Dogs aren't perfect — the excessive drool, the droopy eyes, the wrinkly skin — but those quirky flaws are part of what makes them so lovable… right? Apparently not. For vanity and health reasons, more and more U.S. pet owners are turning to plastic surgery to alter their furry companions. The trend has even taken root across the pond, with U.K. pet insurers reporting a rise in cosmetic-treatment claims over the last three years. While vets and animal lovers have mixed feelings about surgery for the sake of cuteness, medical companies insist that some of the procedures actually allow animals to live "healthier and more active lives." A guide to the trend:
What kind of surgeries are pets getting?
Botox for wrinkles, tummy tucks, nose jobs, braces, and eyelid lifts, which are common for breeds like the bloodhound and bulldog. There are also implants such as "Neuticles" — bean-shaped silicone implants to replace the testicles of neutered dogs.
Wait, fake testicles?
Yes. They have little to no health benefit for the dog, and vets aren't too keen on the procedure. Still, more than 425,000 pets around the world now sport such implants.
But some surgeries are done for health reasons?
Yes. Several surgeries are suggested by vets to keep pets healthy. Skin folds caused by wrinkles in breeds like the shar-pei can be prone to infection, so Botox can help. Nose jobs can help flat-nosed dogs like the pug and some cat breeds breath easier. And for pets with extremely crooked teeth, which can cause mouth sores, the "Rin Tin Grin" braces will fix them right up.
How much does all this cost?
It depends. One U.K. family opted to get a face-lift for their bloodhound, Junior, in 2009, because his excess skin was blocking his eyesight and causing eye infections. The claim amounted to more than $5,700, according to the insurance company. Meanwhile, nose job operations among U.K. pets have increased 25 percent over three years, with claims totaling $2.5 million.
Where did this trend start?
In the U.S., of course. Tail cropping and plastic surgery on ears have been around for years, though they are going out of style. "Neuticles" were invented back in the mid-1980s, and chin-lifts for dogs became popular in the 1990s.