April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, and we’re grabbing it right by the balls. Every day for the entire month, we will be publishing a new story aimed at getting men to better consider — and cherish — their family jewels in hopes of helping prevent a diagnosis that, if caught early enough, shouldn’t prove fatal. Read everything here.
On a recent trip to the vet for my dog’s annual checkup, I realized there’s much to canine medical practices I know nothing about. So I decided to ask the veterinarian about a particular medical mystery that was on my mind — specifically, what the hell happens to a dog’s testicles after they’re neutered? Are the ashes of dog nuts just floating all around us, all the time? Or are they donated to some sort of canine balls research laboratory?
After a little reluctance, he told me they simply throw Fido’s family jewels into the regular old trash.
Not that I don’t trust my vet, but after our visit, I wanted to make sure what he described really was standard practice, so instead of going through the office trash myself, I reached out to a few more veterinarians to get their take.
“It may sound surprising at first, but the majority of the time, testicles are disposed of in the regular trash,” veterinarian Georgina Ushi Phillips confirms. “When you really think about it, there’s nothing special about those canine testicles that would require unique or special disposal.” If that’s true, and 85 percent of the over 48 million dogs in the U.S. have been neutered, and we assume half of those dogs are male with two balls each, then that’s more than 40 million puppy testicles just sitting in our landfills.
However, a self-described vet technologist on Reddit notes, “If you’re at a fancy vet hospital, they go into biological waste.” Generally speaking, veterinarians consider biohazardous medical waste to be any material that’s been in contact with harmful bacteria, pathogens or chemicals. These items are disposed of in special containers, which are then picked up by other companies for safe disposal, typically through incineration. That also means that if your dog is suspected of having a disease that could be passed on to humans, then his tissue — including the testicles — may be considered biohazardous waste, and get the special incineration treatment.
Also, regulations for what qualifies as medical waste are often determined on a county level, so it’s possible that some areas require testicles to be specially disposed of and cremated. But none of the veterinarians I spoke to know of any such counties that have that requirement. “I’ve never heard of that specific to dog testicles,” Phillips says. “If there was a state law, it would likely describe a wide range of animal tissues rather than specifically testicles or just reproductive organs.”
And in some instances, dog owners will request to keep their goodboi’s balls, which are usually preserved in formalin, or formaldehyde, according to a former veterinary nurse on Quora. “We would stick a label on it and write a huge warning about the toxicity of formalin, etc. and verbally warn the owner of the preservation method,” she writes. “We didn’t do it very often, but were happy to if people asked for it.”
A lifetime in formaldehyde is definitely no picnic, but it still beats disposing of your furry friend’s balls like you would three-day-old pizza.