If your vet diagnoses your dog as having a retained testicle, they are likely to recommend surgery. But why is this and why does surgery cost more than routine neutering?

What is a retained testicle?

When a puppy is born, his testicles are located within his tummy (abdomen). Usually over the course of the next few weeks both testicles will descend and can then be felt within the scrotal sac. In some cases, one or both testicles will fail to complete this journey. They can either still be inside the abdomen or may sometimes be located just under the skin in the groin (inguinal) area. 

It is not uncommon for dogs to be diagnosed with a retained testicle. It is thought to affect at least 1-3% of all dogs and is more common in certain breeds such as the Chihuahua and Yorkshire Terrier. Dogs with a retained testicle are known as cryptorchid and this may be a term that you hear your vet use.

When examining your puppy for the first time, your vet may notice that one or both testicles cannot be felt in their normal position. Usually there is no immediate cause for concern, and it is quite common to wait and see if testicles descend over the next few months. If the testicles have not reached the scrotal sac by the time a dog is six months of age, it is very unlikely that they will. Surgical removal of retained testicles is recommended after this time. 

If you think that your dog may have a retained testicle then it is important to see your vet who will be able to advise on the best course of action.

Why should retained testicles be removed?

Retained testicles are more than 13 times more likely to develop tumours (cancers) than normally positioned testicles. Cryptorchid dogs are also at increased risk of developing testicular torsion (when the testicle twists into an abnormal position). This usually occurs secondary to tumour formation. It can arise quite suddenly and cause animals to become very unwell and painful (no testicle, whatever its location, likes to be twisted!). 

There is a genetic component to having a retained testicle meaning that there is an increased risk of any offspring also being affected. It is therefore advised that any dog who has been diagnosed as cryptorchid is not used for breeding. It is usually recommended to remove both testicles during surgery even if one is normally positioned within the scrotum.

What does surgery involve?

For dogs with normally positioned testicles, castration (neutering) is usually performed by making a small skin incision just in front of the scrotum. Both testicles are removed through this one incision and the skin is stitched back together.

For cryptorchid dogs, the type of surgery required will vary depending on the location of the retained testicle(s). It is not always possible for your vet to be sure on the precise location of retained testicles before your dog is under anaesthetic.

Inguinal testicles

Testicles located within the groin are removed via a skin incision. This incision is separate from that used to remove a normally positioned testicle meaning that your dog will have two incisions.

Abdominal testicles

Surgery to remove testicles hidden within the abdomen is a little more complicated. The surgeon must make an incision into the abdomen to find the retained testicle(s). Sometimes they can be difficult to locate, and a relatively long incision may be necessary. The muscles of the abdomen must be closed surgically as well as the skin. 

It is possible nowadays to remove retained testicles from the abdomen using laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery. This requires special equipment. This technique has the potential to result in smaller incisions and a more comfortable post operative period.

Long term prognosis after surgery is excellent although a period of rest will be required. It is important that you follow any post operative instructions from your vet carefully.

Why is it more expensive?

It is quite common for vets to charge more to castrate dogs who have a retained testicle. But why is this? Firstly, the surgery takes longer than normal routine castrations. This is especially true when testicles are within the abdomen. It can be challenging to locate retained testicles. Extra suture material is also likely to be required. If laparoscopy is used, then this will also be more expensive. Additional expertise is required and the cost to acquire and maintain laparoscopic equipment is significant. This is reflected in the price of the surgery.

Overview

Retained testicles are not uncommon in dogs. Such testicles are susceptible to developing issues if they are left and surgical removal is usually recommended. This generally carries an increased cost to that of routine neutering due to the more complicated nature of the surgery.

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