Could a Nip-Tuck Improve Your Pet’s Quality of Life?
Usually, the thought of “plastic surgery” on pets would turn most animal lovers’ stomachs. But are there times when a nip and tuck is needed to make life liveable for dogs and cats?
In my quest to adopt a rescue dog, I came upon a female that had been over-bred in a puppy mill. Her description mentioned she had been given a “breast reduction” because of an extremely droopy under-carriage that almost touched the ground. While I’d always assumed plastic surgery on animals was cosmetic and restricted to tail docking and ear cropping, I could understand how this would improve not only her comfort and mobility but also her adoptability. Breast cancer is not uncommon in pets and for many prospective adopters abnormally enlarged mammary glands could be a cause for concern.
The truth is, plastic surgery for pets is not uncommon and while some is strictly appearance-related – such as the aforementioned ears, tails and now “neuticles” for neutered males (who need to maintain “their” self-esteem) – it can also be life-enhancing for pets suffering from painful or debilitating medical conditions.
For heavily wrinkled dogs like Shar-Peis, Mastiffs and Bulldogs the skin-folds are a bacterial breeding ground that can result in chronic infections. Over time the heavy flaps of skin can hang down over eyes, obscure vision and cause the eyelids to roll inward, scratching the cornea and causing intense irritation and potential blindness. Plastic surgery (or corrective surgery as vets prefer to call it) that is similar to a face- or eye-lift can modify the folding and tremendously improve the dog’s quality of life.
With flat-faced (or brachycephalic) dogs such as Pekingese, Pugs, and French bulldogs, small, narrow nostrils can result in wheezing, snoring and shortness of breath – particularly problematic when living in warm climates. To help alleviate the problem, vets can perform a “nose job” by cutting a small wedge out of the fleshy end of their nose and widening the nasal openings. This procedure can also be performed on felines including Persian, Himalayan and Angora breeds with similar flat-face breathing issues.
These same feline breeds can suffer from maxillary canine teeth, meaning their lower jaw juts out beyond their upper jaw. This formation can cause eating problems and periodontal disease in flat-faced breeds unless treated by techniques that can include setting her up with orthodontic braces, bands or retainers.
And while we’re talking about flat… for dogs and cats who have given birth to multiple litters and have extreme volumes of hanging skin and mammary tissue. a tummy tuck and breast reduction can allow them to get back to enjoying the fun stuff such as running, jumping, climbing and sometimes simply walking normally.
Many veterinarians are quick to point out that putting an animal under any type of anaesthetic carries a risk and elective surgeries to needlessly change an animal’s appearance or behaviors (think de-clawing, de-barking, ear cropping and tail docking) should not be encouraged.
Just this year the province of Quebec said “finis” to cosmetic surgeries for domestic animals, joining seven other Canadian provinces in this ban. According to veterinarian Karen Joy Goldenberg, “Everyone recognizes a wagging tail and that a happy dog has those ears forward while a scared dog has those ears back. Well, if you’ve removed their ears, removed their tail, they can’t communicate to people or to other dogs.” Fair point.
But while the United Kingdom has long-deemed dogs with cropped ears ineligible to complete in shows both the American Kennel Club (AKC) and Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) encourage these surgeries and in some instances require, that ears are cropped or tails docked before the dog can be shown. And we talk about teaching old dogs new tricks!