Choices for Cryptorchid Colts

When one or two testicles are retained, your "gelding" might act like a stallion.

Q: I just acquired a 2-year-old stallion who is a cryptorchid. I have been told it is quite an extensive surgery, hence why he was passed around and ended up with me. Can you tell me about the condition, the procedure for surgery and cost? America’s Horse Daily consulted the experts at the American Association of Equine Practitioners for the answer.

A: Cryptorchidism is the absence of both testicles in the scrotum. During development, the tissues in the embryo that become the ovary or testes are part of what will become the kidney. Later in the process, but before birth, the testes descend to the scrotum. In almost all cases, a colt born a cryptorchid will stay that way. The challenges here are three-fold.

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1. What will happen if we leave him alone? The retained testis is not capable of making sperm cells, but it will still produce the male hormones. Removing the normal, scrotal testis will result in a horse that is sterile and looks like a gelding, but acts like a stallion. There are some reports to suggest that retained testicles in the dog may become cancerous, but there is no conclusive connection with cancer and retained testicles in the horse. So a horse with one testicle in the right place is just as fertile as he would be with two. 2. Is there a treatment? Yes. The use of a hormone known as human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) has been used successfully to stimulate descent of a retained testicle. This begs the question, if this is a genetic defect, should it be treated if there is a chance it will be passed on to future generations. Some breed associations have no prejudice against cryptorchidism and call these horses “ridgelings.” A study published many years ago tracked the offspring of three “ridgeling” stallions and compared them with normal stallions in a similar population. The “normal” stallions produced slightly more cryptorchid colts in this study. This does not conclusively answer the genetic question, but suggests that the problem involves more than just inheritance.

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3. What is the surgery and what is the cost? All veterinary costs have regional and facility variations. Some practitioners attempt this procedure in the field, while others prefer performing this potentially complicated surgery in a sterile, hospital setting. In these patients, the retained testicle can be anywhere from just inside the belly wall, to near the kidney. This distance (up to three feet) can present surgical challenges in many cases. Therefore, the cost is considerably more than a routine castration. Varying with region, the type of facility and surgeons involved, this operation can run five to 10 times the cost of a normal castration. Dr. Madison Seamans is a veterinarian in Kuna, Idaho. For more health Q&A’s from AAEP, an AQHA alliance partner, visit *AQHA and the provider of this information are not liable for the inherent risks of equine activities. We always recommend consulting a qualified veterinarian and/or an AQHA Professional Horseman.