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Plastic surgery for pets

Some vets refuse to do purely cosmetic procedures

From pet braces to cosmetic eye replacements to tummy tucks, some owners are putting their pets under the knife to give them a new look.  Kaiser, a Doberman, had ear implant surgery to get perfectly upright ears.

"The cartilage has not stiffened all the way, so his ears did not stand up completely," said Dr. Heather Hughes, Kaiser's owner and veterinarian herself.

Mesh implants for ear lifts are one of the many new advancements in pet plastic surgery.  And the cosmetic changes are happening in and out of the operating room.

A search online, you can find dogs with pierced ears and artsy tattoos.  There's even an ad for implants for neutered dogs.

It's something veterinarian Dr. Chris Bern has already been asked about in his practice.

"I think it is becoming more common for clients to pay for cosmetic surgeries." said Bern.

Purely cosmetic procedures can be expensive, sometimes costing hundreds to thousands of dollars.  Pet insurance doesn't typically cover it, and many vets, like Bern, won't even do it.

"I don't think it's worth putting them through the pain and the recovery and the risk for our perception of how they're supposed to look," explained Bern.

The American Veterinary Medical Association is also against performing surgery for only cosmetic reasons.  So is the Humane Society of the United States.

"Sometimes people don't think very hard about the inherent risks that are involved in anesthesia for one of our pets," said Kristen Thiesen with the Humane Society of the United States.

But there are many cosmetic procedures that are done for health reasons.  When Obie was adopted he was extremely obese.  His new owners put him on a special diet and he lost massive amounts of weight.  But his skin was left dragging on the ground.

"Even when the fat is gone, the skin still stays extended out," explained Bern.

A recent tummy tuck surgery changed things. 

If your pet has a bad bite, there's even orthodontists to help straighten teeth that become painful. 

Bern says before owners consider a cosmetic procedure, they should ask one question.

"Are we improving the health and the life of that pet? And if we are, then we have justification to do it," said Bern.

Hughes says she made sure Kaiser was healthy enough to undergo the procedure and chalks it all up to owner preference.  She prefers her dog's ears straight up.

"It's really an owner preference and a breed standard kind of thing," she added.

Some pet insurance plans do cover cosmetic procedures that have a health benefit for the pet or corrects a problem.