Cosmetic Surgery for Animals: When Fluffy Needs a Facelift

Think your Pekingese is looking a bit peaky? Maybe your horse is getting a tad long in the face, or your Mexican hairless looks like he could benefit from a hair transplant? Whatever the case, these days you can change the way your pet looks – from fixing droopy eyes to giving them a nose job, a chin lift or even a pair of fake testicles – with a little help from an animal cosmetic surgeon.

Dr Michael Pavletic of Boston Angell Animal Medical Shelter draws the line when patients ask him to perform cat liposuction or dog ear piercing.

Dr Michael Pavletic of Boston Angell Animal Medical Shelter draws the line when patients ask him to perform cat liposuction or dog ear piercing.

Pet plastic surgery is not as far-fetched as it seems. In fact, many animals – especially dog and cats – have what is seen as largely unnecessary surgery all the time, from tail docking to ear clipping. But what about more unorthodox procedures – such as a canine breast reduction, or a feline tummy tuck?

Like cosmetic surgery on us mere mortals, pet cosmetic surgery is designed solely to enhance an animal’s appearance, although sometimes the procedure is also done to make the pet more convenient to his or her owner, such as cat de-clawing. Some people have surgery performed on Rover or Daisy to make them more marketable – think show horse or purebred show dog – while others do it simply to make them appear more aesthetically pleasing to humans on a non-competitive basis.

Whatever the case, it’s estimated that the cost of giving Fido a fuller bosom or Fluffy a face lift is about the same as having plastic surgery on yourself. So you’d have to have a big wallet – and a pretty big ego – to have a procedure carried out (not to mention a fairly forgiving pet).

Unnecessary Pet Cosmetic Surgery

Plastic surgery for pets has become popular amongst professional dog breeders and dog show entrants – although there are strict rules disqualifying animals who have undergone such surgical procedures – with the exception of “traditional” techniques such as ear docking. Still, many owners choose to ignore the rules, saying their chances of being caught out are so remote it’s worth taking the risk.

Types of popular unnecessary plastic surgery include:

Canine Tail Docking. Usually performed when a puppy is less than five days old, in keeping with the American Kennel Club’s standards. Performed routinely on several dog breeds, including Rotweilers, Poodles, Schnauzers and Old English Sheepdogs.

Canine Ear Cropping. Also to keep to the standards of the American Kennel Club. Seeks to reshape an ear that folds naturally to become an ear that is erect. Performed only on specific breeds, such as Schnauzers, Boxers and Great Danes.

Feline De-Clawing. A “series of amputations” is how this is sometimes described. The claw is not removed – the last bone of each of the ten front toes is, with nerves, muscles and tendons severed. The result: a cat that is unable to scratch your furniture – or defend itself when needed.

Testicular Implants. Some people would like their dog or cat to be neutered but don’t particularly like the look of a macho male pet sans cojones. So they have the vet insert testicular implants when they neuter the poor bastard. Advantage: Animals get neutered who otherwise wouldn’t. Disadvantage: Animals undergo an unnecessary procedure to have “neuticles” inserted into their private parts. It is estimated that 150,000 sets of neuticles have been implanted around the world.

Bovine “Enhanced Udder”. Makes the cow more marketable by docking the tail and allowing better access to the udder when milked, resulting theoretically in improved udder cleanliness and bovine health. The jury is out about whether this is a good thing for the cow or not.

Cosmetic Surgery for Practical Reasons

Some procedures carried out on animals actually have cosmetic effects, but are done for practical reasons, or to benefit the health of the pet. They include:

Skin Fold Removal. Decrease the folds to make a fatty dog skinny – and reduce their chance of suffering dermatitis while you’re at it. Skin folds can exist around an animal’s eyes, lips, vagina and tail, and can be great breeding grounds for unhealthy bacteria.

Nose Job. Several breeds of dog, such as bulldogs, can have congenital breathing problems. A nose job can sort this out once and for all.
Cosmetic Dentistry. Gum disease is common among many breeds of both dog and cat. While the simple solution would be massive extraction, some people go to the time, energy and expense of fitting their pet with braces. Also not uncommon (surreptitiously) among the show dog set.

Chin Lift. Want to stop your mastiff from drooling excessively? A chin lift can help – and also reduce the risk of infection in the mouth and even the kidneys and heart valves.

Doggy Breast Reduction. Bitches used for breeding are often left with a floppy bosom following pregnancy after pregnancy, so a breast reduction can get rid of that excess skin – which if too large, can get in the way of normal canine movement.

Feline Tummy Tuck: Gets rid of large “fat pads” on the tummy which can also hinder movement and cause infection and discomfort due to possible influx of bacteria.

Bizarre Pet Requests

  • Anita Alt, a dog breeder who specializes in miniature schnauzers, took her four-year-old Brutus to Dr Edgard Brito, a renowned Brazilian animal plastic surgeon, so he would perform better in international dog competitions and win coveted prizes. “We imported Brutus from Argentina to be a show dog. But then one of his ears started drooping – which is the kind of thing that would disqualify him from a competition,” Anita said in a recent interview with the BBC. Dr Brito fixed the problem by injecting a filler called Restylane, which is used to get rid of wrinkles on humans, into his ear. He is now one of the country’s top show dogs.
  • Dr Michael Pavletic of Boston Angell Animal Medical Shelter told a reporter recently that he has done everything from perform plastic surgery on hawks to extract a pair of red panties – which did not belong to the owner – from a dog’s abdomen. However, he draws the line somewhere: he has turned down requests from owners asking that their cats get liposuction and their dogs get diamond studs surgically inserted into their ears.

Pet cosmetic surgery is becoming so widespread that the US Humane Society has made this statement deploring it: “It is the policy of the Humane Society of the United States to oppose tail myotomy, tail neurectomy and tongue myotomy in equines (horse cropping), ear-cropping of dogs, and declawing of cats when done solely for the convenience of the owner and without benefit to the animal.

“Further, the Society opposes any other unnecessary surgical procedure that is painful, distressful, or restrictive of the function of the body part involved when done for cosmetic purposes or to disguise natural imperfections of any animal.”

So next time you think about getting a part of Fido chopped off, reshaped or surgically re-sculpted, think again. You might be better off investing in a top-rate grooming session for your dog to make him look the business, or even revamping his spirits – and thus his appearance – by letting him run wild through a muddy park and getting his little paws dirty (gadzooks – what a thought!).

*Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.

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