When we think of plastic surgery, we may think of a favorite entertainer desperately trying to preserve her looks (and her brand) by having the skin on her face tightened. We may also think of the friend or relative who felt that changing the size or shape of part of her body may make her feel better about herself.
There is no shortage of opinions about the branch of plastic surgery called cosmetic surgery, where the reason for surgery is to improve the patient's appearance. However, the purpose of this blog post is not to judge the merits of human plastic surgery, but to explore the benefits of pet plastic surgery.
Plastic surgery includes not only cosmetic surgery, but reconstructive surgery. Reconstructive surgery may restore the appearance of damaged tissue, or improve the function of naturally growing tissue.
Years ago, the standard for many dog breeds required cosmetic surgery. Dogs had healthy ear leathers amputated, dewclaws removed, and tails docked. Some breed enthusiasts feel that long tails and 'extra' toes are opportunities for working dogs to get injured, so surgery may have been done to prevent issues.
This is similar to ideas that surgical removal of a healthy uterus or testicles in dogs not intended for breeding will prevent problems (this is true). However, the best age for neutering surgery has recently become a topic for discussion.
For some types of dogs, the breeder is trying to produce offspring with short muzzles and atypical eye shapes. Selecting for a short muzzle may create a dog that has the expected amount of skin, but the face bones of a smaller dog. Although many aficionados of of brachiocephalic breeds feel the resulting wrinkles give the dog character, it is possible that extreme versions of these traits may cause health
problems. Those pets having extra skin may have the quality of their lives improved by removing excess skin.
It is possible but less likely that cats may need plastic surgery. Here is our patient Big Eddie when we met him a few months ago. Big Eddie is a senior outdoor cat that was
blind. Both eyes were painful due to unexpectedly large eyelids that could not close normally. His large eyelids were always rolled outside in, which caused his eyelid fur to be rubbing on his eyeballs. We all know how painful that having an eyelash in our eye can feel; Big Eddie always had that feeling on both eyes.
He had ongoing irritation to the cover of his eyeballs, so his eyes had a cloudy appearance. He had a habit of rubbing his eyes in attempt to relieve the pain, so his eyes were always covered with mucous and pus.
We were able to restore this cat's sight and greatly reduce his pain by completing two surgeries to remove his excess face skin. Most pets who have large rolling eyelids have a small amount of skin removed above and below the eye when surgical correction is desired. However, this pet had a more complex issue, so he needed a kitty facelift. Here is a picture of Big Eddie sunbathing with his eyes open. You can see a tiny scab from the surgery site next to his left eye. His family reports that he is enjoying having surgery, and is more active and playful now.
Do you have a pet who may benefit from cosmetic surgery? We are all on this journey together learning how to improve the life of pets. I hope you found a suggestion here to help you to live your best life.
Maureen Kubisz, DVM, CVA
Total Pet Hospital LLC
1100 US Highway 9
Howell, NJ 07731