Before birth , the testicles of puppies and kittens are located within the abdomen. By six months of age, the testicles should have descended into the scrotum (sac between the hind limbs). If one or both testicles fail to descend into the scrotum, a condition called cryptorchidism is present.
Testicles are located in the scrotum, as they require a temperature that is lower than the core body temperature to function normally. Testicles located in the abdomen do not produce sperm, but do produce testosterone, a hormone responsible for masculine features. If both testicles are located within the abdomen, the animal will be sterile (cannot breed); however, frequently these animals have one testicle that has descended into the scrotum and can successfully sire litters of offspring. Because this condition has a genetic cause, affected animals should not be bred; the offspring are at risk of having the same condition.
Left untreated, affected pets can develop a cancer within the undescended testicle and this condition can be fatal due to hormonal imbalances that affect the bone marrow or due to spread of cancer to other internal organs.
Purebred animals are predisposed to cryptorchidism. Over represented breeds include Cocker Spaniels, Chihuahuas, Miniature Schnauzers, and Persian cats. The diagnosis of cryptorchidism is obvious: the lack of one or both testicles in the scrotum. If the neutering history of the pet is not known and no testicles are found within the scrotum, a blood test (sex hormone panel) can be run to see if the newly adopted pet is cryptorchid.
As mentioned, undescended testes are prone to developing cancer. The Sertoli cell tumor is the most common type of testicular cancer that develops in these cases. These tumors produce excessive amounts of estrogen, resulting in the development of female characteristics such as enlargement of the nipples, enlargement of the mammary glands, thin hair coat, a stripe of inflammation located on the prepuce, and pale gums due to anemia (bone marrow damage). Spread of the tumor to other organs in the body may result in weight loss, loss of appetite, malaise, breathing difficulties, and death.
Another complication of an undescended testicle is torsion or twisting of the blood vessels within the spermatic cord. When this occurs, the veins which normally drain blood from the testicle are occluded, but the artery feeding the testicle will continue to pump blood into the organ. This results in a painful, congested testicle. These patients may be lethargic, vomit, anorexic, and assume a praying stance with the forelimbs flat on the ground and hind end elevated (a sign of abdominal pain).
Preparation for surgery
The pet should be fasted prior to surgery, as instructed by the surgical team. Water is usually permitted up to the time of admission to the hospital. An antacid such as Pepcid AC may be prescribed and should be administered by 6 AM on the day of surgery; this treatment will help reduce the risk of esophagitis (heartburn) in the postop period. The surgical team should be informed of any medications that your pet is currently receiving. The pet should not receive any aspirin within 1 week of surgery, as this medication will thin the blood and increase the risk of bleeding. Just prior to surgery, your pet will receive a sedative, have an intravenous catheter placed for the administration of intravenous fluids and intravenous medications, be induced under general anesthesia with medication(s), and have a breathing tube (endotracheal tube) placed to allow delivery of oxygen and gaseous anesthesia. The surgical site will be clipped and cleansed with an anti-septic solution in preparation for surgery. While under general anesthesia, the pet's breathing will be assisted with a ventilator and vital parameters such as heart rate, respiratory rate, core body temperature, blood pressure, oxygenation of the blood (pulse oximetry), exhaled carbon dioxide (capnography), and heart rhythm (EKG) will be monitored to ensure the pet's well being. Pain will be controlled both during and after surgery with analgesics (pain-controlling medication). Please note that each surgical and anesthesia team may elect to chose a different, but effective analgesia protocol.
Traditional surgery requires a sizeable incision to locate and remove the undescended testicle. Traditional surgery also has been associated with serious life-altering or life-threatening complications. These problems include inadvertent removal of the prostate, inadvertent removal of the bladder, and damage to the ureters. Laparoscopic surgery greatly minimizes these types of surgical errors, because the surgeon can see what he/she is doing.
Laparoscopic surgery is performed on an outpatient basis; therefore, your companion will be able to go home late afternoon or early evening on the day of surgery. During surgery, a laparoscope (camera) is placed into the abdominal cavity via a 1 cm incision. The laparoscope has a channel in it, which allows the surgeon to pass a grasping instrument (forceps) without making another incision into the abdomen. Alternatively, some surgeons prefer to make two additional small incisions for placement of operating instruments. To complete the surgery, the testicle is grasped with forceps, pulled out of the abdominal incision, blood supply tied off, and the spermatic cord is cut. Because a cryptorchid testicle is typically much smaller than a testicle located within the scrotum, it usually can be pulled through the small portal incision.
This video clip shows a portion of the laparoscopic testicle removal. The camera is in the abdomen. A cauterizing forceps are used to divide the ligament that holds the testicle in the abdomen. Grasping forceps then retrieve the testicle. Complete pulling the testicle out of the abdomen is not seen.
Aftercare and expectations
To allow for a very smooth recovery at home, your pet should have a soft bed in a quiet room to encourage rest. Although laparoscopic cryptorchidectomy results in a fraction of the pain that is seen with traditional surgery, the prescribed analgesic medication(s) should be administered for a day or two. About half of a normal meal should be fed after your pet gets settled at home. Do not allow consumption of excessive amounts of water the evening after surgery (or vomiting likely will ensue). If your pet does not eat the regular diet, offer a cooked meal consisting of a 50:50 mixture of lean meat and a carbohydrate source such as rice, potato, or pasta. During the first evening, walk your dog outdoors three times for elimination purposes; your pet may need to urinate more than normal, as intravenous fluid were administered during the procedure (note: a full bladder can may your pet whine and seem in pain). Bowel movements might not be seen for a day or two after surgery. Do not allow your pet to lick the incision. Check the incision daily for signs of infection. Schedule an appointment to return to the surgeon two weeks after surgery for another evaluation of the healing process.
Dogs and cats recover very quickly following laparoscopic surgery and the prognosis is excellent, provided that the testicle has not developed a cancer which has metastasized to other internal organs. Even if the testicle has developed a tumor, the spread rate is still relatively low (about 10%). If permanent damage to the bone marrow has occurred from a hormonal imbalance, the prognosis for long-term survival is grave.
Benefits of the laparoscopic cryptorchidectomy vs. traditional open surgery
- Shorter surgery and anesthesia
- Less risk for abdominal hernias
- Much less bruising/swelling of the incision
- Less pain
- Quicker recovery
- Greatly reduced risk of surgical errors made (such as inadvertent removal of the bladder or prostate)
- Shortened hospital stay
Frequently Asked Questions After Surgery
When should my dog have the first bowel movement after surgery?
- Many dogs will not have a bowel movement for the first 4 to 5 days after surgery
- Reasons that a dog will not have regular bowel movements after surgery include:
- The dog has been fasted prior to surgery
- Dogs do not eat well during the hospital stay
- They frequently do not eat well when they go home
- They are fed highly digestible food that produces little stool
- Pain medication that contain narcotics (such as morphine, fentanyl patches, and tramadol) can be constipating
- If a pet does not have a bowel movement on the 5th day of being home, a stool softener such as metamucil can be fed
- Dose of metamucil is 1 tsp per 25 Kg mixed in with each meal (canned dog food); feed immediately after mixing, as the metamucil will gel the food and may make it less palatable
My pet had surgery and will not eat. What can be done?
- Most pets will not eat their regular dog food after surgery, especially if it is kibble.
- Offer a cooked diet having a 1:1 ratio of a protein source and carbohydrate source. The protein source can be any meat (example: chicken breast, turkey breast, lean hamburger) that is low in fat and should be cooked (drain off all fat after the meat has been cooked). The carbohydrate can be pasta, potato or white rice.
- Try canned dog food; to enhance the flavor sprinkle a very small amount of garlic powder or chicken or beef broth (Chicken-in-a- MugTM or Beef-in-a-MugTM products)
- Try Gerber strained meats for babies such as the chicken, beef, turkey, or veal
- Try Hill's A/D diet available at most veterinary hospitals
- Hand feeding: place a small amount of food in the mouth so that your dog gets the flavor
- Warm the food slightly in a microwave, as the food will be more aromatic; stir the food before feeding and test the temperature on the bottom side of your wrist; it should only be luke warm.
- Remember that most pets will not eat the first day or two after they get home from surgery
- Offer smelly foods that contain fish such as tuna or smelly cat foods
- Try Gerber strained meats for babies such as the chicken, beef, turkey or veal
- Hand feeding: with your finger place a small amount of food on the roof of your cat's mouth; use a syringe to get soft food into the mouth
- Warm the food slightly in a microwave as the food will be more aromatic; remember to stir the food before feeding and test the temperature; it should be only luke-warm
- Some cats will only eat dry food, try kibble if your cat normally has been fed that food
- Petting and stroking your cat frequently will help to stimulate appetite
- Remember that most pets will not eat the first day or two after they get home from surgery
- Appetite stimulants such as cyproheptadine may be helpful
- If your cat refuses to eat anything for 7 days a stomach tube or nasogastric tube should be placed to provide nutrition so that a serious liver problem (hepatic lipidosis) does not develop
My pet is vomiting. What can be done?
- The first thing for you to discern is whether your pet is vomiting or regurgitating. Both will result in fluid or food being brought up. Vomiting always will have heaving or retching of the abdomen prior to expulsion of the vomitus. Regurgitation is not associated with heaving and the pet usually just opens the mouth and fluid or food will be expelled. Usually the regurgited material will be clear or brown colored fluid.
- Next is to identify the cause of the vomiting or regurgitation.
- Causes and treatment of vomiting after surgery
- When some pets return home after a stay in the hospital they may drink excessive amounts of water at one time and then vomit; if this appears to be the case, the water should be limited to frequent smaller amounts.
- Medications such as antibiotics, narcotics or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication commonly cause vomiting after surgery. In order to see which medication is causing the problem, the administration of each drug should be separated 2 hours apart. Usually the pet will vomit or appear nauseated (drooling and sick look) within 1 hour of administration of the medication that they are sensitive to. The antibiotic in some cases may be changed to a different one, or may be discontinued.
- Stomach upset from anesthesia is a potential cause of vomiting and will pass within a couple of days.
- An uncommon cause of vomiting after surgery is internal organ failure. Blood testing will confirm this problem. For this reason vomiting should not be ignored if it persists for more than 24 hours.
- If your pet had surgery of the bowels or stomach, vomiting is always a concern, as it may indicate that infection of the abdominal cavity, called peritonitis, is present. Do not ignore this sign.
- Symptomatic treatment of vomiting involves withholding food for 12 to 24 hours, then introducing small amounts of bland food such as rice and lean cooked hamburger, if your pet does not vomit after that then gradually wean him/her back onto the regular diet after 3 days. In order to decrease the acidity of the stomach, Pepcid AC 0.5 mg/kg can be given by mouth twice daily for 5 days. Metoclopramide and Cerenia are good anti-vomiting medications for dogs and cats. You should always consult a veterinary healthcare professional before administering medication.
- Causes and treatment of regurgitation after surgery
- The most common cause of regurgitation is reflux of acid from the stomach into the esophagus while your pet is under anesthesia. Acidic fluid from the stomach can cause a chemical burn of the esophagus and result in a bad case of heart burn, called esophagitis. This results in poor motility of the esophagus, therefore water and food will accumulate in this structure. In most cases, esphagitis is self-eliminating and will resolve within two or three days.
- If the esophagitis is severe the esophagus may develop one or more strictures. A stricture is a narrowing or stenosis of the esophagus and does not allow passage of food down the esophagus, in regurgitation that lasts longer than one week. This problem should be brought to the attention of your pet's doctor within the first two weeks so that it can be treated by ballooning the stricture (minimally invasive procedure, as it is done with the aide of an endoscope). If an esophageal stricture is chronic surgery is needed.
- Symptomatic treatment of regurgitation caused by esophagitis includes feeding bland food, and administering a coating agent (sucralfate) and an acid blocker (omeprazole or other). Consult a veterinary health care professional if the regurgitation continues for more than a couple of days.
How do I know that my dog is in pain following surgery?
- Signs of pain include
- biting if you get near the surgical site
- grimacing (lips are pulled back and the the dog looks anxious)
- tragic facial expression
- restlessness and unable to sleep; pacing
- if abdominal surgery was done the pet will not lie down on the incision, or will continually sit up in spite of appearing very tired
- the worst pain will be for the first 2 to 3 days after surgery
What can I do to control my dog's pain?
- Narcotic medications that control pain: tramadol, butorphanol, Duragesic (fentanyl patch)
- Anti-inflammatories used to control pain: Deramaxx, Rimadyl, Previcox, or Etogesic
- If an orthopedic surgery has been done cold packing the surgical site may be helpful
- A cold pack may be a pack of frozen peas, crushed ice in a Ziploc bag, or a cold gel pack; place a thin barrier between the skin and the cold pack. An alternative to a cold pack is to freeze water in a styrofoam cup; after frozen cut the bottom of the styrofoam cup out. Cool the surgical site around the incision by rubbing the exposed ice directly on the skin in a circular pattern. Cooling the surgical site helps to numb the area.
How do I know that my cat is in pain following surgery?
- Pain is more difficult to assess in cats versus dogs, as signs can be more subtle and they usually do not vocalize when in pain
- Signs of pain in a cat include the following:
- biting if you get near the surgical site
- growling or deep cry
- not wanting to eat
- hiding and not wanting to be near owner (remember that this could also be caused by the cat just being upset about leaving home and coming back)
What can be done for pain at home for my cat?
- Pain medication such as buprenorphine or a Duragesic (fentanyl) patch
- Tylenol will kill a cat as they lack abundant glutathione enzyme in the liver
- Anti-inflammatories can be used, but the dose is much less than dogs
Is it okay for my pet to lick the incision?
- If a dog licks the incision, the healing process may be delayed.
- Licking can remove stitches and cause the incision to open
- Licking can become a severe habit that is difficult to break
- Licking can cause infection as the mouth has many bacteria
- Dogs will frequently lick the incision when the owner is not watching such as at night time; if the skin looks red or excoriated the most common cause is from licking.
- To stop your pet from licking the following can be tried:
- Elizabethan collar can be placed on the neck; this will not help stop your pet from scratching at the region
- Cervical collar (bite not collar) is a less awkward device and can be effective at stopping a pet from licking the surgical site
- A tee shirt can be used to cover an incision on the chest or front part of the abdomen; gather the waist of the shirt up over the dog's back and wrap an elastic band around this part of the shirt.
- A bandage or sock can be used to cover an incision on a limb; fasten the top of the sock to the dog's limb with tape.
- Bitter apple can be applied around the incision; many dogs will continue to lick after application of this topical
- Bitter Apple and Liquid HeetTM (obtain this from a drugstore...it is used for sore muscles) mixed in a 2:1 ratio can be applied around the skin incision
- Antipsychotic medication in some cases is needed