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Orchitis in Dogs

By: Dr. Douglas Brum

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Dogs with orchitis present with different clinical signs depending on whether it is an acute (sudden) or chronic (developing slowly over time) condition. Dogs with acute orchitis are usually very painful and act ill. If the orchitis is caused by a bacterial infection, it can lead to septicemia, which is the spread of bacteria into the blood, and which can be life threatening. Testicular abscesses can also form with severe orchitis. Abscesses can become very large and may even break through the skin of the scrotum.

In dogs the most common cause of acute orchitis is infection caused by the bacteria Brucella canis. Other bacteria that can cause orchitis include Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Escherichia coli, Proteus and Mycoplasma. Sometimes, the bacterial infection occurs slowly, but it is progressive and leads to a scarring of the testicles and infertility. This chronic orchitis is more difficult to diagnose since many animals feel fine, are not painful and have no clinical signs.

Immune-mediated orchitis is also a chronic condition that may occur after trauma, or infection. It occurs once the barrier between the blood and testicular tissue is disrupted. An immune response to the testicle (specifically the animals sperm cells) then causes inflammation and subsequent tissue damage.

Orchitis may also occur due to urinary tract infections. Infections of the prostate gland (prostatitis) or urinary bladder (cystitis) are common routes of transmission due to their close association with the testes (they are connected via the vas deferens). This can lead to either acute or chronic disease. Other diseases that cause similar symptoms as orchitis include:

  • Testicular torsion. A testicular torsion is a twisting of the testicle around the spermatic cord, the structure that leads from the abdomen to the testicle and supplies blood to the testicle. This causes the obstruction of blood flow and subsequent testicular enlargement. Testicular necrosis (death of tissue) may even occur. The entire scrotum may be very swollen and firm. A torsion happens very quickly and is extremely painful.

  • Testicular tumors. Tumors of the testicle are very common and may be confused with either acute or chronic orchitis. Large painful tumors may seem like the acute disease. Smaller multiple, non-painful masses might be mistaken for the chronic disease.

  • Testicular trauma. Blunt trauma to the testicle may cause bleeding within the scrotum leading to an acute swelling. Many times the swelling will resolve on its own, without any therapy.

  • Scrotal hernia. A scrotal hernia occurs when abdominal organs or fat slide through the abdominal wall and enter the scrotum. This causes a scrotal swelling. These hernias may be congenital or traumatic.

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