Testicular cancer may not be too common considering that the majority of dogs are neutered nowadays, but testicular cancer in intact male dogs is still a condition to be wary about. According to statistics, testicular cancer is the second most common tumor found in male dogs, and this can be concerning for owners of dogs who were never neutered. It's important to know how to recognize early signs of testicular cancer in male dogs so that quick intervention can take place, leading to a better prognosis.
A Closer Insight
As mentioned, testicular cancer is the second most common cancer affecting male dogs and it has a higher chance for affecting older, intact male dogs generally between the ages of 9 and 12; however, age isn't a primary factor considering that this type of cancer can ultimately strike dogs of any age.
While it doesn't appear that dogs of a certain breed are more affected than others, dogs who are cryptorchid (that is, dogs having one or both testicles that failed to descend into the scrotum) are up to 13 times more prone to contract testicular cancer in the testicle that has failed to descend, explains Johnny Hoskins, a board-certified veterinarian specializing in internal medicine.
For this reason, vets suggest having cryptorchid dogs neutered which entails having both testicles removed. While the surgery for a cryptorchid dog is slightly more involved than a normal castration procedure ( the un-descended testicle needs to be extracted from the the abdominal cavity) it should be no more difficult than the average spay surgery performed on female dogs.
Did you know? Cryptorchidism, the absence of one or both testicles in male dogs, is an inherited trait, and therefore breeders should avoid breeding cryptorchid dogs.
Signs of Trouble
One of the first signs of trouble suggesting testicular cancer is one of the dog's testicles appearing more swollen and larger than the other. There may be a lump in the affected testicle and the swelling at times also involve the scrotum, abdomen an inguinal area. Generally, these swellings are not painful. Other signs may vary based on the type of cancer involved. There are three type of testicular cancer that are most common in dogs: sertoli cell, seminomas and interstitial cell tumors.
Sertoli cell tumors may cause an enlarged prostate gland, enlongated nipples along with hair loss, darkening of the skin on the inguinal regions, presence of red stripe by the prepuce, and anemia. Feminization due to increased levels of estrogen may occur in 25 to 60 percent of dogs with this type of cancer and may cause male dogs to be attracted to the affected dog and the affected male dog may squat to urinate.
Seminomas also cause testicular swelling in dogs while interstitial cell tumors cause very few signs.
While the chances for this cancer to spread to other areas are low, when it does spread, this cancer may affect the lungs, eyes, brain and abdominal organs.
When a dog presents with swelling of both testicles, the vet may prescribe a course of antibiotics in hopes of seeing the swelling go down. Orchitis (inflammation of testicles) does happens at times from a scratch on the skin that gets infected but can also occur as a result of cancer. If the vet suspects cancer, he or she may skip the antibiotics and go straight to having a other diagnostics done such as a fine needle aspiration.
A fine needle aspiration entails using a small needle to draw some fluid from the dog's testicle. This procedure does not require anesthesia. The fluid collected is then smeared on a slide and sent off to a lab where a pathologist will look at it and send back a report of what was found. Some vets may prefer to do a biopsy (taking a full tissue sample) and some may request to have an ultrasound of the testicles done.
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Many vets suggest having blood work and/or x-rays done to check for any signs suggesting metastasis (cancer spread).
Did you know? According to a study, 27 percent of male dogs develop testicular tumors.
Testicular Cancer Treatment
Testicular cancer in dogs is treated by neutering the dog. After neutering the dog, the testicles may be sent out to a lab to determine whether they were cancerous or not.
Fortunately, this type of cancer has a low rate for metastasizing (spreading to other organs) and therefore, with the testicles removed, there is usually no other treatment needed as the source of the cancer has been removed.
Dogs who are neutered therefore have a very good prognosis, however, if the cancer has spread, chemotherapy may be needed and the prognosis is more guarded, but there are several outcomes based on several factors, further explains Dr. Hoskins.
Costs of Treating Testicular Cancer in Dogs
When it comes to treating testicular cancer in dogs, there are several costs the dog owner will go through. These costs vary greatly by location and the best way to get estimates is by calling hospitals and simply asking.
A vet visit will generally cost anywhere between$50 and $80 and a fine needle aspiration and pathology report may cost anywhere between $100 and $200.
Costs for neutering dogs may vary from one location and another and can range between $100 to $300, but may get higher if the dog is cryptorchid. Getting a biopsy of the testicle done may cost and additional $100.
As seen, testicular cancer in male dogs is something you want to have treated sooner than later. While the risks for metastasis are lower than in some other types of cancer, it is still important to start treatment as soon as possible. And as far as prevention goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, this condition is easily prevented by simply neutering dogs.
- DVM360: Testicular cancer remains easily preventable disease
- Grieco V, Riccardi E, Greppi GF, et al. Canine testicular tumours a study on 232 dogs. J. Comp Path 138: 86-89, 2008.