For most pet owners, surgery is a last resort and an operation is only performed out of sheer necessity. The animal is sick or in pain, and all other options have been exhausted. But there are a variety of surgical operations known as “elective procedures.” Most often, these surgeries are scheduled in advance, but rarely out of necessity since they are usually done for purely cosmetic reasons.
Due to the fact these procedures are usually unnecessary and painful for the animals, most pet lovers have come to view them as not only impractical, but inhumane. As such, most surgeries of this type are not covered under pet insurance plans. Let’s take a look at some of the most prevalent of these controversial elective procedures:
- Ear Cropping: For centuries, purebred dogs such as Dobermans and Great Danes have been celebrated for their iconic pointy ears. As a result, ear cropping is a common elective procedure where the floppy part of the ear is surgically removed. Though the dog is anesthetized during the procedure, the complete lack of practical benefits this surgery offers makes it an inherently questionable practice. In modern times, it faces intense scrutiny, so much so that it has even been banned in several countries.
- Tail Docking: This practice involves cutting the tip off a puppy’s tail. While it was once thought to have benefits, like preventing a long-tailed breed from sustaining injury later in life, the vast majority of these ideas have been proven wrong. Today, this practice is usually performed without anesthesia and continues mainly for the sake of improving appearance.
- Devocalization: “Ventriculocordectomy” involves the complete or partial removal of a dog or cat’s vocal chords for the purpose of minimizing barking and meowing. Not surprisingly, this controversial practice is no longer widely taught in veterinary medical schools due to its alarming long-term implications. Post-operation, the animal will experience great pain, but will also be at increased risk of hemorrhage, throat webbing, gagging, infection and more.
- Declawing: While it might be a source of frustration for many couch owners, clawing is actually a healthy cat behavior as it helps them exercise and stretch their muscles while also serving as a source of entertainment. And, because their claws are their first line of defense, cats often feel more vulnerable and become more aggressive when they’re taken away. There’s also long-term repercussions such as nerve damage, bone spurs, and the painful regrowth of improperly removed claws. As if that weren’t enough, scar tissue within the declawed paws leads to stress, and this stress often leads to the development of arthritis.
While these are just some of the most common elective procedures, there are still othersthat are gaining increased popularity. Some of these have clear benefits that improve the animal’s quality of life, such as face lifts that help dogs with congenital breathing problems. Others procedures, such as canine breast reduction and testicular implants called Neuticles, exist in a greyer area, though they still have their share of proponents. This expanding variety of elective procedures makes it all the more important for pet owners to stay up-to-date and informed about what is ultimately beneficial and what is purely superficial.