Come On Down!


I am the extremely proud and happy owner of a nine week old Border Collie. The dog is great! I have already trained him to sit and come! I can't believe how smart he is. Anyway, the question I have is about something the vet told me during his 8 week exam. When I bought him the breeder told me that she had brought him for his 6 week exam and the vet found that only one of his testicles had dropped, but not to worry, he was still young. However, when I brought him for his 8 week exam the vet told me that this was indeed something to be concerned about. He suggested I neuter him. I really don't want to do this because he has shown me that he is very intelligent (and an overall happy dog). I was hoping to show him off in competition, which I can not do if I neuter him (I don't think). Furthermore, if he shows to have extraordinary ability, I may even decide to breed him in the future. So, I guess what I am looking for is an opinion on this matter by people who deal with this breed the most. Should I be concerned, or should I wait until he gets older to concern myself? And if so, at what age should this become a concern?


Your vet is right. If the dog's testicles haven't descended by 8 weeks of age, it is unlikely that they ever will. This condition, known as cryptorchidism (unilateral if one testicle remains up, bilateral if both of them do) and is a serious threat to your dog's health in the future. Undescended testicles are at a great risk for developing cancer and should be removed before this threat can ever present itself. Vets don't bring the testicles down but rather they castrate the dog. Doing otherwise is considered an unethical veterinary practice and is frowned upon.

The tendency for undescended testicles is passed on to a dog's offspring and therefore, neutering is the only answer. We don't really know the genetics behind this condition with any degree of certainty. Some believe it is a simple autosomal recessive, others say not. There has been no clear-cut determination of the genetics yet. What is known for sure is that it runs in families. Therefore, these dogs should never be bred - no questions asked. Even if the dog is the International Supreme herding champion. Knowingly breeding this dog would be irresponsible. Dogs that have this condition or produce pups with this condition should be removed from the breeding population. There's just too many healthy and sound excellent dogs that can be bred without having to breed "defective" dogs.

There are many things that can cause a testicle to remain in the abdominal cavity (which is why the genetics is hard to pin down) - the testicle could be too big, the inguinal opening might be too small, there might be a fold in the peritoneum, etc. Many/most/all of these conditions are probably genetically determined. Cancer is not inevitable but the risk is dramatically increased (just as smoking does not inevitably lead to lung cancer in all individuals).

You can show your dog off in competition (except for AKC conformation). All you need to do is obtain an ILP (indefinite listing privilege) for the dog (he must be neutered for this anyway) and compete under that registration. Many other competitions (Frisbee, herding, flyball, agility) do not require an intact or even registered dog. Do yourself and your dog a favor and get him neutered as soon as it is feasible. You'll both sleep better at night.

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Page last updated August 1, 1997. All material Copyright 2004 Border Collie Rescue, Inc. and Dr. Nicholas B. Carter
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