Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Testicular implants for dogs are out

Clients often jokingly ask whether I do plastic surgery on animals. The Australian Veterinary Association's draft policy on "Surgical Alteration to the Natural State of Animals" states that cosmetic procedures (ie those not necessary to the health and welfare of the animal) are unacceptable. In fact it states that "Performance of any surgical procedure for other than sound medical reasons is unacceptable." This includes procedures like declawing cats (common in the US but not here), dewclaw removal in dogs, tail docking, ear cropping, de-barking, removing venom glands in snakes and demusking ferrets. Justification for performing one of the above has to be on the grounds that the animal may suffer without surgical prophylaxis.

All of the above means that testicular implants, or Neuticles http://www.neuticles.com/ as their inventor calls them, are a no-go over here. Some time ago I wrote a light-hearted article in The Veterinarian Magazine regarding these implants but failed to mention the above policy as I wasn't aware it existed at the time. I've had quite a few male pet owners concerned about neutering because they like their dog's undercarriage on display - even though neutering eliminates the risk of testicular cancer (no testicles, no cancer) and reduces the risk of developing perineal hernias. Anyway, for those fascinated by the topic I've pasted my original article below. BTW our model here, Dr Phil, has been castrated and does not appear to have been traumatised by the experience.

Neuter-hesitant: the term used to describe a client (usually male) who cannot bring themselves to have a male dog desexed due to anxiety about removing its manhood.

The man who coined the term is also responsible for coming up with the solution. Gregg Miller, a US inventor, developed and patented testicular implants (Neuticles) to simultaneously restore the undercarriage of male pets to pre-castration glory and allay the insecurities of their owners.

Miller says he came up with the idea when he booked his seven-month-old bloodhound in to the local vet to be desexed. He admits he was shocked to learn that the procedure involved removing the dog’s testicles.

“Many compare [neutering] to emasculation, turning their beloved male pet into a eunich,” says Miller.

In a book he penned about the process of inventing Neuticles, Miller claims that his own dog became depressed after castration.

“He looked down at his private area,” he wrote in Going Going Nuts. “…Buck looked up at me with a puzzled expression. He looked back down again – and then back at me a second time with an expression of ‘where did they go – what has happened to me?’ He didn’t clean himself – only had that look of bewilderment. Buck knew they were gone and for over a week seemed sluggish and depressed.”

Concerned that removal of testicles robs dogs of their self-esteem, Miller got together with a team of vets to design implants that replicate the exact appearance, weight and texture of genuine canine testicles. He sank over $US1.5million into research and development. When the first implants were installed in a nine-month-old Rottweiler in 1995, it made international headlines. One magazine boldly listed the procedure as one of the top ten news events of the year – the same year that 168 people were killed by a terrorist bombing in Oklahoma city, ceasefires ended the bloodshed in Bosnia and OJ Simpson was acquitted.

Neuticles are now available in three models. NeuticlesOriginals are made from non-porous polypropylene homopolymere, to deliver a “rigid firmness,” costing $US73 a pair. For owners who prefer their dog’s privates to retain a more natural firmness, NeuticleNaturals are made from solid silicone ($US159).

For the more discerning owner, NeuticlesUltraPLUS ($US329), also made from solid silicone, is a precise reproduction of the pet’s organ including featuring an etched exterior which manufacturers claim retards scar tissue development. Then there is the Rolls Royce model: the NeuticlesUltraPLUS with epididymus. This exact replica of the testicle also incorporates the pampiniform plexus and ductus deferens, for the exceedingly discerning, quite possibly obsessional owner.

Including the cost of implantation, US pet owners are paying from $US119 to $889 a pair. Ideally implantation is performed immediately following castration, before the scrotum recoils and loses any holding capacity. Other indications include scrotal asymmetry in cryptorchids.

The procedure is performed mostly on dogs, but implants have been used in cats, horses, prairie dogs, rats, bulls and, reportedly, an elephant. Miller claims the procedure is safe and almost complication free, with no reports of implants bursting. The most common complication is post-operative scrotal swelling, which usually resolves in two to four days.

“Post operative care is nothing more than the post operative care employed when you neuter the old way,” he says. “Restrict pet’s activity and don’t allow him to lick the incision area.”

New-York based veterinarian Dr Richard Green, who has implanted several pairs of Neuticles, says that the procedure is purely cosmetic. “Dogs do just fine without their testicles.”
Miller claims that since Neuticles hit the market in 1995, more than 230,000 pets in 49 countries, including Australia and New Zealand, have received the implants at 17,000 veterinary clinics worldwide.

“Above all, Neuticles are encouraging pet owners to neuter that simply would not have before,” he says. “As a result, pet overpopulation is being reduced and pets are living happier, healthier, longer lives.”

The invention earned Miller the 2005 Ig Nobel Prize for Medicine. Buck, the bloodhound whose testicles were the inspiration behind the invention, succumbed to complications of liver cancer at the age of eight.

Those keen to learn more can download and view a video demonstrating implantation technique at http://www.neuticles.com/, or order a range of bizarre merchandise including Neuticles tee-shirts, caps, tote-bags, key-rings and a Neuticle-on-a-necklace. Miller’s company, CTI (Canine Testicular Implant) Corporation also sells silicone eye implants for small animals as well as horses.