Yes, really. Some people do the strangest things to their pets. They crop their ears and cut their tails off. That’s the kind of cosmetic stuff I’m talking about. Partly, anyway.

Because there’s a whole lot more on the table when it comes to building better pets via the business end of a scalpel. Consider the Neuticles (testicular implants) some owners clamor for. Or how about “salivary duct transposition" to keep them more “drool free"? Eye tucks? “Debarking"? Ear implants (for shepherds whose ears won’t stand, for example)? Artificial eyes after enucleation (eyeball removal)?

Some of these I can get behind. But only if they’re done for therapeutic reasons. For example: the heavy salivator who keeps getting infections in his lip folds from all the drooling he does; the eye tuck performed because her lids curl in and hurt her corneas; the tail dock done because the tip keeps bleeding. I’ve done all these surgeries ... and I’d do ‘em all again ... happily. Because the animals needed them.

But sometimes it’s clear that an owner “just can’t stand the drool," can’t handle a barking dog, or just plain likes the look of his pet with upright ears “the way nature intended" (but presumably didn’t get around to). In these cases, I’ll balk. Sorry, no can do. Not “just because you want it that way." After all, my practice is not a have-it-your-way Burger King.

Then there are the borderline procedures:

You’ve heard my take on Neuticles (I’ll put ‘em in if that’s the only way the owners will neuter their dogs). And I can understand the fake eyes.

In both these cases, however, there is an argument that something is “lost" due to a therapeutic procedure and therefore the additional one is a low-risk add-on designed to compensate the human in some way––because we all know we humans can get hung up on little things like eyeballs and, well...just plain balls.

Then there are the dewclaws, usually removed at three short days of age. I’ll do these, but only as long as the owners are willing to let me do it MY way ... with pain relievers. And that’s only because I somewhat buy into the belief that it’s one way to prevent future injuries in working dogs.

Tail docks? I hate ‘em. Ear crops? I used to do them, but I’ve long since seen the light.

And now that the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) stands firmly against tail docks and ear crops, it’s much easier for me to defend my position when clients complain that I won’t do them.

Yes, long past are the days when every veterinarian would provide any service you asked for. Sure, many of us will still do these procedures, but don’t expect the younger vets to jump at the chance to crop your dog’s ears. Or declaw your cat, for that matter.

But then, declawing is another post. Stay tuned for that one tomorrow. (So reserve your declaw comments ‘till then, please.)

How about you? What do you consider a go or no-go when it comes to cosmetics for pets?


Dr. Patty Khuly