(WJW) — From “tummy tucks” to “facelifts” many plastic surgeries that were formerly reserved for humans are now being performed on pets.
It may sound outrageous, but these operations are actually advanced procedures that can dramatically improve the animal’s life; including a potbelly pig named Winnie.
“We call it Winnie’s tummy tuck but really it was a medically necessary surgery so she could walk and enjoy being a pig,” said Lissy Kuhn, at Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary in Ravenna, Ohio.
The potbelly pig arrived at the sanctuary weighing well over 400 lbs and was unable to stand, let alone walk.
The loving caretakers at Happy Trails worked with Winnie for more than a year helping her lose over 200 lbs, but that only created another painful issue.
“She was quickly developing a lot of excess skin, and when she began walking she began stepping on this excess skin,” said Kuhn.
That’s when the incredible surgeons at The Ohio State University School of Veterinary Medicine performed the tummy tuck; removing over 10 inches of excess skin enabling Winnie to walk and finally live a happy life.
Other animals have undergone eye jobs, facelifts and a rhinoplasty to improve their quality of life.
Dr. Jason Lamb at Avon Lake Animal Clinic says although the operations sound cosmetic, they actually are often necessary for the animal’s health.
“We do anatomical variations in dogs, but we do it for medical reasons and not to make the dog prettier,” said Lamb, “Some disease we deal with in dogs are airway disease in what are considered brachycephalic dogs typically like your English bulldogs and your Boston terriers, their noses are typically too small so they get rhinoplasty to open up that airway.”
Folds of skin around the eyes and other parts of the body are often removed to reduce painful chronic infections in some breeds.
One Shar-pei had to have his eyes “tightened” because his eyelashes were turning inward.
“You have to remove them because it’s creating pathology rubbing the cornea,” said Lamb.
Advances in stem-cell procedures are also underway at Avon Lake Animal Clinic by harvesting the animals’ fat.
When those cells are re-injected into the animal, they can help with mobility in older pets and improve some diseases.
“The stem cells are very regenerative, the stem cells are actually able to divide and become something else,” said Dr. Carmen Petti, “I think stem cells are going to become protocols for everything: diabetes, kidney disease – you name it.”
Previously, lipomas required surgery to remove the fatty tumors, which could be dangerous for older pets but now less invasive liposuction is an option for some.
And high-tech scopes are being used at Animal Clinic Northview in North Ridgeville, said Dr. Randy Hutchison, “A lot of dogs that would’ve automatically gone right to surgery because they swallowed something, we can go down and actually pull it back up without going into surgery.”
Unfortunately, the procedures can be costly right now, and veterinarians say it should always be carefully considered weighing the benefits versus the risk to the pet.
“You have to assess the medical benefit of it, do you risk the anesthesia,” said Lamb.
Like Winnie’s case, and her tummy tuck which absolutely has improved her quality of life.
“Oh my gosh, the first time we saw her ‘wallow’ in the mud like a normal pig it was so wonderful,” said Kuhn, ”And now Winnie has been adopted by a very special family.
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