Has the pet world gone completely mad?
Plastic surgery for pets is increasing. There’s some shady work being done — but the truth is, most procedures are medically necessary, or at least not performed only for vanity’s sake.
Going Under the Knife
Galia Berry of Maryland, for example, remembers the time several years ago when her dog Sandy got a nip and tuck. As Sandy got older, his lips started drooping, trapping bits of food in the folds of skin and creating a smelly mess.
The veterinarian gave her 2 options:
- Shave the dog’s facial hair and clean his mouth after every meal
- Or put Sandy on the operating table
“A face lift for my dog, who has sagging lips,” Berry said. “Please tell me I am dreaming, that my life has not become a theater of the absurd.”
Dr. Alan Schulman, an orthopedic veterinarian surgeon in Los Angeles, is known as “veterinarian to the stars.” He said he has had plenty of requests for plastic surgery for pets but wouldn’t do the work without a good medical reason.
Among the procedures Schulman has performed are the equivalents of eye lifts, face lifts, rhinoplasty and abdominoplasty. Pets are usually hospitalized overnight, and people have paid about $1,000 per procedure.
Common Cosmetic Procedures
- Nose jobs: to fix breathing problems in breeds such as pugs, Bulldogs and Boston Terriers
- Eyelifts: to stop eyelids from rolling inward in breeds such as chows and sharpeis
- Chin lifts: to correct excessive drooling in large breeds such as Newfoundlands and bloodhounds
Dr. Jennifer Gabriele of Heart of Chelsea Animal Hospital in Manhattan said she rarely performs cosmetic surgeries, but that skin tags are people’s biggest complaint. The tiny appendages that hang from the paw on pinschers and poodles (also known as the dew-claw) don’t get in the way, but some people are bothered by them enough to have them surgically removed.
The Weird Stuff
Then there are the certified nut cases.
Cox News Service reported in 2005 on a veterinarian in Brazil who is enthusiastically altering the physical appearance of pets. “Plastic surgery is good for dogs!” Dr. Edgado Brito told the news service, adding that making a pet more attractive improves its relationship with the owner.
The Brazilian doc can straighten droopy ears or make straight ears droop. He can un-invert eyelashes with a dash of Botox. He has even tightened the breasts of female dogs who have given birth.
One of the more perplexing trends is the wide availability of fake testicles for dogs. Starting at $129 for a couple of basic midsize Neuticles, plus surgery costs, your neutered pooch can be himself again. Top-of-the-line models fetch $1,799 per pair.
More than 100,000 dogs, cats, horses and bulls now have Neuticles, which are “crafted based on the firmness of actual animal testicles,” according to CTI Corp., the company that manufactures them.
Some veterinarians caution that Neuticles may present a risk of infection.
Overbites, Root Canals and More
Other procedures include laser depilation to enhance the looks of hairless cats.
If your pet has an overbite, dozens of certified veterinary dental clinics across the country can correct it with orthodontic braces. There are even root canals for ferrets, said Dr. Jan Bellows of the All Pets Dental Clinic in Weston, Florida.
People have been altering pets for ages, docking their tails and cropping their ears to fit breed profiles since Victorian times, and, more recently, getting cats declawed to protect furniture.
Declawing is painful enough to consider (and on the rise, according to Dr. Gabriele), but what kind of person gets a dog de-barked? That’s right, some people with dogs have decided that enough is enough with all the barking and, well, it’s just time to have the doc take out the dog’s vocal chords. Can you imagine?
The plastic surgery trend has brought howls of protests from animal welfare advocates, who say pets are being subjected to unnecessary pain and suffering.
The Humane Society is just one such organization that has railed against frivolous pet surgeries.
But not everyone agrees. The American Kennel Club has fought against proposed legislation in New York state to ban ear cropping and tail docking. For more about problems with the AKC, read this article.