This site was last updated 22-07-2002 ©The Sounding Burrows
What is it?
From time to time a male pup is born that doesn't develop
like ordinary males do: one or both testicles decide to stay inside the body
instead of dropping down into their appropriate pouch. Traditionally this is
seen as a very grave affliction. Every breed has a line in its standard that
afflicted males are banned from showing. This gives rise to the thought that
they should also be banned from breeding. Most breeders stick to that. When both
testicles are stuck inside there is no other option, because the dog will be
sterile. With just one, it is a different matter. He might be a good sire or he
might be sterile. And to be complete some dogs just have one testicle, the
second just isn't there (i.e. it is not locked inside the body, but completely
With one testicle in it's pouch the affliction is called
'monorchism', when no testicles appear 'cryptorchism'. Sometimes both forms are
addressed as cryptorchism.
Is it hereditary?
Now this is something that is not appreciated so the
question is, is it hereditary? If so, not breeding the dog is the logical
option, as you don't want to breed something bad into your line.
Traditionally vets proclaim it to be hereditary and dangerous. Well now,
they would, castrating dogs is one of the main sources of income for a vet and
proclaimed often as thé remedy for almost any so called problem you come across.
The fact that castration is a real operation and therefore quite dangerous in
itself, is often neglected or slightened.
Fact is that there has been no
research to this phenomenon. Simple because it is very difficult: you have to
have a reasonable number of dogs with the affliction, you have to monitor them
during a long time (10 to 16 years) and you have to know their background.
Non-pedigree dogs won't do because mostly their parentage is not known. And
where will you find people willing to cooperate to something that for ages has
been proclaimed to be dangerous for their beloved pet? Especially since their is
such a "simple" solution as castration, and knowing castration "eases" the
traditionally "harder-to-handle" male dog?
The theory is that it is warmer
inside the body than in the pouch and that would give rise to cancer. This might
be so, but one wonders why testicletumors take so long to develop and the
problem doesn't rise in young dogs.
In the mean time I have taken the time to
do some research myself. Not in dogs, though I have seen this affliction a
couple of times and in non of these cases they got - or worse died of - cancer.
One cryptochide dog died at the age of six of a virus, a friend of mine had a
monorchide dog that lived to the ripe old age of fourteen and died of
kidneyfailure, two others are still alive, the one a very fertile father of nine
pups (5 males, none afflicted) a non-pedigreedog, the other non-pedigree and
So I have searched for information amongst our human kind.
Simply because men are being studied and people generally don't see
castration as an option for a human child, so we have material and it is being
studied for a longer period of time. In people doctors are not sure if there is
a genetic link and mostly men afflicted are either sterile or produce normal
offspring. They do see a genetic link when it comes to testiclecancer, but to
their experience it is not so much the monorchism that is hereditary, but the
tendency to get cancer. The warmer environment-theory is disproven, because
in humans when the testicle that is stuck inside is operationally brought down
to the pouch, it still has a greater chance of testiclecancer than the one that
was outside in the first place. People with a higher chance of testiclecancer
are also prone to other forms of cancer and it might be that the
hereditary-cancer-chance comes from the side of the mother! (nothing to do with
the testes, but a genetic tendency to get cancer in general).
warmer is bad for the seed on the other hand is a true and proven thing and that
is why cryptorchide males are infertile, as well as some monorchide.
dogs: since there are bloodlines that have a tendency to produce quite some dogs
with this affliction, for example Bull Terriers, you might think it hereditary
after all. In the case of Bull Terriers, there is an important sire that
practically 'build' the breed and he was a monorchide ...
He also had some
other distinctive features like the roman nose. Now some people believe that the
fact whether or not the testes drop into the pouch is not decided by genetics,
but by the later development. The build of the male in question being an
important factor whether or not this happens the proper way. Just like siamese
twins are a fault in development during the pregnancy, not a genetic disorder
conceived at conception. (An example that I have seen on Discovery that got
stuck in my mind). Since the testes drop after birth - which in dogs can happen
anywhere between 6 weeks and 9 months - this is a very alluring theory. Now back
to Bull Terriers: they have a very distinctive build, with characteristics that
differ from almost all breeds. Indeed there is one male in particular
responsible for these characteristics and he was monorchide. Traditionally this
is seen as evidence for a genetic link. But there is another line of thought
for ages the males that are afflicted have been neutered, so they
have no genetic part in the breed, still the affliction exists. Sure it might be
a recessive gen, but when in any breed one characteristic is so carefully bred
out of it, you might have a lot of trouble keeping that characteristic in the
breed when you decide otherwise. Take for example the colour 'harlekin' in the
Beauceron. For a long time this colour wasn't appreciated and no one took any
specific action to keep the colour in the breed. On the other hand, no action
was taken to eliminate the colour. The result is that nowadays breeders that try
to keep all the accepted colours in the breed have a very hard time keeping
'harlekin' alive - and that is by breeding the dogs that have this colour: there
is no other way to be sure this colour will still be here in another twenty
years or so.
Think about it: there has been no action to keep 'harlekin'
actively out of the breed and still it is almost extinct. Monorchism has been
banned for decades, even more sure you can be about cryptorchism, but these
afflictions still exist.
The other option is that the particular build of the
Bull Terrier has a genetic tendency to be so different from natures thought of a
canine that testes have a hard time to find the pouch. In other words: their
development is hampered by their build and that is why this affliction is seen
so relatively often in Bull Terriers. Taking this to the level of all dogs:
sometimes the development of the dog is hampered for some reason or the other
and that is why he only has one testicle or none in the pouch.
The effects for the afflicted dog
The other factor to consider is: is it a
problem for the male that is afflicted. If it is not hereditary you might even
breed such a dog, but what about the dog itself. Is he in danger himself and if
so, how great are the risks and what can the owner expect. I mean: when someone
takes in a dog like this he'll want to love it just like any other dog and not
be worried sick.
As stated before there is a chance of cancer, but as far as
doctors can see it is the other way round: a bloodline with a tendency to cancer
has a greater chance of getting testiclecancer, when a male is monorchide or
cryptorchide. How big this chance is depends on who you ask: vets proclaim
testiclecancer a high risk, just as uteruscancer and teatcancer in bitches (I
probably haven't used the right english terms, but you catch my drift. If you
can give me the proper names, please do, I like to be accurate), proclaiming
spaying and neutering as the ultimate solution (I'll get back on the female part
at the end of this article). Doctors who work with humans are a lot more careful
and say the chances of testiclecancer are slim in any case and though bigger
when a man is monorchide / cryptorchide, still it is a very slim chance. I think
the truth lies somewhere in the middle: vets want to castrate to earn their
money ánd because they also realise there are quite some dogs in the world, no
need to produce more just to add to these numbers (look at the shelters crammed
with lovely homeseeking pets); doctors want to reassure their patients and since
in humans the ball inside is mostly brought down into the pouch, cancer can be
easily ánd early diagnosed. In my personal experience the chance is slim indeed
for I have seen several cases and none had / has cancer, while on the other hand
I have had to let my Beauceron go for prostate cancer at the age of eight years,
while he was a very healthy complete male out of a very healthy working
bloodline. Of course there were people saying afterwards 'you should have had
him castrated, then it wouldn't have happened'. Perhaps not, but he also
wouldn't have been the wonderful proud dog I have known him to be. And a Belgian
breeder lost a perfect Beaceron at the age of 18 months, because he had to be
put under a light anesthetic ("just a couple of pricks, nothing major" vets tend
to say) when they took x-rays to check his hips. At least my dog had never been
at the vet for any other reason than his yearly vaccinations. There is no
telling when you'll get hit by disaster, only when it does, it always a hard
blow. Big chance or small.
So what are the options:
As seen before
some proclaim castration as a good solution. Also because some claim that when
the dog does get cancer, he might get what is called 'the feminisation
syndrome', that is physically he becomes a female. Well, I have once had a
Dobermann from a shelter and that was a castrate. Since he had been castrated at
an early age, he grew out to be a 'normal'dog, but he never became an adult dog
in his mind. His other problem was that he got mounted by just about any male
around and quite severely attacked by females especially when they were in
season, because he smelled like a bitch in heat as my vet explained me,
because he had been castrated and that sometimes happens ....
argue that you shouldn't do something about cancer, but preventive action can
sometimes be a real problem in itself. You have to weigh the chance of the one
against the other: what is your greater fear, will the dog develop cancer and if
so won't that be treatable, or will the dog not be himself, even lose his
complete position in dog-society (as my Dobermann had, I admit it doesn't happen
often, but when you're stuck with it, it's a damned nuisance) or even die of the
anesthetic, risks all taken as a preventive action for something with a very
small risk-margin itself! Not to mention the fact that the operation to find a
'lost' testicle is a far worse one that a normal castration. I recently saw an
operation of this kind on television, where the search for the lost testicle
took almost two and a half hours!!! And there is always the possibility that
there is no second testicle ... (I wonder how long the vet will keep searching).
Don't be mislead by rumors of laparoscopic surgery: yes, it makes it easier -
when the testicle wasn't hard to find in the first place - but most vets don't
have all this new equipment (I know mine hasn't). And this kind of surgery is
also promoted to spay bitches, but there the vets that have this new equipment
are behind in other respects. Recent experience has given rise to the notion
that just removing the ovaries and not the uterus does not diminish the chances
of female types of cancer and in fact might even enlarge it! (Source: a
documentary on Discovery, unfortunately I can't be any more specific, but since
they have reruns of just about everything I'll probably will be able to mend
that in time).
The conclusionTo summon it up: I myself
would never neuter a dog for this reason, since the risks in surgery in general
are in my view higher than the risk of cancer related to this affliction. Other
forms of cancer related to a male being a male or a female a female can only be
bred out of a breed when we know it is there in the first place, so I am against
Does this mean you have to let your dog get ill? No, of
course not!!! But you have to keep a close eye on your pet, whether he is
special in any way or 'regular' in conformity with the laws of nature. Just a
couple of decades ago dogs didn't grow to be as old as they do now for all the
good care they are given. That also means there are more forms of illness that
can appear: any living creature has to die of something (unfortunately ...) and
dogs just don't live as long as humans (extremely unfortunate).
When the dog
becomes a veteran (at 6 or 7 years - the time a century ago most dogs died) you
have to be more alert.
When there is cancer in the bloodline, castration
might be a wise choice, since the risk-margin in that case is far
When you suspect the dog is not allright or you have a bad feeling,
consult your vet. An extra trip to the vet never hurt anyone, waiting too long
What breed of dog you have makes a difference too: I don't have
statistics but to my experience Dobermanns and Rottweilers have a higher chance
of developing cancer. During the time I had my shepard a woman in the
neighbourhood has had 4 Dobermanns who died of bonecancer. I must admit that the
way she trains her dogs might also have something to do with it, but a dog from
that breed will definitely have a higher risk-margin for testiclecancer, if we
go by the theory that bloodlines with cancer also have a higher risk of
developing testiclecancer when they are monorchide or cryptorchide. Also breeds
with a higher cancerlevel influence the percentages of cancer in canines. A
breed like the Lakeland Terrier is known for the fact that it is a healthy breed
(an important reason for me to choose this breed as my breed, as well as a
general long life expectancy), with very little or no occurrence of cancer. Also
a reason to believe monorchism might not be a problem in this breed. Still it is
very difficult to say something about a breed in general, mostly because of the
silence breeders keep. So far I have never met anyone with a pedigree monorchide
dog - any that were have been castrated and people don't talk about it. My first
dog was a cryptorchide and a pedigree dog (a Yorkshire Terrier), but we never
knew that was anything peculiar. The breeder kept very quiet about it! He never
had a problem on that account, but died at the age of six as mentioned before.
The suspicion was that it was a virus - we were on holiday at the time and there
was no autopsy - but it certainly had nothing to do with his
Anyway depending on the breed you choose there are specific
troubles: big dogs have a tendency to get bloat. I never had the problem with
either the Dobermann or the Beauceron, but I always had the strain of making
sure the dog didn't run or play wildly after eating, which was particularly
difficult on busy days (sometimes you just want to feed the dog, give it a run
and than hurry off to work). With a Dobermann you always have to keep an eye out
for changes in behaviour since they might develop tumors in the brain, which can
lead to abnormal aggression, Rottweilers also have this tendency.
dogs can get problems with open skulls (watch out for sudden bumps) and
misplaced teeth, that make eating difficult and in old age even impossible. But
I am straying.
The problem you have to watch out for is a hereditary
chance of cancer. Not all forms of cancer are hereditary, some are a result
of an inappropriate lifestyle. When there is hereditary cancer in the bloodline,
you wouldn't want to breed a monorchide male out of that line and castration
would be a wise precaution. I would go even further than that: I don't want to
breed any dog that has a known chance to get cancer - in whatever from
and whether he has one, two or six testicles! When there is no enlarged chance
of hereditary cancer in the bloodline (I think it is impossible to ever be 100%
sure there is absolutely no chance of cancer), there is no reason not to use the
dog, other than the fact that he must have all the qualities you would demand of
any dog that is going to be a stud - like excellent character, good build, nice
coat, good set of teeth etc. and suitable for the bitch you want to use. All of
which makes it very hard to come through my selection indeed! Though one must
keep in mind no dog is utterly perfect. One may look good, behave perfectly,
even produce wonderful offspring, but there can always be a hidden defect. Some
defects are unimportant and do nothing to diminish the breed, like the tendency
to get a white chestmarking in one colour dogs. Others are far more intrusive,
like hereditary liverdiseases, that only come out when the dog is at a
veteranage (as in the Bedlington Terrier, though that has been quite succesfully
dealt with). This is also why it is not a good idea to use a very prominent
showdog with excellent results too often. It is better to keep a wider range so
the hidden problems will be divers and not the same in a lot of bloodlines. Also
it is good to remember that inbreeding is the most common reason for cancer:
hence the high rates in small pets like rats and mice.
EpilogueThe fact that no dog is perfect is certainly
taken into account when one is breeding dogs - or anything else for that matter.
As a (good) breeder you know the shortcomings of your dog and you try to find a
mate that will hopefully alleviate these shortcomings. Of course the mate has
shortcomings of his own and that is why you have champions and simple pets in
the same litter. Some pups have the good qualities of both parent (what every
breeder hopes for), some have some good qualities and one or two shortcomings,
and some have the shortcomings of both parents (what every breeder tries to
avoid, but there is no accounting for nature). You try to select the best
pup(s), but growing up takes its time and most pups leave at the age of 8 or 9
weeks - that is why sometimes a breeder has to sell an older pup (a shortcoming
appeared only later in his development) or a petowner has this beautiful dog,
that didn't look like much as a small pup.
I personally attempt to avoid
these mistakes by asking prospective owners to allow me to use a male pup as a
stud later on: whether I'll actually do so depends on his further development.
Unfortunately it is far more difficult when it comes to the female counterparts.
When I sell a bitchpuppy I leave it to the owner whether he wants to breed her
or not. I don't think it is fair to put people up with the trouble of a litter
(they often think it will be fun, but it is hard work and it goes with a great
responsibility) or taking the bitch back when she has to whelp and afterwards
handing her back to her owner. At such a time she needs the person she trusts
most - as she has grown up elsewhere, that won't be me. And whelping changes a
bitch, the owner might be surprised at what he gets back.
you, at the beginning I told you there was no scientific evidence, but this is
NOT a scientific survey either. I can't summon all the sources I have used for
this is information I have gathered during the past twenty years or so, added
with some information I got from "Korrelatie" and Discovery Network. I just
wanted to show that there is no scientific evidence to assume monorchism is
dangerous or hereditary. You can argue to the other side just as easily: there
is no scientific evidence it isn't (though I certainly won't support that view).