Is cosmetic surgery ethical for pets?


Fact Box

  • Both tail docking and ear cropping in dogs originated in Ancient Rome and Greece. During the Roman Empire era, tail docking was believed to prevent rabies. Ear cropping can be found in ancient sculptures within Greek and Roman cultures.
  • The dog breeds that are most likely to have cosmetic surgery done are: Doberman Pinscher, German Shorthaired Pointer, Schnauzer, Boxer, Great Dane, and Pit Bull Terrier.
  • Ear cropping is typically performed on a dog between the ages of 10 and 14 weeks and done under anesthesia, while tail docking is done on five-day-old puppies without anesthesia.
  • Ear cropping costs about $475 however, can change based on the weight, age, and breed of the dog. The older and heavier the dog, the most expensive the surgery becomes.

Bre (No)

Leading animal welfare organizations are against superficially modifying pets with surgery, and several medically unnecessary cosmetic pet procedures have already been banned worldwide. Cosmetic surgery poses inherent, potentially deadly risks that can disturb the animal's emotional well-being. While humans can consent to cosmetic surgery and typically feel satisfied with its results, animals cannot consent to such physical alterations, producing emotional distress. Some pet modification procedures even include devocalization to muffle or eliminate dog barking or cat meowing. Due to the absence of an entire or portion of their anatomy, animals can exhibit behavioral changes following such procedures. In short, pets need their tails and voices

Some supporters of cosmetic changes in pets make baseless claims to justify unnecessary cosmetic surgeries. One is the belief that cropping dogs' ears will prevent infections when, in reality, it results in greater risk. Moreover, ears and tails are particularly important for dogs' healthy use of body language to communicate with fellow canines successfully. Removing these purposeful body parts puts them at increased risk of socialization issues.

While some surgical procedures on pets may be categorized as cosmetic, they serve a valid medical purpose, such as benefitting the animal's welfare. An example is the correction of congenital disabilities for a significantly improved quality of life. Subjecting pets to unnecessary surgical procedures with no benefit to the animal, such as devocalizing and declawing, permanently alters them for nothing more than our personal preference. Veterinarians know best when the potential benefits outweigh the risks of going under the scalpel, which is why many animal care professionals worldwide refuse to perform unnecessary cosmetic surgery on pets.

Joanna (Yes)

Considering there exists a stigma surrounding cosmetic surgery for humans, it is no surprise there is also one for pets. Elective surgical pet procedures aren't solely focused on bringing out the beauty hidden within the beast. On the contrary, cosmetic procedures can deliver medical benefits to our four-legged companions. 

For example, stenotic nares is a condition where a dog's nose is constructed. This impacts the amount of air flowing in and through the nostrils. This can result in snorting and noisy breathing, which can even be uncomfortable for the dog, sometimes resulting in quick exhaustion and even fainting. Stenotic nares repair surgery, a cosmetic procedure for bulldogs, opens the dog's nostrils, making breathing easier and more comfortable. 

With time, stenotic nares can significantly affect a dog's life. Due to the increased effort to breathe, dogs with the condition have trouble exercising and can even develop gastrointestinal issues and increased stress. While medical management can lessen the symptoms, stenotic pinched nose surgery is a permanent solution that can improve the animal's quality of life. Another example is dog tail docking. The surgery can benefit work dogs as, according to a study by the University of Glasgow, tail docking prevents injuries in spaniels and hunt point retrievers working in thick undergrowth. 

Finally, cosmetic surgery, such as declawing in felines and debarking in canines, can permanently counter unwanted behaviors in our pets. It may be time to have a softer stance toward cosmetic surgery for pets. After all, a little nip and tuck can positively impact the life and health of the little furry ones and their owners.

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