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Extreme Pet Makeover: Does Your Pet Need a Facelift?

Posted December 18, 2014 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA and the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound." Find him at

Cosmetic or plastic surgery is a hot topic.  Is it medically acceptable to implant fake silicone testicles in a dog?  Is it ethical to debark, or crop ears, or cut off a tail?

Plastic surgery is meant “to enhance appearance through surgical and medical techniques.”  Other procedures may be considered cosmetic, but they are really meant to fix medical issues. Here are five medically-indicated examples.

Rhinoplasty, or the "Nose Job"
Many dogs with a “flat face”, called brachycephalic breeds, have tiny nostrils. So small, that they can barely breathe through their nose, and they often have to pant in order to get enough oxygen on board.  This makes this condition extremely stressful. At worst, some patients suffocate, “turn blue” as we say, and pass out.  Common dog breeds include Bulldogs, Boston terriers, pugs and Pekingeses.  Some cat breeds can be affected as well: Himalayans and Persians are brachycephalic breeds as well.

Narrow nostrils can lead to other problems: the soft palate, in the back of the throat, can become too long, or “elongated”, and causes the pet to snore.  Treatment involves surgery to trim the soft palate. Also, the saccules, two small fleshy pieces of tissue in the larynx or voice box, can get enlarged, stick out and decrease air flow. They are called “everted laryngeal saccules.”  They also can be removed surgically.

But back to our nose job.  If the nostrils are too narrow, a common procedure, called a “rhinoplasty”, can be done to enlarge them.  A wedge of an appropriate size and shape is removed. A few small stitches are placed.

Research suggests that doing a rhinoplasty early in life, as young as 3 months of age, may prevent further problems with the soft palate and the saccules. Unfortunately, few pet owners know this... This simple procedure may save the pet from suffocating and more surgery later in life. Incidentally, this is also a big money saver.

Therefore, a rhinoplasty can be a preventive surgery early on or a big help later in life. Either way, it can make a dramatic difference in the pet’s quality of life.

Nasal Fold Surgery
Still in the nose department, brachycephalic dogs and cats can have a skin fold across their nose. This can

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Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his website at, and follow him at