Comet is a 6 month old male Finnish Lupphund who we first met in August 2012 for his second puppy vaccination, after arriving at his new home. At his first visit to us, during a full health check up, neither of his testicles could be found in his scrotum! This is not completely unusual for a 12 week old male puppy, although the majority of male puppies by this age will have both testicles descended in the scrotum. However, being a little anxious or stressed about their visit to the vet can cause them to retract their testicles up into their body where we can't find them!
During pregnancy, while the embryo is developing within the mother, each testicle initially forms next to each kidney. It gradually moves away from the kidney and towards the scrotum. The process takes many weeks but is often completed by birth or soon after.
If the testicles haven't descended fully by 6 months after birth, it is very unlikely they will do so. This condition is called cryptorchidism and may affect one or both testicles. We most commonly see the condition in dogs, but occasionally we find it in cats. A testicle that is trapped within the abdomen or in the groin area has a high risk of turning cancerous later in the animal's life, and is best removed early.
The exact cause of this condition is unknown although there is thought to be a genetic link, so it is strongly advised not to breed from these males as their puppies are more likely than normal to suffer from the same problem. Castration (also known as surgical desexing or neutering) is the recommended treatment. This may involve surgically exploring the abdomen to find the undescended testicle which is often undersized.
At Comet's 16 week puppy vaccination, we could now detect the left testicle in the scrotum, and we thought we could feel the right testicle in the groin area. At his six month check just prior to castration surgery, the situation was unchanged. The recommendation was to proceed with surgery.
Luckily for Comet, while under general anaesthetic for his surgery, we could confidently feel the undescended right testicle in the groin area and it was mobile enough that we were able to manipulate it just far enough that we could remove it through the same surgical incision we created to remove the left testicle. Often, a separate incision needs to be made either in the groin area if we suspect the testicle is there, or over the abdomen if we need to explore for the testicle within the abdomen.
Comet recovered well from his surgery and seems completely unaware of the potential problems he faced!
Remember that it is always a good idea to get your new pet checked by a vet before or soon after you buy them. Any health problems or questions about looking after your new pet can be addressed. First vaccinations for puppies and kittens are due at 6-8 weeks and the visit includes a full health check. As with Comet, there may be health problems that may not be obvious, and the quicker they are found and addressed, the better for you and your pet.