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By Lynn S. Whiteley

VDD/GNA Breed Warden

Cryptorchidism is a condition where one or both of the testicles have failed to descend into the scrotum, but remain somewhere in the body. This is a different condition that is often confused with the much rarer monorchidism and anorchidism, where one or both testicles have failed to develop and are missing completely from the body, not just the scrotum. While Cryptorchidism has always been present to some degree in the DD, it has been getting more attention lately. Unilateral cryptorchids are often both virile and fertile, while bilateral sterile cryptorchids may still have normal sex urge. Both unilateral and bilateral cryptorchidism is a breed-disqualifying fault in the DD Breed. (VDD Breeding Regulations Article 14, 1. e)

Cryptorchidism is genetic, but there is no clear consensus on exactly how it is inherited. It was for some time believed to be a simple Autosomal recessive trait, but most researchers now believe that it is a Polygenic disorder, though they don’t have the clinical studies on dogs to back it up. It seems to follow the same patterns as in horses and rats, where there have been clinical studies to prove the Polygenic mode of inheritance. This makes control of the disorder complicated. Cryptorchidism can unexpectedly occur in a puppy from a mating where neither parent has ever shown any tendency to produce it. Cryptorchidism in general shows a higher incidence in purebred dogs, and more so in line bred (inbred) matings.

While Cryptorchidism is certainly not the most serious genetic problem facing DD breeders, it is serious enough to deserve our attention. The cryptorchid dog, because of having one or both testicles retained somewhere in the body, is more susceptible to certain problems down the road. These problems include testicular tumors of which many are cancerous, and most of which occur on the undescended testicle. Most veterinarians advise to surgically neuter the dog to avoid the risk of these problems. Since the undescended testicle(s) can be difficult to find and must be explored for, the surgery can be more complicated than a simple neutering, and in some cases can end up costing more than the original selling price of the puppy. This raises some ethical questions:

Is a breeder that knows about the problem obligated to inform the buyer before the sale? In my opinion, at least from a moral and ethical standpoint, the answer would be emphatically yes. I believe that it is always wise as breeders to tell potential buyers everything we know about a puppy.

When a cryptorchid puppy is sold as a prospective hunting dog, who is responsible for the cost of any needed surgery that may result from this problem, the new owner or the breeder? I think that this is something to be worked out between the breeder and buyer, preferably before the sale.

The argument could be made that breeders are not obligated to provide “Breed Quality” dogs, but this is more than just a matter of a dog being ineligible for Breed Certification. There is also a health issue involved.

There are no statistics for the DD breed to tell us how many of our male puppies are affected. As many of you know, this is one of the things that our tattoo administrators are supposed to be looking for during the litter inspection. I’m not sure how much attention each individual has given this item in the past, but I think that it would be wise to find out just how big of a problem this is. I ask all of you that are performing litter inspections to be very diligent in examining and reporting the results, and pointing out any problems to the breeder.

When examining male puppies to see if both testicles are present, it helps to hold the puppy with it’s back against you and your arm supporting it under the front legs, letting the rear end of the puppy hang. You should be able to feel the testicles, especially if you run two fingers down the prepuce, one on each side of the penile sheath, pushing the tiny testicles toward the scrotum. It can be difficult, but if you stay focused you can usually tell whether or not both testicles are there.

This article first appeared in the September 2003 issue of the VDD Group North America Newsletter as part of Lynn Whiteley’s regular Breed Warden column.

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