Testicular Cancer in Dogs

The following article was written for the Daily Record's pet section in July 2009 by freelance writer Neil McIntosh. One of our volunteers contacted the Daily Record and obtained their permission and Neil's permission to publish his article on our site. Many thanks to the Daily Record's Julie and to Neil. I’m sure everyone at German Shepherd Rescue Scotland, and visitors to our site will find the article interesting and informative.

Thanks to Heather for obtaining the permissions required to publish this article.

Watch for the warning signs by Neil McIntosh

Something strange was happening to Ares. This huge German Shepherd, named after the Greek god of war, was becoming almost approachable.

Generally speaking you just didn’t mess with Ares.

There are not many dogs that send a shiver up my spine, but Ares, ever since he was six months old, has had attitude. Mostly he just bossed other dogs. He had the posture and the presence of a giant and all lay down before him. I have seen pumped-up Dobermans and Rottweiler’s drop their eyes and turn their heads away in response to his glare. Lesser mortals would squat and urinate in fear as he passed. The sensible would roll on their backs in submission and he would ignore them with a king-like disdain.

And boy, was he predictable. I just knew he would never let me do anything that he perceived as being a challenge. Clip his nails? Forget it. Clean his ears? I wish. Vaccinate him? Yes, as long as you had a muzzle and the mental fortitude of a Viking.

Of course, Ares and I shared his little secret that, despite his “all male” attitude and huge levels of testosterone, neither of his testicles had actually descended into his scrotum, but remained, hidden from view, in his abdomen.

Client confidentiality prevented me from telling his bullied chums about this, but they would not have dared laugh anyway.

But now things were changing. Ares was becoming calmer, more forgiving. Dare I even say placid? Stranger still, dogs that previously cowed before him now seemed strangely attracted to him. Other things were happening too. His coat, once as dense and impenetrable as bramble, was softer and becoming sparse. His skin too was thin and pigmented and his tummy bare of hair cover. His nipples had become dark and enlarged. We had talked about it before, you know, his owners and I, about how retained abdominal testicles were more likely to become cancerous.

And now it had happened. The signs were all there.

Surgery revealed that Ares had a large Sertoli Cell tumour in his left testicle. This type of tumour produces the female hormone, oestrogen, which caused all Ares’ clinical signs. It also reduced the size of Ares’ other testicle, making it a little hard to find in that big abdomen of his. But find it we did and now, three months after surgery, the big fella is virtually back to normal.

Less than 10 per cent of Sertoli Cell tumours spread elsewhere and, while the level of oestrogen they produce can cause bone marrow damage, the outlook following successful castration is pretty good. All male dogs should have their testicles checked for abnormality on a regular basis.

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