Mr. Davis was in for a health check on his brand new bulldog puppy “Brando”. Brando had cost a small fortune at the pet store, but the employee at the store had helped sell Mr. Davis on the idea of buying him when he suggested that since Brando was a purebred with papers Mr. Davis could recoup the cost of his purchase by breeding him. He was looking forward to the easy money that was about to come rolling in when he could start using Brando as a stud.
The physical exam was reasonably normal starting at the front end. Brando had several physical flaws that were common to Bulldogs and was by no means an outstanding example of the breed, but from the ribcage forward there wasn’t anything specific to disqualify him as a breeder. However, as we moved to the back end a big obstacle to Brando’s breeding career appeared. He had one testicle sitting where it was supposed to be in the scrotum, and the other one was nowhere to be found. This is a condition known as cryptorchidism (from the Greek “crypto” meaning hidden, and “orchid” meaning testicle). That other testicle was there somewhere, but it wasn’t where it was supposed to be, and this genetic flaw is an absolute and automatic disqualifier for a potential stud--at least one to be used by anyone with a basic understanding of breeding and the tiniest modicum of ethics.
The hidden testicle in cryptorchid animals is usually either still inside the abdomen, or it has wandered off course and is trapped under the skin on the belly. The problems with being cryptorchid are twofold. The main issue is that testicles don’t like to quite as warm as the rest of the body, but the off course testicle doesn’t have any way to drop down away from the body and cool off enough to be happy. Over the course of time that unwanted body heat tends to cause the undescended testicle to become cancerous, which clearly is not a good thing for general health. The second problem is that the tendency to be cryptorchid is a trait that is very strongly passed on from affected males to their male offspring, which perpetuates a serious long term health problem.
I warned Mr. Davis not to confuse being cryptorchid with being infertile. Brando would still be able to sire litters, although his fertility would be somewhat reduced, but he would be passing on an extremely undesirable trait to his offspring. Neutering was going to be necessary, both to prevent cancer in the future for Brando, and to stop the spread of his genetic defect to future generations. We were going to have to go to some extra effort to hunt down the errant testicle, but we would make sure to find it and remove it.
Mr. Davis had actually noted that one testicle had not dropped while he was at the pet store. He told me that the pet store employee assured him that the testicle would come down by the time Brando was a year old and there was nothing to worry about. I hoped the pet store employee was simply uninformed rather than outright lying. In reality the testicles should be in place by six weeks of age. Sometimes they are very small and difficult to feel in very young dogs, so we check again every time they come in for vaccine appointments. In general, however, if one testicle is clearly palpable and the other is nowhere to be found, the hidden one isn’t going to magically appear later.
“Well, what about hormone treatments or surgeries to get the cryptorchid testicle to go where it is supposed to?” asked Mr. Davis. Those types of treatments are sometimes attempted, although they are rarely successful. The bigger issue is that they are considered completely unethical because they are aimed at deceptively hiding a genetic defect that still disqualifies this dog as a breeder.
Unfortunately for Mr. Davis the untold riches that come with being a Bulldog breeder were not going to happen with Brando. But fortunately for Brando he was going to be a happy pet dog who will never have to worry about testicular cancer.