Cosmetic surgery for your pets. Wait…what?

By on October 2, 2013

The trend hasn’t quite reached Omaha yet, as far as we know, but a growing trend in some areas of the country is that of “purely” cosmetic surgery for pets.

Ok, ok…we can understand removing some bad teeth for health reasons. Removing tumors, whether dangerous or not, can make your pet look and feel better, too; but face lifts? Tummy tucks? Orthodontic surgery to straighten out your canine’s canines? This is not a joke.

This article from a Miami, FL, CBS affiliate highlights the growing trend in South Beach and presents the argument for and against cosmetic surgery for pets. Here at PetsInOmaha, it is difficult for us to understand on so many levels. One, who has the willingness or means to use their discretionary dollars on fixing up their dog’s flabby tummy after having a litter of puppies? Two, why put pets through surgery that is unnecessary to their health and well being? Third, do these folks really think that their dogs and cats are so self-conscious that surgery is necessary? Wow. Maybe we’re missing something here, but we simply don’t get it. There is, however, another lens one might look through.

In talking with a local veterinarian, we’ve done our best to get some clarification and insight on the issue of cosmetic surgery for pets. Dr. Troy Everson is a vet at the Pet Clinic, located just north of 140th and West Center Road. It was easy for us to say, “What the heck are these folks thinking?,” but Dr. Everson helped us understand that these procedures are sometimes not simply “cosmetic.”

“In regards to cosmetic surgery,” Dr. Everson says, “there is no doubt that there are some veterinarians who probably perform medically unnecessary surgical procedures. Prime examples would be ear cropping and neuticle implants.  I personally have a hard time justifying any surgical or anesthetic procedure that is not medically necessary.” In case you are wondering about “ear cropping,” it’s a procedure that removes parts of an animal’s ears in order to look “more desirable.” Neuticle implants are much more baffling and you can read about it here. To be frank, it’s a process of putting fake testicles inside a scrotum for the sake of looking as if an animal had testicles after a neutering procedure. Yipes.
Neuticles are an interesting topic. Dr. Everson says, “I really have a hard time believing that a dog or cat that has been neutered would be psychologically or emotionally affected by not having the appearance of testicles present in their scrotum.  I think that neuticles are to be used only for the pet owner’s vanity or for an unethical dog or cat show participant. Animals without both or either testicle present in the scrotum cannot compete and it would be against the rules to have a neuticle surgically placed in their scrotum to allow them to compete.” So, fake “neuticles” for vanity is where the ethical line is drawn…quite strange.
Dr. Everson did review the article that we mentioned above and feels like it is a bit misleading in how the information is presented.  Many of the topics mentioned, like tummy tucks and eyelid procedures, were not necessarily presented accurately in his opinion.  “If a patient has eyelids that are rolled inward (like chows or shar peis) or too loose (like hounds) and is having eye issues as a result, then corrective surgery is often performed,” Dr. Everson says. This necessary procedure for the well being of an animal could be misrepresented as “cosmetic surgery.”  “If a very short patient (like a dachshund) has abnormally loose of skin on the lower side and it is dragging on the ground and becoming infected, then the loose skin could be surgically removed and could be misrepresented as a tummy tuck.” Fair enough! We, at first glance were incredibly baffled, but having experts like Dr. Everson helps us to get necessary clarification and justification for some of these procedures.
In summation, there is a small portion of the population that has truly “cosmetic” surgeries for their pets in order to make them simply “look better.” There is another portion of the population that completes surgeries like this in order to benefit their pets and prolong their lives. Some of these procedures could be portrayed as “cosmetic,” but many are done out of health necessity.
As to the procedures that the Pet Clinic offers, Dr. Everson offers this: “Our office only performs medically necessary procedures/surgeries.  We would not be interested in offering these services regardless of the demand.  I do not feel that the risk of anesthetic complications, surgical complications and the pain to the animals is justifiable for any procedure that doesn’t have a medical necessity.” It’s nice to know that a local vet has the wherewithal to know the procedures and risks; plus, it is also nice to have educated practitioners in our area serving us and our pets.
Botox is another hot topic when it comes to pets. “As to Botox,” Dr. Everson says,  “there seems to be more hype about its use and not as much actual use and in veterinary medicine. “There are not very many applications for the nature of muscle relaxation produced by Botox.  It appears that those businesses selling and distributing Botox are trying to create a market and need for the product.” Again- we’re glad we have a local company that knows the difference between necessary and unnecessary procedures. Once again, we want to make it clear, for our purposes and theirs, that the Pet Clinic is only interested in necessary medical procedures. If Botox is somehow beneficial to animals, the Pet Clinic might consider it. Otherwise, their philosophy remains as it is stated above.
Lastly, pet orthodontics are also trending procedures in pet medicine.  Dr. Everson says he knows of very few occasions where straightening teeth or pulling them is done for completely cosmetic reasons. There are occasions where abscessed teeth can cause harm- this is a necessary situation to address. What’s not necessary is the straightening of teeth so dogs or cats look like denture models.
Overall, Dr. Everson has this to say about cosmetic surgery for pets: “It is my opinion that truly cosmetic procedures like ear cropping are medically unnecessary and should not be performed.  Quasi-cosmetic/elective surgeries like declawing in cats are a bit of hot topic and are a bit controversial even in veterinary medicine – especially with the legislative action that has occurred in California (West Hollywood) making surgical declawing of cats illegal.  There are clinics in the region that perform ear cropping or the insertion of neuticles, but I am not aware of any clinics that are performing other truly cosmetic surgeries.”
We are glad that he (and we) are unaware of any clinics providing surgeries like tummy tucks or facelifts just for the sake of making animals “prettier.” If you are looking for cosmetic surgery for your pet, please take yourself to South Beach- Omaha may not be the best place for you to be shopping for that service. And…that makes us happy.

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