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Testicular cancer

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Testicular cancer usually occurs in intact (i.e., not neutered) older male dogs, although it is also seen at an earlier age in dogs with an undescended testicle. In fact, this form of cancer occurs most commonly in undescended testicles - those that have never descended from the abdomen during development of the canine fetus. Dogs with this form of cancer tend to act normally, with the main signs of illness being an enlarged, shrunken, and/or misshapen testicle. Affected dogs can sometimes also develop prostate problems or, on rare occasions, hair loss due to excess secretion of sex hormones.  

A presumptive diagnosis of testicular cancer is based on physical palpation and ultrasonic examination, although biopsy of testicular tissue is necessary to make a definitive diagnosis.  Your veterinarian may also want to perform other tests (e.g., blood work or chest x-rays) to rule out problems such as infection, or to see if the tumor has metastasized to other tissues.

The treatment of choice is castration of both testicles, which cures most cases of testicular cancer. However, depending on the type of cancer involved, up to 20% of cases may have metastasized, which leads to a poorer prognosis and the need for chemotherapy. In the case of an undescended testicle, castration will require opening the abdomen to locate and remove the cancerous testicle.

Testicular cancer is easily prevented by having your male pet neutered at a relatively early age.  Early neutering also substantially decreases the risk of prostate disease (including prostate cancer) in later life, as well as the desire to roam in search of females.  



What dogs are likely to develop testicular cancer?

Testicular cancer usually develops in older male dogs that have not been neutered. It is especially common in dogs with one or more undescended testicles.  

How is testicular cancer treated?

Treatment involves surgical removal of both testicles, which cures most cases.

How is this cancer prevented?

Testicular cancer is easily prevented by having male dogs castrated at an early age. Neutering provides other significant health benefits as well, including a greatly decreased risk of prostate disease in later life.

Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, Ph and Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
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