The fact that pets often look like their owners isn't cause for concern, unless of course that pet owner happens to be Joan Rivers. Nose jobs, face-lifts, silicone implants and tummy tucks. Yes, I'm talking about pet plastic surgery.
While some procedures are deemed medical necessities, others are simply at the animals' expense.
"General anesthesia is certainly not without risk, though the chances of complication in young and healthy animals is low, says Janet R. Kovak, DVM, ACVS of New York City's Animal Medical Center "We recommend a chest x-ray and blood work screening for animals over the age of six. Our first priority is to make sure we're not making any decision that puts the animal at risk."
Pet Plastic Surgery--What Procedures Are Being Done?
Chin lifts might be performed to relieve excessive drooling in large breeds like Newfoundlands, Bloodhounds and Mastiffs.
Other breeds such as the Bulldog are prone to skin folds around the eyes, nose, cheeks and vulva, which can cause recurrent bacterial infections.
In these cases, veterinary surgeons advocate a 'nip and tuck' in those areas.
Is Pet Plastic Surgery Necessary?
Whether or not pet plastic surgery is necessary is determined on a case-by-case basis.
"But," Kovak says, "as members of particular breeds, they're predisposed to it. There's an ongoing debate here, but as long as breeders continue to breed them, they'll remain susceptible."
The Debate Over Pet Plastic Surgery
The debate? The Humane Society's complete policy on the topic of pet plastic surgery can be found on their Website (www.hsus.org).
In short, they oppose unnecessary surgical procedures when done for cosmetic purposes or to disguise natural imperfections of any animal. The American Kennel Club does not allow dogs with physical alterations to be entered in competitions besides cropping of ears and tails to meet breed standards. In fact, judges are trained to inspect all of a dog's parts to ensure that there are no cosmetic additions or corrections.
Which leads us to an invention called Neuticles, silicone testicular implants that come in different shapes and sizes, mainly used for neutered pets. Despite its FDA approval, lukewarm popularity and subsequent silicone inventions by founder Gregg Miller, Neuticles are not encouraged.
"Anytime you put a foreign material implant into an animal you run the risk of an adverse reaction," urges Kovak.
Is Pet Plastic Surgery Just a Dog Thing, Or Are These Surgeries Also Performed on Cats?
There are fewer plastic surgeries of any kind performed on cats.
With its narrow nose, the Persian is the most likely candidate for rhinoplasty. When considering felines, however, we get into the hot-button issue of declawing. My mantra? Get a cat or get a couch.
Unfortunately, many people choose to do both, and it is often at the cat's expense.
Commonly believed to be a simple surgery, declawing can be likened to cutting off each human finger at the last knuckle. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has not banned the practice, but it certainly discourages it.
"However," explains Kovak, "for those who are immunosurpressed -- someone with HIV or the elderly -- there is medical justification for the procedure. In those instances, the feline is given an abundant amount of pain medication."
A consultation with a surgeon should be made to discuss the risks and rewards before any surgery, plastic or otherwise.
"Fortunately," says Kovak, "pet owners treat their pets like family, and are usually easily discouraged from putting their pet in harm's way."