Cryptorchidism, a condition in which a male’s testicles fail to descend into the scrotum, is a relatively common defect in dogs. While it is more uncommon in cats, it still warrants attention. Understanding the causes, implications, and treatment options for cryptorchidism is crucial for the well-being of our furry friends.
The Development of Testicles
During development, a structure called the gubernaculum connects the testicles to the scrotum. When this structure fails to develop properly, the testicles do not make their way into the scrotum and can end up in various locations such as the abdomen or inguinal canal.
In puppies, the testes are usually palpable in the scrotum by 8 weeks of age, while in kittens, it typically happens between 8 to 16 weeks. However, scrotal and suprascrotal testes can be challenging to detect if the testes are small or if the animal is obese. Furthermore, some retained testicles may not be palpable during a physical examination.
Unilateral and Bilateral Cryptorchidism
Cryptorchidism can occur unilaterally (on one side) or bilaterally (on both sides). Unilateral cryptorchidism usually involves the right testicle. Animals with bilateral cryptorchidism are generally sterile due to the higher temperature inside the abdomen, which prevents sperm production. It’s important to note that even though these animals may still exhibit male behaviors, they should not be used for breeding purposes.
Breeds and Risk Factors
While cryptorchidism can occur in any breed or mixed breed, certain dog breeds have a higher likelihood of being affected. These breeds include Yorkshire terriers, Pomeranians, French poodles, Siberian huskies, miniature schnauzers, Shetland sheepdogs, Chihuahuas, German shepherds, dachshunds, and brachycephalic breeds. The condition is considered to be an X-linked, autosomal-recessive trait.
Health Implications and Recommended Actions
Dogs with cryptorchid testicles are prone to testicular torsion and testicular cancer. To prevent these problems, it is recommended to have the animals neutered. Surgical removal of the testicles is the only treatment for cryptorchidism. Even if the animal has unilateral cryptorchidism, both testicles should be surgically removed to prevent complications and the possibility of cryptorchid offspring.
Cryptorchidism in Cats
Cryptorchidism is less common in cats, with Persian cats being the most frequently associated breed. Cats with cryptorchidism may have other congenital abnormalities, such as patellar luxation, shortened or kinked tails, tetralogy of Fallot, tarsal deformity, microphthalmia, or upper eyelid agenesis. Unlike dogs, it may be possible to visually differentiate between a castrated cat and one with retained testicles, as cryptorchid cats have barbs on the penis.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A testosterone assay can be used to differentiate between a castrated male and a cryptorchid male. Surgical removal of the testicles is the only treatment option. This surgery may be more complicated than a typical neuter surgery due to the difficulty in locating the cryptorchid testicle. Depending on the case, some pets may go home on the same day, while others may need to stay overnight at the hospital. A 2-week recuperation period with reduced activity is recommended to allow the surgical site to heal properly.
During the recuperation period, many males will need to wear a protective Elizabethan collar to prevent them from licking or chewing at the incision. Owners should regularly check the incision for redness and swelling, which could indicate a post-operative infection or self-trauma. Non-dissolvable skin sutures, if used, will need to be removed by a veterinarian around 10 to 14 days after surgery.
Animals that have undergone surgical removal of both testicles, without any other defects, can generally expect to live a normal lifespan for their breed.
Understanding cryptorchidism and its implications is essential for responsible pet ownership. If you suspect that your dog or cat may have retained testicles, it is important to consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and guidance. For more information on animal health and well-being, visit Katten TrimSalon.