Alfie and the hunt for the missing testicle

Adorable Alfie (Alfred when he’s being mischievous) was certainly the runt of a litter and ended up living with Amy, a Student Veterinary Nurse. Alfie has since enjoyed wrecking a few items and generally covering the place in mud with his shaggy coat, all whilst exuding joy and putting a smile on the face of everyone who meets him. He is an adorable fool who loves nothing more than running round with a yoghurt pot on his nose or trying dragging paper out the office bin to rip it to pieces.

Alfie relaxing at the vets

At his first puppy health check I found that Alfie only had one testicle present in his scrotum – not overly unusual in young pups. This can happen with just one or both of the testicles. In the foetus testicles grow near to the kidneys and then descend through the abdomen in to the scrotum, via the inguinal canal. We checked every week to see if his lost testicle had appeared but alas no, it did not appear by the age of six months. Alfie is a rather wriggly patient and literally crossed his back legs when ever we tried to examine his scrotum which made it difficult to feel if the lost testicle was approaching.

Dog testicle growth
1. In the foetus the testicle develops near the kidney.
2. It gradually migrates towards the scrotum though the abdomen. In Alfie’s case it decided to hang around here.
3. It has to pass through the body wall via the inguinal canal. It can get stuck here!
4. Testicle in the scrotum – where it should be!

Research has shown that retained testicles are 13 times more likely to become cancerous than a testicle in the scrotum. Testicles trapped in the abdomen are also more likely to become twisted on themselves and this can cause severe pain. Dogs with retained testicles should not be bred from as their offspring are at higher risk of having retained testicles.

Alfie also had a very small umbilical hernia. This is when there is a small hole in the abdominal muscles where the umbilical cord attaches and a little pouch of abdominal fat pokes through. Occasionally with larger hernias loops of gut can also poke through the hole and get trapped, this would require urgent surgery. Umbilical hernias can form if there is too much pulling on the cord during birth or they can be inherited. As they can be inherited vets do not recommend breeding from dogs or bitches with hernias.

Alfie post surgery
Alfie enjoying a dog walk

At the end of August I performed surgery on Alfie to find the missing testicle and also remove the one already in the scrotum. This meant that he had to have two incision sites, unlike a routine castration procedure. He proved to be a challenging case as the lost testicle was very small and was close to the kidney which made access difficult. Alfie’s heart rate fluctuated a lot during surgery and he required very close monitoring from the registered veterinary nurse. The retained testicle was about a half the size of the testicle in the scrotum, showing that testicles in the abdomen are not able to develop normally. Once the abdominal testicle had been located and removed I then move onto removing the testicle within the scrotum via a second incision at the base of the penis. I also repaired his hernia during the surgery and this was incorporated in the incision on his abdomen that was made to find his lost testicle.

Alfie recovered well from anaesthetic and enjoyed a small yummy meal once he was well awake. He was well behaved in the days following surgery, tolerating wearing the buster collar and eating his anti-inflammatory pain relief. Despite first class treatment from Amy the incision became inflamed two weeks after the surgery. This can sometimes happen as the body starts to dissolve the stitch material and this can lead to swelling around the incision site. With a little extra rest and anti inflammatories this resolved quickly and he hasn’t looked back since!


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Deal and Sandwich vet Claire


Hi, I’m Claire and I am a veterinary surgeon working in East Kent. Having grown up locally I was delighted to be able to move home and settle near Sandwich. I love all animals but I mainly treat dogs, cat and rabbits. My lifelong passion for animal healthcare has led me to start this blog in the hope that I can interest your inner animal lover and share some fascinating stories along the way. You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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