Musings of a Veterinarian

A Complicated Matter: Locating a Rogue Testicle

December 31, 2009 By: Dr. K Category: Case Review

First of all, I have to admit I love putting the word testicle in a title because it tends to make folks squirm. A small dose of genital reality does a person good.

Months ago I castrated a unilateral cryptorchid kitten. Cryptorchidism is a condition where one (unilateral) or both (bilateral) testicles are retained internally instead of descending into the scrotum. During gestational development, the testicular tissue begins to form near the kidney. As the animal grows, the testicle will travel down a pathway to the scrotum. For mostly genetic reasons, some testicles do not descend properly. The condition is more common in dogs than cats and is more prevalent in purebreeds. Retained testicles are sterile and have a greater likelihood of developing cancer overtime given the abnormal temperature the tissue is kept at. Cryptorchidism is typically diagnosed during early puppy and kitten visits.

My patient came in for his surgery at six months of age. The scrotal testicle was removed via a normal castration. The rogue testicle couldn’t be located in the inguinal region so an abdominal incision was made. No testicular tissue, of normal or abnormal appearance, could be located. I certainly believe some form of atypical tissue was present, but ask any veterinarian who has surgically explored an abdomen and he/she will tell you it ain’t easy. Looking for small, sometimes millimeter-sized, pieces of atypical tissue is a challenge because soon after exploring the abdomen small pieces of fat, lymph nodes, and omentum begin to look suspicious. I removed what was probably a small lymph node and finished the surgery. The post-op conversation with his owner covered the likelihood that some testicular tissue was probably remaining and would be near impossible to find.

Jump ahead six months to an appointment with our feline friend. His owner reported he had mounted her arm and softly bit her, a typically sexual or dominance behavior for intact males. My impression as I entered the room was he had reached sexual maturity. His block-like head gave him the regal appearance of a tom cat. And the testosterone dependent spines on his penis were prominent. My friend was still producing testosterone but his owner insisted she didn’t want to pursue any testing or an exploratory surgery at that time.

A month later his owner noted he had begun spraying urine on vertical surfaces. Uh-oh. Urinalysis was normal. We had an in depth discussion that surgery may not yield the elusive testicular tissue and even if it does, the behavior may not stop. Inappropriate elimination can drive even the most determined owners to desperate measures.

Surgery is scheduled for next week. I’ll keep you posted.

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