Help! My Dog Has An Undescended Testicle

Updated July 28th, 2020

Quick facts (details below):

  • Undescended testicles must always be removed
  • Surgery is simple and recovery is rapid
  • Affected dogs should not be bred

Now dive deeper…

When a dog has a retained testicle, we call him cryptorchid, literally meaning ‘hidden testicle’. It’s common, not especially worrying, but also not harmless; I have seen one dog die and two come terrifyingly close.

With the right knowledge, this won’t happen. So here’s everything you need to know to keep your puppy safe.

What Is Cryptorchidism?

As embryos, males and females start out with their ovaries or testicles in pretty much the same place. Then the testicle embarks on a long and perilous migration out of the abdomen and into the scrotum. Cryptorchidism is when it fails to reach its destination.

It can happen on just one or both sides (unilateral or bilateral), in about equal numbers. Interestingly, if only one is retained, it’s more than twice as likely to be on the right.

To diagnose a dog as cryptorchid, you have to know how long a testicle normally takes to arrive. In nearly all puppies, this is by 6 to 8 weeks of age. Therefore, most puppies that have an undescended testicle at their first vet check will end up being cryptorchid.

One or both testicles not descending is documented to happen to between 0.7% and 9.7% of puppies. At our clinic, we’ve seen it in 77 of 1652 dogs, making a rate of 4.7%.

When To Neuter / Desex

Until the exit hole called the inguinal ring closes at around 6 months of age, there’s always a chance of the testicle descending.

Therefore, the best time to desex is at or after 6 month of age. The actual recommended desexing time for a dog will depend on their estimated adult size.

Which Breeds Can Be Cryptorchid?

As a general rule, an undescended testicle is more common in purebred dogs, especially in the following breeds:

  • Boxer
  • Chihuahua
  • German Shepherd
  • Greyhound
  • Poodle (Toy & Miniature)
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Shih Tzu
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Whippet

And possibly also these ones:

  • Cairn Terrier
  • English Bulldog
  • Pomeranian
  • Maltese
  • Miniature Dachshund
  • Pekingese

However, an undescended testicle can happen to any dog. For example, my own Border Terrier was bilaterally cryptorchid, which caused the breeder considerable embarrassment.

That’s because he knew that cryptorchidism has a strong genetic basis. Therefore, even though a dog with one descended testicle is fertile, they should not be bred. Nor should any attempt be made to artificially replace a retained testicle (called orchiopexy) just so a dog can be bred or shown.

While we’re on all the unethical things people do, I’ve even been asked to insert a prosthetic testicle, just to fool the judges at dog shows!

Treatment Of An Undescended Testicle

Retained testicles are a minor problem and easily fixed.

There is no medical treatment likely to treat or prevent a retained testicle. Those who claim success probably have dogs whose testicle was always going to come down, just late.

The only effective treatment is desexing or neutering, or at very least the surgical removal of the undescended testicle. This is essential due to the extremely high rate of seminomas and sertoli cell tumours in cryptorchid dogs. There’s something about the higher temperature of retained testicles that makes cancer much more likely.

These are the dogs I have seen either die or come close. In two cases, they were dogs from disreputable rescue centres who did not ensure that the dog was fully desexed before rehoming. Therefore, these dogs were thought to be neutered until the symptoms of cancer appeared.

One such dog is shown above, with a swelling that appeared in the groin at around two years of age. He was lucky- although his surgery was disfiguring, he is alive today.

Dogs with an internal abdominal testicle may show hormonal changes as the only sign. Testicular tumours have a tendency to produce female hormones. For example, the dog I saw die was brought to me for enlarged nipples and being harassed by male dogs.

Cryptorchid Surgery In Dogs

The surgical technique depends on where the testicle is found. There are three common locations:

  • Abdominal
  • At the inguinal ring
  • Subcutaneous
undescended testicle removal

The first thing we do after anaesthetising your dog is lie them on their back and try to pinpoint the testicle. Usually, this is easy. With a dog perfectly upside down, the way the scrotal testicle lies usually gives a clear idea of which one is missing.

Then we search under the skin from the scrotum to the inguinal ring. Although undescended testicles are smaller, they can usually be felt as a 1 or 2cm blip that pops under the fingers. The only time this is hard is when the dog is overweight. The picture (above) shows the result of just such a surgery, with one incision for the descended testicle, and another for the one under the skin in the groin.

abdominal testicle removal

If we find nothing, we assume the testicle is in the abdomen. Then, my preferred technique is a paramedian incision as shown here, which normally drops me right on top of it. The only time this won’t work is when the testicle is neither in nor out, but wedged in the inguinal ring itself. However, I’m usually close enough to be able to wiggle it out.

Some dogs (notably German Shepherds) have both undescended testicles in the abdomen. For dogs like these, my technique will create an incision like this on each side. Your vet will have developed their own successful approach, so don’t worry if it looks different.

The Cost Of Cryptorchid Surgery

Cryptorchid surgery is quick, easy, and not much more painful than regular desexing. With good pain control, recovery is rapid. Therefore, the only drawback is cost.

In our clinic, inguinal testicles like in the first picture generally add $100 to the desexing price. Abdominal testicle removal might add $200. Keep in mind that it’s hard to give a fixed price for unpredictable surgery like this and difficult retrievals will cost more.

Personally, although I’ve never seen it done, I feel it would be quite reasonable to ask the breeder for a contribution. After all, affected puppies have already been identified before sale, and the fault is mostly genetic in origin. However, with the shortage of puppies around, you might have a hard time convincing them.

However, that’s just a financial concern. The main message is that whether your puppy is cryptorchid or not, it’s no big deal as long as you act on it.

Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story! The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

Andrew

23 Replies to “Help! My Dog Has An Undescended Testicle”

  1. I have a 1 year and 1 month old maltease dog. He have 1 undescended testicle. Can not neuter him or should I. I want to keep him as it is. His health is normal and he is energetic.

  2. Hi I have a dogo argentino only one testicle but these dogs have problems with hips and backs so I want to wait till 12 or lates 16 months till I neuter him cause I want his back hips and bones to develope as much possible so I can lower the risk of bone problems sense I heard neutering dogo ARGENTINO’S can cause hip disclacia or bone problems but I dont want to risk the cancer factor for waiting to long to neutering him cause of his testicle not dropping so what advice can you give me please.

    1. Hi Cesar. Cancer is very unlikely in the first two years of your dog’s life so as long as you get him done at around one-year-old there’s not much to worry about.

  3. Hi,
    I have a mini doxie and 1 testicle is retained. Doxies are supposed to wait a little longer than the typical 6 months for neutering to allow their backs to fully develop since those are problem areas. I have him scheduled for a neutering just before 7 months. I am uncertain if I should wait, as I am nervous about cancer, or go through with it and hope his back will be developed enough.
    Thanks

  4. Hi Andrew I have german shepherds puppy is 15 weeks old and only one testicle being checked by the vet from 10 weeks old and 14 weeks thats was last week and still the same I spoke to the breeder she mentioned that by 6 weeks checked both was there so in this case Will be dropped or what Do i do

    1. Hi Maria. They certainly don’t go back up once they come down! It’s very hard to tell when puppies are only six weeks old. By now, it’s very unlikely that it will come down, but it’s no problem if you follow the advice in the article.

  5. As a breeder of a commonly affected breed (Shetland Sheepdogs) I do offer to pay the difference between the cryptorchid procedure and standard castration for any cryptorchid puppies.

    1. I have a 4 mth on German shepherd x puppy and both testicles can not be found. My vet said to bring him back in a month. Can this condition cause respiratory issues at all

  6. Our breeder notified us at their 6 weeks check up the puppy (Australian labradoodle) said he has undescended testicles. They said it might drop in couple weeks or it might not. The breeder wanted to fully disclosed the info. After reading a lot of posts and articles online I’m concerned that this could turn out to be a big complication, stressful for our family and it could be costly. Not sure how common/uncommon this is but I am considering if it might be a good idea to pass on this puppy if this is something that can lead to serious complications. Breeder is charging for the pup ($2,500) and has a neuter contract which we are fine with to neuter him but it weighs heavy in my heart to know that we could be dealing with added stress and extra $$ expense off the batt on cryptorchid surgery. Any advice or feedback is greatly appreciated. We have to let the breeder know really soon in the next day or so. Thank you.

    AllisonS

    1. Hi Allison. Please have another read: I have mentioned costs and discussed preventive surgery- if you have further questions, get back in touch..

  7. My boy staffie jasper died. He had testes that didn’t drop and the dogs home we had him from daid he was vaccinated he went in for surgery as he had a cancer growth but died in surgery he bled to death gutted and 6 months on I’m surviving but miss him so much

    1. Hi Lisa. I’m so sorry to hear that – I have seen the same thing with dogs from rescue shelters. I hope they told you that the testicles were still present when you took him.

  8. Hi Andrew, thanks for your comprehesive explanation. I have a 12 month old german shepherd with bilateral cryptochidism, when he was 16 weeks the vet advised to wait unitl he was 12 months before having the procedure, would you agree with this? and thanks for givining an indication on the cost.

    thanks
    Lynette

    1. Hi Lynette

      Waiting till 12 months is a good idea for joint development, but now it’s important to get him done soon. As I mentioned in the article, German shepherds commonly have both testes in the abdomen.

  9. Hello I have a five and a half month old Blue Cattle dog Pup. So far only one testicle has dropped down. How much longer would you suggest we wait before revisiting our vet. I’m reading that it should be not long after 6mths. If so have you heard a the testicle dropping after 6-7 months?

    With gratitude
    Leah

    1. Hi Leah. Sadly, it’s now very unlikely to drop. I have never seen one come down this late and you can assume it will need to be surgically removed.

      1. Thanks Andrew much appreciated. Although Should I wait until he is 12 mths old to get the testicle removed.

        Cheers
        Leah

      2. Also we live on a remote cattle property where he will not come into contact with any female dogs at all. I was just thinking should we let him mature a bit more before we go ahead with the removal.

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