When Gregg Miller of Independence, Missouri decided to get his beloved bloodhound Buck neutered, he was shocked to hear that his pet’s testicles would be gone forever after the operation. Miller turned to his local veterinarian for help, hoping there was some way to retain his dog’s natural physique. Since his vet could do nothing but traditionally neuter the dog, Miller embarked on a journey to provide man’s best friend with natural looking testicular implants that he believed would boost a dog’s confidence and make him look like a male dog again. With the help of a team of veterinarians, Miller designed the product and in 1995, a dog received the first pair of testicular implants ever manufactured. Eleven years later, his patented implants, called “Neuticles,” are used in thousands of dog surgeries worldwide.
Cosmetic surgery is more popular than ever in America. Reality shows like E! Channel’s Dr. 90210, document the surgical journey of men and women hoping to improve their appearance and quality of life by getting nose jobs, liposuction, breast implants or face lifts. Having the perfect face or body is an important priority for some people, but should it be a priority for their pets?
The answer is no, says Los Angeles based Dr. Alan Schulman, a board certified veterinary surgeon who performs dermatological reconstructive surgery on animals. It is becoming increasingly common for patients to request cosmetic surgery for their pets, but Dr. Schulman will only perform a procedure if it is medically necessary.
“You would be amazed at how many people ask for Botox [for their pets],” says the doctor, named “Best Veterinarian” by Los Angeles Magazine. Just five percent of the work done in Dr. Schulman’s practice, the Animal Medical Center, is cosmetic.
Dr. Schulman offers face lifts, nose jobs, breast reductions, eye lifts and skin grafting to his patients, along with several other surgical services. The surgeries, he says, are performed for “bona fide medical reasons,” and result in an improved quality of life for the pet. “It’s not like we’re doing it so they can double their chances of getting a date on a Friday night,” he explains. The cosmetic surgeries are costly, running from $500 to $2,000. An eyelift, which Dr. Schulman says is his most popular procedure, starts at $500 but can cost as much as $1,000, depending on the severity of the case. Facelifts, another common procedure, begin at $1,000.
Many types of dogs, like the St. Bernard, are prone to deep skin folds in the face that often harbor trapped saliva and dangerous bacteria. Cutting out the extra skin fold and pulling back the skin, says Dr. Schulman, is not to make the dogs look younger, but to reduce the possibility of infection and tooth decay. It is also a much less invasive procedure than removing the salivary glands of the dog, another common solution to this problem.
Other surgeries, such as breast reduction, also decrease the amount of bacteria harbored in the animal’s skin folds. Simone Seydoux of Ventura, California was driving down a busy street on a warm February afternoon last year when she spotted a pregnant Pit Bull wandering down the middle of the road. Seydoux took her to a local kennel, where Honey birthed eleven puppies. When those puppies became ill with hookworms, they were abruptly taken off Honey’s breast milk.
Seydoux’s heart broke for the sweet-natured Honey, who seemed devastated at the time. She adopted the dog, who had what Seydoux describes as “two enormous balloons hanging in front of her,” her breasts. A trip to Dr. Schulman just two months after the adoption confirmed that Honey was not only harboring bacteria in the folds of her breasts, but also had cystic ovaries. Dr. Schulman suggested spaying the pit-bull, as well as lifting and tucking the skin around her breasts. “[Having such large breasts] was difficult for her, I think,” says Seydoux. “She’s beautiful … I wouldn’t have gone in for just [the reduction], but she looks fantastic … he did a wonderful job.” Seydoux says Honey now spends her time at a “Doggy Daycare,” enjoying the company of other dogs like her.
Cosmetic procedures for pets, as mentioned previously, are not always a medical necessity. “Neuticles,” says Miller, are for “neuter-resistant pet owners” who want their dogs to retain their masculinity and self esteem. Miller believes that dogs know they are missing testicles when they wake up from surgery, just like they would know if any other body part, like a paw, were missing. “As a result of [the procedure], tens of thousands of pets worldwide are living happy and healthier lives…and it’s reducing the pet population,” he says. The company manufactures four different models of testicular implants that range in price from $73 to $399 a pair. Their most high-end product has a scar-retardant feature and is made of hard silicon that feels liquid-filled.
Shawna Johnson of Coto de Caza, Calif. had “Neuticles” put in both of her Weimaraners, Ziggy and Toby. Johnson said she felt like her dogs looked more normal with the implants. “Besides, my husband and I enjoy the shocked look on friends’ faces when we explained how our dogs had testicular implants!”
Dr. Schulman, who will not put testicular implants in any of the dogs he neuters, says people often have an unrealistic view of what their pet is going through. “Once people have their dogs neutered, it’s the people that are embarrassed to take their dog outside, and therefore the dog is upset and not really happy,” says Dr. Schulman. “[When he gets the implants], he couldn’t give a damn that he has silicon testicles. He’s just happy you got your act together and took him outside to play with his friends!” Still, Miller and many pet owners insist that the dog feels more confident and masculine with the implants.
The American Veterinary Medical Association, while it objects strongly to cat de-clawing and canine ear cropping unless medically necessary, does not have firm guidelines set other areas of animal cosmetic surgery. “In general, I guess we wouldn’t really want cosmetic surgery for cosmetic reasons,” says Michael San Filippo, Media Relations Assistant for the AVMA. “And as far as I know, there hasn’t been anything to show that [“Neuticles”] are beneficial to the animal…there’s no evidence that shows the dog would feel more or less male.”
Abroad in Brazil, Dr. Edgard Brito makes it no secret that he performs plastic surgery on animals in his clinic solely for aesthetics. The surgeon offers Botox and Metacrill injections, commonly used for collagen enhancement in the human face and lips, to pets. Dr. Schulman says he is appalled at this type of surgery, which he believes is unethical.
Ethics, says Dr. Schulman, is really what cosmetic surgery for pets comes down to. With new advancements in veterinary medicine comes the dangerous possibility that doctors and their patients will take advantage of what is out there for the sole purpose of a more attractive pet. However, cosmetic surgery itself is not the enemy, says Dr. Schulman. The surgery, when used for medical reasons, gives adored pets the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives. “It just comes down to where you draw the line — what’s medical versus what’s cosmetic. There are some people that are going to say, ‘What are you crazy, for suggesting doing a dental implant on my dog?’” says Dr. Schulman. “But is it excessive or does it give them a better quality of life so they can eat well?”
For more information visit: www.neuticles.com.