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Ask a vet online – ‘my dog only has one testicle down – what is the best age to have him neutered?’

Question from Pam Gilmour Hi my chi(huahua) is 6 months , he only has one testicle. I will be having him done, what would be the best age to wait to see if it will come down? Answer from Shanika (online vet) Hi Pam and thank you for your Question regarding the best age to have a dog castrated which has a retained testicle. I will start by explaining a little about the testicles, what they are, where they develop and what can go wrong along the way. The testicles are two oval shaped structures normally found in the scrotum (loose sac of skin near your dog’s bottom). Testicles are male sexual glands and produce the hormone testosterone along with sperm and various other secretions which assist in reproduction. The testicles start developing while the puppy is inside the mother’s uterus (womb); they are at first located inside the abdomen (tummy) and just behind the kidneys. A few days after your puppy has been born the testicles should be in the scrotum, they travel from their starting point down through the abdomen and through an opening called the inguinal ring in order to get to the scrotum. When you take your puppy to the vets to have his first examination they will check for the presence of two testicles in the scrotum, if these cannot be felt then this will be checked again on future visits.  If both testicles are not present this condition is referred to as cryptorchidism (retained testicles), either one (unilateral cryptorchid) or both (bilateral cryptorchid) of the testicles may be missing from the scrotum.  In very rare cases on or both of the testicles has not actually developed at all. What should you do if your dog has cryptorchidism? Your vet is likely to suggest that you wait to see if the missing testicle comes down into the scrotum at a later date, this would usually be by 6 months of age but in some cases can occur up to 1 year of age. What to do if the testicle does not appear? Your vet will discuss a castration procedure with you in which both testicles are removed, it is a simple procedure to remove under general anaesthesia the testicle present in the scrotum, the retained one has to be located in your dog’s abdomen, and this can take some time. The surgical procedure to find and remove the testicle from the abdomen can be tricky as the testicle which has not found its way to the scrotum is often smaller and therefore not so easy to locate in amongst the contents of your dog’s abdomen. Why should I have my dog castrated if he has cryptorchidism? If the testicles are not in their correct location in the scrotum there is an increased chance of them becoming diseased, such as developing into cancerous tissue. Also a dog with cryptorchidism is likely to have reduced fertility and would not be an ideal candidate for breeding. I hope that I have managed to answer your question regarding the timing of castration in a cryptorchid dog and have managed to explain some of the reasoning behind why it happens and what the best plan of treatment is. Shanika Winters MRCVS(online vet) If you are worried about your dog please book an appointment with your vet or use our online symptom checker.

Harvey’s Retained Testicle

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 SpanielWhen 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.