Joe Inglis BVSc MRCVS is the vet for the One Show, This Morning and BBC Breakfast. He runs his own line of natural pet food called Pet’s Kitchen
When Harvey the spaniel came in for his routine 6 month check up he looked the picture of health – tail wagging, eyes bright and full of enthusiasm – so neither his owner nor myself were expecting anything other than a straightforward check over. And for the first five minutes of the examination, I found nothing untoward whatsoever – Harvey was clearly a fit and healthy young dog with a strong heart, clear eyes, wet nose, healthy lungs and a good coat. However the final stage of my examination did show that he wasn’t quite 100% perfect and there was a problem that was likely to require treatment, as I explained to his owner, Mrs Mann;
‘Hmm,’ I started as I straightened up from the final stage of my examination at the back end of Harvey’s wriggling body, ‘I’m afraid to say Mrs Mann that there’s a bit of a problem here – Harvey’s only got one descended testicle.’
‘Oh dear,’ exclaimed Mrs Mann, obviously taken aback by the suggestion that all was not right with her beloved dog, ‘only one testicle – is that a serious problem for him, I mean I’m not planning on breeding from him so it shouldn’t really matter should it?’
‘Well, it’s not a major problem but if the testicle doesn’t come down in the next few months it will need to be surgically removed as there is a risk of cancer developing if it is left inside his body long term,’ I explained. ‘What I’d advise is that we check him again in 2 months time and see what’s happened. If it’s still not down then I would strongly recommend that we do operate to remove it at that stage.’
Two months later and Harvey was back, this time with less of his puppyish enthusiasm and a little more grown up dog suspicion of vets in his demeanour. And unfortunately my examination revealed that there had been no change and he still only had one testicle descended. I explained to Mrs Mann that there was a tiny chance that he did only have one testicle, but it was far more likely that there was a second testicle stuck in his abdomen – where it would be at high risk of developing cancerous growth in later life if left in place. The reason for this risk is that testicles usually sit outside the abdomen where the temperature is lower, which suits sperm production. If they are left in the abdomen the higher temperature leads to a high risk of the testicular cells turning malignant and cancer developing.
After a long discussion about the risks involved and the surgical procedure that he would need, Mrs Mann agreed to book Harvey in for the operation the following week. The operation is far more complex than a straightforward neutering procedure as it involves a game of hide and seek for the missing testicle which can be anywhere in the abdomen from the kidney right down to the groin. Finding testicles in these situations can be a real challenge and I have known operations like this one take hours as the elusive organ evades the surgeon.
Thankfully in Harvey’s case the missing testicle was relatively easy to find and the whole procedure was over in a little under half an hour. Despite this relatively speedy operation, it was still around three times as long as a routine castration, and Harvey’s recovery will be slower and more uncomfortable that normal.
I suspect that when I see Harvey for his post op check his character will have become even more suspicious where vets are concerned – but for me saving him from a risk of cancer later in life is well worth any grudge he may bear me personally!
If you are concerned about your dogs health, please contact your vet or use our interactive Dog Symptom Checker to help you decide what to do next. For more information about insurance which could ensure the cost of operations like this one are covered, please see our pet insurance pages.