“Crypt” is a Latin word for hidden. “Orchid” is the Latin word for testicle. “Crypt orchid” is a failure of one or both testes to descend into the scrotum; descent usually occurs within six to eight weeks after birth but may take as long as six months. The undescended testicle may be located within the inguinal canal, called the groin, or in the abdominal cavity. Cryptorchidism usually involves only one testicle and is more likely to affect the right side. A testicle that is not in the proper location is termed an ectopic testis. This is a congenital anomaly that has a reported incidence of approximately 5 percent in dogs and 2 percent in cats. The anomaly is thought to be a trait that can be inherited. Small-breed dogs are more likely to have this problem.
There are usually no signs directly related to the retained testicle. Retained testicles are prone to tumor formation because of the increased temperature inside the abdomen compared to the temperature in the scrotal sac. Dogs with the retained testicle are 14 times more likely to develop a testicular tumor. Some tumors produce clinical signs associated with production of estrogen. Dogs may take on female characteristics such as large nipples, attracting other male dogs sexually and sometimes hair loss. The excess estrogen may also cause anemia, bleeding problems and prostatic disease. Testes that are not on the normal location can also twist around the spermatic cord. This is called a testicular torsion. Dogs with this condition often present with acute abdominal pain, vomiting, fever and lethargy.
Diagnosis of cryptorchidism is made by the failure to palpate the testes in the scrotal sac. If the testes are in the abdominal cavity, they are usually smaller than normal and can make palpation impossible. Even with abdominal ultrasound, the cryptorchid can often be difficult to find.
A retained testicle should always be removed for its potential for developing a tumor. If one testicle has not descended into the scrotal sac, we still usually recommend removing both testicles because of the likelihood that this anomaly will be passed on to future generations. Removal of the cryptorchid usually requires abdominal exploratory surgery. Some surgeons are able to do this surgery laparoscopically. Dogs with a testicular torsion require stabilization prior to surgery, which is considered an emergency procedure.
Most animals undergoing cryptorchid surgery do well postoperatively. However, if the surgery is done for a tumor or a testicular torsion, the convalescent period is longer and can demand more intense monitoring. Prognosis is good if the testicle was removed before any problems develop.