[BLOG] Doc, there’s one “ball” missing in this puppy: is it going to be a problem ?

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Just had an interesting conversation with one of my vet colleague concerning ectopic testes, aka missing “balls” (these are ALWAYS nice conversations to have during coffee-breaks). You might have heard about “ectopic testis”, “retained testis”, “cryptorchidism”… All are almost the same (it definitely means there is something missing in the scrotum of the considered dog), the only difference being the localization of this missing testis.

In dogs indeed, at birth, both testes are located inside the abdomen, close to the kidneys. They will progressively descend and should reach the scrotum around weaning (6-8 weeks after birth), even if in some cases they can be palpated 10 days after birth. But sometimes the migration process does not properly work… One or two of the testicules can be “retained”, inside the abdomen (when both of them are intrabdominal we speak about real “cryptorchidism”) or somewhere under the skin just in front of the scrotum.  When you breed dogs, this is definitely NOT something uncommon (depending on the studies, 1.2 to 5% of male pups were affected)!

What does it mean for a canine breeder? Well, typically two things:

–          This individual should not be bred (because it is not necessarily infertile!): ectopic testes are related to “bad genes”, but the determinism is what we call “polygenic” (= multiple genes are involved). In terms of genetic selection, the affected individual only should be removed, to avoid the risk of spreading these “bad genes” in the rest of the breed population.

–          The individual should be castrated: from a medical point of view this would be my first recommendation, we know that retained testes have 13 times more chances to turn into testicular tumors and are also more prone to testicular torsion.

However, no rush! To reach the scrotum these testes must go through an anatomical structure called the inguinal canal. And this one usually closes around 6 months after birth… First thing then: wait! It is not rare to see these puppies in consultation around 4 months of age, but we should wait until they reach 6 months for a definitive diagnosis. You might have heard about medical treatments to help the testicular descent (this is what is proposed in humans) but in my experience the results are really poor after 4 months of age. The best thing to do in my opinion is to massage the undescended testis (if you can palpate it of course!), at least this cannot hurt !

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