Undescended testicles are not something pet owners routinely search for. Yet if left where they are, they can pose serious health problems.
Take the case of Squeek Cunnington, a 15 year old Jack Russell, who presented at our Country Animal Clinic in Somerset West with a large mass in his abdomen. The mass, said his owners, was making it uncomfortable for him to move around and to defaecate.
Dr Adri scanned his abdomen and ascertained that the growth didn’t involve the spleen or the liver but in fact looked like a retained testicle that had become cancerous.
Although Squeek was an anaesthetic risk due to his age, he couldn’t carry on with the mass and we proceeded to surgery. The mass was indeed a cancerous testicle. Squeek recovered well after the surgery but is struggling with incontinence due to bladder issues caused by the growth pushing on his bladder for an extended length of time.
How does an undescended testicle happen?
Retained testicles, or cryptorchid (literally “hidden testicles), can be a major health risk and not many people are aware of that it can happen or that they can be a problem. The testicles develop just behind the kidneys in the foetus and soon after birth a ligament called the gubernaculum pulls the testes into the scrotum. Testes need a cooler temperature than body temperature and that is why they normally appear in the scrotum. In some cases they don’t descend all the way into the scrotum and can then be found anywhere from the kidney to just outside the inguinal canal, under the skin.
Due to the warmer temperature in these areas the testicles can become cancerous. In some cases, as with Squeek, they are benign. In many cases, however, they transform into highly malignant, aggressive cancers and often result in euthanasia of the pet.
What you can do
- Check your puppy’s testicles to ensure that both have descended into the scrotum – sometimes only one does, or neither. By the age of 3-6 months they should both be present.
- Ensure your puppies and kittens are taken to your vet for their vaccinations because that’s when we routinely check them over.
- If one or both testicles have not descended it is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to have the dog or cat castrated and for the vet to find and remove the undescended testicle to prevent cancer later in life.
- This is also an inherited disease so you don’t want to breed with an animal that has undescended testicles.
Just because you don’t see the testicles doesn’t mean they are not there … in fact they are a problem brewing.