Cosmetic surgery is performed to enhance or alter the appearance of features on the human body and it includes procedures such as breast augmentation, rhinoplasty and a Brazilian butt lift (BBL). Even though cosmetic surgery is a daily occurrence in the lives of human patients, there is also a growing demand for canine cosmetic surgery. That’s right! Dog owners across the country are having cosmetic procedures performed on their dogs to make them more competitive in dog shows. Is cosmetic surgery on dogs a legal procedure? Is canine cosmetic surgery considered to be an ethical choice by dog owners? Let’s take a look at cosmetic surgery for dogs and the opinions held by people about altering the appearance of canines.
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is one the most well-known, and popular, dog shows in the United States. It is one of the few canine competitions broadcast each year on television and this adds to its prestigious reputation. While the look of each dog in the competition is important when judging the animals, the communications director of the club insists that the show is not considered to be a beauty contest. In an interview published on The Robb Report, Gail Miller Bisher stated that the breed standards used to judge each individual dog represent “what the dog was originally bred to perform”.
Instead of using their dogs to hunt wild animals as they often did in the past, many dog owners now spend their time worried about the appearance of their pet. They want their dog to have a winning appearance at all times whether they are in a dog show competition or simply at home on a daily basis.
Dr. Lisa Lippman, a veterinarian in New York, was asked about how dog owners work to obtain the look they want their dog to achieve in front of others. Dr. Lippman said many dog owners rely on “the tricks of the trade” which is another way of saying they have cosmetic surgery performed on their pets. Even though cosmetic surgery for dogs is legal in the United States, it is viewed by many as being unethical. Dr. Lippman added, “We all know it happened. Dog shows are a very competitive world, and stakes are high – it’s people’s livelihoods.”
Dr. Lippman shared some examples of canine cosmetic surgery. One of the examples she shared in what the doctor refers to as the “nip and tuck” and this includes adding or removing wrinkles (such as a “skin fold reduction”). There is also a procedure known as “tail docking” that is described as “a cosmetic surgery applied when a pet owner wants their pet to meet the breed standard.”
There are also some dog owners that work hard to conceal the fact that their male dogs have been neutered in the past. Dr. Lippman remarked she has seen some dog owners place fake testicles in their dog to hide the neutering process that happened in the past. One of the products used by pet owners to hide the fact the dog has been neutered is called the Neuticle. The co-owner of this prosthetic canine testicle claims to have sold more than 500,000 pairs of them since 1995. Gregg Miller is the co-owner of the product and he says it was created to lessen the “discomfort” felt by pet owners of neutered dogs. Miller says these dog owners would otherwise have to suffer hearing comments “by stranger who misidentify the gender of their pet.”
The American Kennel Club (AKC) is the organization that sets the rules for all of the major dog shows in the United States. They consider cosmetic surgery for dogs to be inappropriate but they do allow traditional modifications to dogs such as ear cropping and tail docking. These modifications are viewed as bring performed for aesthetic purposes as opposed to trying to gain an advantage in a competition for dogs. Even though these modifications to the appearance of a dog are permitted by the American Kennel Club, they are viewed as being medically unnecessary in many other countries and are often banned from being performed.
The British Veterinary Association officially describes tail docking as “an outdated practice that involves cutting or crushing muscle, nerves and bones without anesthetic in puppies under 5 days old”. Tail docking is when a tail is cut off using a scalpel or surgical scissors. The tail can also be covered with a rubber ligature for a few days until it falls off due to a constricted blood supply.
Tail docking is also officially opposed by the American Veterinary Association. However, it is still part of the written standard for some breeds in the United States and is often viewed at major dog shows in America.
While the practice of cosmetic surgery for dogs is not necessarily a popular one with some members of the public, it looks to continue as long as canines are competing in dog shows across the United States.