Doberman Pinscher
Ear folding and tail docking are among the most common elective surgeries performed on dogs. Image: da_bomb_987654321/Flickr/CC BY-SA

It is not surprising in the 21st century, with people remaining active well into their 80s, to hear that plastic surgery is more prevalent than ever. But that trend is now being carried over to pets as well. Pet owners are more and more often putting their dogs and cats under the knife for elective procedures.

A lucrative specialty

Plastic surgery has become a lucrative specialty for veterinarians in many parts of the world. U.K. insurance company Petplan reported a 25 percent increase in pet nose jobs over the last three years. Those procedures added up to a total cost of roughly $2.5 million. Another $1.6 million was spent on pet eye lifts.

Not a new idea

Elective surgery for pets has been around for a long time. Tail docking and ear folding were, until recently, routine for certain breeds. Now, however, a multitude of services are available for all kinds of pets. Many veterinarians commonly inject animals with Botox for wrinkle removal, perform tummy tucks and nose jobs and use liposuction on obese pets.

Testicular implants

One of the most popular forms of elective surgery for pets is silicone testicular implants to make neutered dogs and cats appear more masculine. The implants, called neuticals, are made by Missouri-based CTI Corporation. The product’s website says that more than 250,000 pets have been implanted with neuticals since 1995.

Dr. Marty Becker, an Idaho-based veterinarian, said it is normally men who request neuticals for their dogs. He added that often they will ask for a larger pair than the dog’s original testicles.

Braces for dogs

Braces are also now available to give dogs a movie star smile. The dental appliance, called the “Rin Tin Grin,” can be beneficial for dogs with abnormally crooked teeth, but it is generally used for cosmetic reasons.

Some procedures are beneficial

Other procedures do have legitimate medical purposes for some animals and some breeds. Facelifts can help dogs with particularly droopy skin to see better. Nose jobs can help breeds with small, flat noses — such as pugs — to breathe more easily.

Ethical questions

Putting a pet under anesthesia can be dangerous under the most necessary of circumstances. To do so for cosmetic reasons alone raises many ethical questions.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals opposes elective surgery for animals except when it improves the animal’s life. “It is ridiculous to perform medically unnecessary procedures that simply perpetuate the image that dogs are fashion accessories,” says the organization’s website.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals opposes cosmetic procedures, such as ear folding and tail docking, to conform to breed standards. It addition, it opposes debarking, declawing and animal nose jobs unless “behavior modification has been ineffective and euthanasia or abandonment will result if the behavior does not cease.”


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