Cryptorchidism in Dogs
Cryptorchidism is when one or both testicles fail to descend properly into the scrotum. But what does it mean to you, and to your dog, if your dog is diagnosed with cryptorchidism? It is a fairly straightforward condition. This article will introduce you to the causes and consequences of cryptorchidism.
During fetal development, the cells that develop into the gonads (testicles or ovaries) are located in the abdomen. In females, the ovaries remain located in the abdomen. However in males, the testicles migrate from the abdomen and down to the scrotum. Testicles need to be located in the scrotum to maintain proper temperature which is slightly below body temperature. This is why the testicles, in a normal dog, migrate from the abdomen to the scrotum. Unlike humans, dog testicles do not descend until about 4-7 weeks after birth. Veterinarians must take into consideration that there will be a great variety in the timing of this event in different dogs. But generally, if the testicles have not descended into the scrotum by the time the dogs is about 4 months old, the dog is considered to be cryptorchid.
What causes cryptorchidism? In dogs, cryptorchidism is very common, and has been linked to a genetic mutation. There are many causes of cryptorchidism, and sometimes the cause is never discovered. In rare cases, the cryptorchidism is due to an intersex condition. Intersex dogs are uncommon, but do occur. In intersex, there is a problem with the formation of the reproductive system, and dogs can have a wide variety of signs. If the cryptorchidism is associated with intersex, the testicle may be malformed, associated with female reproductive tissues, or even missing. In most cases of cryptorchidism, the testicle fails to make the whole trip from abdomen to scrotum, and is caught part of the way down the normal path. This path is called the inguinal canal. Sometimes the testicle does not move at all, and remains in the abdomen.
It is strongly recommended that cryptorchid dogs are castrated. The surgery is not as simple as a regular castration, so it will be more expensive, and it will probably take your dog longer to recover from it. The surgery is more complicated, because often the veterinarian has to open up the abdomen and explore inside in order to find the testicle. Why do we recommend removing the testicle? A testicle in the wrong part of a dog’s body is useless; the dog will not be able to produce sperm from that testicle. But there are a lot of other concerns. The biggest problem is that cryptorchid dogs are at a much greater risk of testicular cancer. Castration eliminates any chance of testicular cancer. It should be noted that a cryptorchid dog should not be used to breed. The testicle, as mentioned above, is non-functional. Even if the dog does have one functional testicle, we must keep in mind that cryptorchidism is often a genetic trait. This means that a cryptorchid dog may pass this condition on to offspring. In fact, relatives (siblings and parents) may also carry the genes that cause cryptorchidism.
Dogs with cryptorchidism also have a greater risk of developing a testicular torsion. This is when the testicle rotates and twists the ‘stalk’, which contains all the blood vessels. The vessels are then twisted shut and the blood supply to the testicle is closed. The testicle will have no oxygen or nutrition, and will die. This is a very painful condition. These dogs are also at a higher risk for some other complications, like hernias. It is obvious therefore, that there is no good reason to leave the testicle in the body. Although castration surgeries on cryptorchid dogs are more complicated, they have a very high success rate. Cryptorchidism is a very common occurrence in dogs, and is easily treated. For further explanation concerning this condition, please see your veterinarian.
By Ashley O’Driscoll – Pets.ca writer