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Plastic Surgery for Dogs in South Korea Sparks Outcry, But Is America That Different?

Posted August 06, 2015 in A Vet's Life

AJ Debiasse, a technician in Stroudsburg, PA, contributed to this article.

It's no secret that a large percentage of the population has become obsessed with visual appearance. In response, the plastic surgery industry has grown significantly, not only in the US but in South Korea as well. However, a recent article published on Korean news site Chosun Ilbo and commented on in English by Kotaku.com (a member of the Gawker network of sites) reveals that this applies to dogs in South Korea as well. In the last few days, several writers have picked up the story, often declaiming the practice.

Boxer and friends with ears croppedYour reaction may be similar to my initial feeling when hearing about this: Why would anyone put their dog through plastic surgery? Aren't some of their imperfections what make them so cute? Have we gone too far and can this be humane? But when I actually read the article, I was not as outraged as I thought I would be… because several of the practices discussed are ones still being requested and performed here in the U.S. 

All judgments aside, here are some quick facts:

Tail-Shortening (or "Docking")
One cosmetic procedure mentioned in the South Korean article is tail shortening. Despite the official position of the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), tail docking remains a common procedure for many dog breeds in the US. The procedure is usually done when the puppy is just days old.

Ear Trimming (or "Cropping")
Another plastic surgery mentioned in the Korean article is ear trimming, to make the ears pointier, like you might see on Doberman Pinschers. Again, ear cropping is done in many breeds to achieve the American-standard “look” and, if performed, is routinely done at a young age. This surgery gives the classic "tough" look found in breeds such as boxers, pit bull-type dogs and others.

Mixed Veterinary Opinions In the US
While both of these procedures are legal and performed in the United States, the AVMA states that it “opposes ear cropping and tail docking of dogs when solely for cosmetic purposes. The AVMA encourages the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards". In many countries outside of the US, ear cropping and tail docking are completely banned, along with declaws on cats (which we will save for another time).

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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 www.DrPhilZeltzman.com, and follow him at www.facebook.com/DrZeltzman.

Opinions expressed are those of the writer:

The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent the beliefs, policies or positions of all veterinarians, Pet Health Network, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. or its affiliates and partner companies.