The great testicle hunt: Cryptorchidism in pet practice
The definition of stress: over thirty minutes spent hunting down the exact location of a stray testicle in a dog’s abdomen. In the abdomen? Yep. Because it ain’t hanging between his legs like it should be. Instead, it’s stuck up in his insides making trouble for those of us on the outside who are simply trying to make sure it doesn’t turn into cancer or get all wrapped up in guts.
When testicles don’t descend into their proper place inside the scrotum, we call the condition cryptorchidism. It’s a reasonably benign problem most of the time. Problem is, a significant percentage of these dogs have issues with these bad boys when they stay inside their bellies.
As I alluded to earlier, cryptorchid testicles have a way of courting cancer in higher temperature environments (when they can’t hang out and be cool in their happy sack). Occasionally, they even getting twisted into the intestines or other abdominal structures (which can lead to gut or testicular necrosis and subsequent peritonitis).
Life sucks when testicles do strange things. That’s because it typically takes about five times as much work to neuter a dog with a “lost” testicle and sometimes as much as ten times the stress of a normal spay. And that can’t be good. After all some “routine” spays can seem anything but. (See my post on this.)
So you know, we always advocate neutering dogs with cryptorchidism. That’s because 1-the wayward testicle is a potential liability and 2-the problem is hereditary, meaning that if he’s allowed to breed he’s more likely to pass on this unwanted trait to his babies. And that can’t be good, either. I mean, who wants more lost, precancerous belly mines in the general population?
But it isn’t always as easy to do as you might think. Whenever a pet’s body gets up in arms and decides it wants to do funny things most other pet bodies don’t do, vets must suffer the consequences. To compensate for the pathology, we have to use our wits, our experience and our creativity to find these wily bits of body in their strange places.
True, it gets easier with more experience, but a testicle isn’t always an easy thing to find in an abdomen full of fat, blood, guts and similarly-hued sliminess. Where’s Waldo is an especially hard game to play when the testicle is shrunken to the miniscule proportions reflecting its uselessness. Following the path of teeny tubes attached to the testicle is often the only way to discover its hiding place—easier said than done.
Though nine out of ten times I’m rewarded with the satisfying sight of the testicle within a couple of minutes, the other ten percent leaves me scratching my head (figuratively, that is, gloved and gowned as I am) and regrouping for another back-aching look see (I have some upper back pain that gets the better of me when I’m both stressed and hunched over, simultaneously).
That’s why when I finally find the wicked thing I like to yell, “Eureka! I’ve found your testicle!,” which makes everyone laugh as I sew up the abdomen and turn up the volume on the Ride of the Valkyries playing in my head.