I have been lucky enough to be seeing a lot of little adorable smoosh-faced puppies lately, which led me to think about some cosmetic surgery. Not for me, I’m a lost cause! For the dogs. Did you know that vets do “cosmetic” surgery on pets? These don’t involve tummy tucks or enhancing any body parts, but instead are functional cosmetics. This means that it changes looks slightly, but more importantly changes function. I will talk about a couple of instances where this kind of surgery can make a big difference.
Stenotic nares is the technical term for nostrils that aren’t wide enough. This is commonly found in brachycephalic (smoosh-faced) breeds like pugs, bulldogs, Boston terriers, Persian cats, etc. Although it is an appearance that is bred for, it is not ideal for their long-term health. If your pet’s nostrils look like small slits instead of round holes, they likely have stenotic nares.
While many pets live their whole lives with this, it is much more difficult for them to draw in breaths. While dogs occasionally breathe through their mouth, most of their breathing is done through their nose. Try plugging your nose and drawing in some breaths. Much harder right? Or imagine when you have a cold and are congested. It is much harder to breathe when your nostrils aren’t completely open.
Over time, the increase in pressure to draw air starts to affect animals. It is difficult for their trachea, lungs, and the back of their throat. Most of these breeds have associated airway problems, so stenotic nares keeps making this issue worse.
Often we prefer to surgically correct nostrils when we spay or neuter a pet and they are already under anesthesia. However, it is a relatively fast procedure and can be done at any time. A small wedge cut is made in the nostrils and they are then repositioned so that the opening is wider and rounder. This makes it much easier for the pet to draw in breaths with no resistance. This surgery has very little pain associated and makes a big difference in their airway health.
Often we notice a difference in breathing right as the pets are waking up, because it becomes easier so quickly.
Entropion is a disorder found in many dogs and cats where the lower eyelid rolls in slightly. This means that instead of the inner eyelid contacting the surface of the eye, the part of the eyelid that has hair and eyelashes is on the cornea. This creates a lot of irritation and can also create ulcers on the cornea. This is something that your veterinarian can diagnose on a physical exam.
There are many causes for chronic runny eyes, including allergies, tear duct disorders, and other conformational abnormalities. Your veterinarian will be able to distinguish the problem. If entropion is the cause, it can be surgically repaired. In this surgery, the skin under the eyelid is altered and excess skin is removed. This helps the eyelids roll out to return to a more functional position.
The longer this problem goes on, the more chance there is of the eye being damaged. Surgical correction is a great permanent solution and animals recover quickly from this surgery. There are specific breeds of animals that are more prone to entropion. Again, many breeds have a “look” that is bred for and can include entropion (boxers are a common breed). However, just because it is common in a breed doesn’t necessarily mean that it is best for them.
Dogs can also have too long an eyelid, as we often see in breeds like Mastiffs. If this becomes a problem we can actually shorten the eyelid.
Inverted vulvas are often seen in dogs that are spayed early, dogs and cats that are overweight and dogs based on genetics. This is another thing that can be surgically corrected (the surgery is called an episioplasty). This is a very effective surgery in correcting the positioning of the vulva and decreasing skin folds which hold bacteria.
If a pet is also overweight, a weight-loss program should be tried first. However, this is a common thing to see even in animals that are at an ideal weight. Your veterinarian will help you determine if this is something that might help your pet, but it can make a big difference in dogs with chronic urinary-tract infections.
Remember, functional cosmetic surgery helps improve a pet’s quality of life. Since our pets are all perfectly beautiful, we only need to change their appearance in ways that benefit their long-term health and wellness.