Health Risks Related to Undescended Testicles on Dogs

Written by elizabeth tumbarello
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Health Risks Related to Undescended Testicles on Dogs
Cryptorchidism is the phrase for undescended canine testicles. (dog image by cathy stancil from Fotolia.com)

When a male puppy is born, his testicles are hidden inside of his abdomen. As he grows, the testicles descend into the scrotal sack. In rare instances, one or both of the dog's testicles do not descend by the prescribed age range of 8 to 12 weeks. The medical phrase pertaining to undescended testicles in dogs is cryptorchidism, a disorder that can lead to further health complications.

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Testicular Torsion

Testicular torsion is a condition marked by the twisting of a testicle on the end of its blood supply and spermatic cords. The testicle loses oxygen and blood and swells, backing up with lactic acid and carbon dioxide, a process noted in "The Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians." This painful condition can occur in dogs with normal testicles, but appears significantly more often in cryptorchid dogs as noted in "Clinical Endocrinology of Dogs and Cats." This is because descended testicles are held tightly in place by the scrotal sack, while cryptorchid testicles have a greater range of motion within the body. The symptoms of testicular torsion in a cryptorchid dog include abdominal pain, unwillingness to eat, lethargy, panting, pacing, vomiting and crying when touched. If left untreated, the testicle will rot and die, causing severe inflammation of the abdomen, fluid retention, vomiting and shock. Treatment involves removing the testicle and the administration of pain relief and supportive care to the dog.

Testicular Cancer

Dogs with undescended testicles are at a 13-percent higher risk for developing testicular cancer than their normal counterparts, who already have a 10-percent risk for developing the disease if the testicles are left intact, as noted in "Arthur's Veterinary Reproduction and Obstetrics." Steroli cell tumours, seminomas and Leydig cell tumours are the three most common forms of cancerous growths found in cryptorchid dogs according to "Cancer in Dogs and Cats: Medical and Surgical Management." Steroli cell tumours occur when the cells that help spermatozoa mature mutate and replicate. Seminomas are cancerous growths stemming from mutated cells that produce sperm. Leydig cell tumours occur when the cells that regulate and produce testosterone mutate and replicate. Steroli cell tumours and seminomas can both grow to the size of a basketball if left unchecked as noted in "The Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians." Both tumours also have a high possibility of spreading to other organs, or metastasising. Leydig cell tumours are typically benign and rarely metastasise. Visible tumour growth, abdominal pain and bleeding, organ dysfunction, infection, shock, weight loss and death are symptoms seen in dogs who develop cancer in undescended testicles. Castration and supportive care are the recommended treatment options for these dogs.

Excess Estrogen

Steroli cell tumours create oestrogen, a hormone typically found in low quantities in males. The excess production of oestrogen can cause a dog with an undescended testicle to act and appear more feminine. The dog's mammary glands grow larger and the dog's skin and coat may darken. Hair loss occurs over the dog's body. Dogs with too much oestrogen as a result of an undescended testicle lose their libido and may change their behaviour when urinating, squatting instead of lifting their legs. Oestrogen toxicity is possible in cryptorchid dogs, causing prostate problems, anaemia and bone marrow hypoplasia, where the bone marrow cells die and are unable to produce red and white blood cells. "Arthur's Veterinary Reproduction and Obstetrics" recommends castration and supportive oncological care.

Excesss Testosterone

Dogs with undescended testicles may produce more testosterone than their normal counterparts, especially if they develop Leydig cell tumours. Dogs with too much testosterone experience an increased libido and an increase in aggression and predatory behaviours according to "The Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians." This leads to prostate problems, perianal tumours and sexual dysfunction. Castration and supportive care are recommended for cryptorchid dogs with too much testosterone.

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