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April 30, 2014

Pet column: Dog with testicular tumor needs to be castrated

Q: Our vet says our 10-year-old beagle Wilbur has a tumor in his testicle, but my husband is completely against neutering him. He did some research online and says that since most of these tumors are benign, he’d rather have Wilbur live out his days in peace. What do you usually recommend?

Q: Our vet says our 10-year-old beagle Wilbur has a tumor in his testicle, but my husband is completely against neutering him. He did some research online and says that since most of these tumors are benign, he’d rather have Wilbur live out his days in peace. What do you usually recommend?

A: Ask your husband this: Do you think Lance Armstrong made a decision about treating his own testicular cancer on the basis of a WebMD blurb? I think not. Nor do I believe you should listen to your husband’s misinformation about the inherent evils of canine castration. Here’s the straight story:

Testicular tumors are common in intact male dogs. In fact, up to 27 percent of unneutered male dogs will eventually develop one or more testicular tumors, accounting for up to 7 percent of all tumors found in male dogs.

A variety of tumors affect the testicles. Indeed, it’s common for more than one tumor type to affect the same patient. The most common testicular tumors include the interstitial cell tumor (50 percent), seminoma (42 percent) and Sertoli cell tumor (8 percent). The latter two often affect dogs with undescended (cryptorchid) testicles.

Most testicular tumors are benign. Some, however, may spread to other parts of the body (most notably, the lungs and lymph nodes) or invade nearby tissues in aggressive ways.

Because malignant behavior becomes more likely the longer these tumors reside in the testicle, and also because these dogs are considered genetically predisposed to more tumors of the testicles, castration is considered the only reasonable course of action in an otherwise healthy dog.

Those who oppose castration in cases like Wilbur’s tend to be wedded to a notion that dogs prefer their “manlihood” to the preservation of their health, comfort and longevity. Letting Wilbur “live in peace” with a treatable tumor is cruel.

Sure, every surgery has risks, but those who would decline to treat their dogs are wrong.

Do your best to help change his mind. Here’s an idea: Tell him testicular pain is a future possibility. Men are averse to that idea.

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to khulyp@bellsouth.net.

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