Undescended Testicles In Dogs

Updated January 31, 2021

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

48 Replies to “Undescended Testicles In Dogs”

  1. Hello. I have a 6 month older Havanese with only one descended testicle. He’s 10.5 pounds and may grow only another pound or two. The vet I took him to today suggested to have him neutered at 7-8 months, after his growth plates have closed, to avoid any tumors or cancer. However, the breeder, who technically has co-ownership until he’s neutered, doesn’t want it done until 16-18 months as another vet she goes to say the puppy’s growing won’t be fully done until then, and if done before then, it can cause bone cancer. I’m not sure what to do. Is it safe to wait that long?

    Thanks!
    ~Kate

    1. Hi Kate. The best and only information we have for choosing the time of desexing can be found in this article. You will find that neither statements are supported by the evidence in similar breeds, and there is no reason to think that Havanese are especially different.

  2. Hi Dr Andrew,
    I have a 10 month old Miniature Pinscher (Zwergpincher) who suffers from cryptorchidism as unfortunately his left ball hasn’t dropped 🙁 This was diagnosed when he was 5 months old and our local vet suggested that we wait till nearly 1 year to have an operation so that he would have it when he is strong and full formed – which he is now at a whopping 3kg (small but mighty). I then went and visited another vet to get another opinion, who said then same and then a 3rd. Out of 3 vets, 2 suggested half castration, just removing the non-fallen ball, and then the other with full castration. He now has his operation scheduled in mid feb and it would be great if you could provide me with your professional opinion- 1 or both? I live in Germany where castration is not the norm and if his non-dropped ball doesn’t carry any cancerous or diseased future risks, I think he has the right to keep the 1 good one. Any advice would be much appreciated, apologies for the long post.
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Beatrice. I think it is quite logical to only remove the undescended testicle. I have certainly done so in the past, to allow for normal secondary sexual characteristics. My only concern regarding a dog with a single descended testicle is that they remain fertile, but regardless of this should be taken out of the breeding population. However it seems that you have no intention of breeding.

  3. Hello, I have a 14 week, pure bred AKC Registered English Bulldog. He comes from a champion bloodline. His colors are Lilac & Merle. I bought him with the intention of breeding; however, my wife and children want him as a pet and are hurt that I may ship him back. At 14 weeks (purchased at 12 weeks) the Local Vet informed me that he suffers from cryptorchid (unilateral). What are the chances that the second testicle descends? I’m torn bc my family, does not want to send him back to the breeder. Thanks.

  4. Hello Andrew, I am a vet in Colorado, USA
    have a client who is asking me to remove a retained testicle which is obviously near the inguinal ring in the SQ tissue, while leaving the descended testicle to be removed later, after waiting for further testosterone influence to help with joint development. She claims to want to use him for agility or other athletic endeavors. This is a
    schipperke, and she admitted to me early on that she was planning to use him at stud, now seems to be changing this plan.
    Can you please give me guidance as to how I can communicate with this client, as I feel like I am being asked to do something unethical.

    1. Hi Mary. This is a problem I have faced as well. I have to be honest and say that in the past I took the clients’ word at face value that they wanted to keep the descended testicle for joint development or secondary sex characteristics only. Recently I have started only doing it with a vasectomy of the descended testicle. I have done enough vasectomies to be confident, but if you haven’t feel free to contact me via the clinic.

  5. Is this inherited from the mom or the dad? How do you know if it is the male or female that carries it? My Aussie had one male that is 4 months old and his have not dropped yet. I do not want to bred her again to my male if this is genetic but how would I find out if it is her or him? If the puppy does not drop I will make it right with the buyer I want to be a responsible breeder. Thank you for any feedback.

    Terry

    1. Hi Terry. In the lack of a genetic test, there is no way to work out easily whether it comes from the sire or dam. The only way might be their previous breeding histories. Good on you for taking the problem seriously.

  6. My maltese puppy is almost.4 months and his testicles has not dropped. He had his first puppy appointment November 28, 2020 and the vet says he is healthy. Should I be worried that his testicles has not come down as of yet?

    1. Hi Dawn. They almost certainly won’t come down but if you follow the advice in the article there’s nothing to worry about.

  7. Hi,I have a 6 month golden retreiver with double cryptorchidism.
    I have heard many different ages as to when to neuter. what age do you suggest.he is 65 lbs now and breeder claims hes the 1st puppy ever to have this problem. His brother and father were fine.but his brother had 1 short ear and a short tail.the female was fine

  8. Hi Andrew. I had my litter of puppies checked by my vet at 9 weeks of age & all males apparently had 2 descended testicles. Now at about 4 months of age, one puppy has been identified as having one undescended testicle. Did the first vet get it wrong? This is a golden retriever, so the owner is reluctant to desex earlier than necessary due to risks to joints. What age would you recommend to have this dog desexed? Thanks

  9. Hi Andrew. My pup is 14 weeks old, on a show contract with only 1 testicle dropped so far. Is it worth getting an ultrasound to see where it is located and if it will drop? How costly would this be?

    1. Hi Cam. There’s really no point in getting an ultrasound done, as surgical exploration is quite straightforward and virtually 100% successful. However, as stated in the article, dogs with retained testicles should not be bred as this only creates more problems for future generations. I only hope the breeder is of the same opinion.

      1. I understand that surgical exploration would find it but is it worth finding out where it is currently located in the hope it will drop? Do we just wait and see as he isn’t 6 months old yet? Or do you think we are past that point now?

  10. My French bulldog had a litter of 6 puppies , one male had this condition (bilateral) !
    This is genetic so should she be desexed & not have another litter ?

    1. Hi Genevieve. That is true, although sadly very few do so, which is why we think the rate of undescended testicles is increasing.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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

  14. 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.

  15. 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

      1. My Charlie is a cavachon he’s 17 months and both balls have not come down can I wait till he’s 2

  16. 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..

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

      3. Hi Leah. The risk is never zero, but it’s acceptably low to wait until a year of age.

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