeding small dogs. Cryptorchidism, or undescended testicles, is one of them.
This problem is more common in smaller breeds.
A dog’s testicles usually descend into the scrotum by the time they are two months old. It’s normal for this to occur later in some breeds, but it should always happen by the time the dog is six months old.
When one or both testes fails to descend, this means it remains somewhere in the lower part of the dog’s body. It may be in the inguinal canal, which is a passage in the groin that passes the spermatic cord to the testes. If this is the case, your veterinarian can tell by a simple physical examination.
If the testes are sitting further in the body, your dog will need an ultrasound before your vet can take any further action.
Cryptorchidism can affect any dog, but toy and miniature breeds are more susceptible.
There aren’t any definitive answers as to why dogs get cryptorchidism, but some have theorized that it may be due to a genetic flaw.
Another theory purports that the condition may be linked to something that took place in the mother’s uterus while the fetus was developing. If this theory is correct, it would mean that cryptorchidism was a birth defect.
Others believe that cryptorchidism is caused by environmental factors. Regardless of its cause, we know that cryptorchidism is not a preventable condition. If your puppy is affected, it doesn’t mean the breeder was irresponsible in any way or did anything wrong.
This condition is rarely painful so it can be difficult to spot unless you are looking for signs. However, it is important to look for signs of cryptorchidism because this condition can drastically increase your dog’s chances of developing testicular cancer.
Be on the lookout for the following signs that your dog’s testicles have not descended:
This may be surprising to some dog owners, but a dog with retained testicles can impregnate a female. It’s even possible if you think you’ve had your dog neutered. But when cryptorchid dogs go in for the neutering procedure, only one testicle would have been removed.
Breeders who try to breed cryptorchid dogs may also find that some have trouble impregnating a female because the sperm development has been impaired.
Again, it may be difficult to tell whether your dog’s testicles have descended without looking for signs, but the condition can pose a threat to your pet’s health – so it’s a good idea to check.
Retained testicles can become infected or develop malignant tumors at much higher rates than descended testicles. Retained testicles are also more prone to twisting, which can cause the sudden onset of severe abdominal pain.
There is some evidence that alternative treatments, such as hormone injections or homeopathic remedies for cryptorchidism, may help the testicles descend without surgery.
If you are considering a more traditional approach, the first step is for your vet to locate the undescended testicles. This can be a difficult undertaking. If the undescended testicle cannot be found in a physical exam, most vets will use a transabdominal ultrasound.
The cost of the removal procedure will vary but expect that it will always be more than neutering. However, there are some very rare exceptions where the testicle can be massaged down into the scrotum. In this case, you can avoid surgery, and the cost will be substantially lower.
If you are looking to breed this dog, you may be wondering whether the vet can relocate the undescended testicle. Unfortunately, a procedure such as this is unethical as the surgically relocated testicle carries the same health risks as it does when it is retained.