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Fake dog testicles help pet owners accept neutering

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Sherri Shao's miniature pinscher Stitch sits in his navy blue carseat. Stitch is one of over 250,000 animals that have been implanted with fake testicles, known as Neuticles. (Courtesy of Sherri Shao)

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Sherri Shao's miniature pinscher, Stitch, is one of over 250,000 animals that have been implanted with fake testicles, known as Neuticles. Like many owners, Shao wanted her dog to look "the same" after getting neutered. (Courtesy of Sherri Shao)

Sherri Shao’s miniature pinscher Stitch had it all--his own outhouse, heated car seat and dog stroller with a down blanket. When Shao decided to neuter her beloved pet, she wanted to make sure he came out of his surgery with everything seemingly intact.

“I don’t think a dog knows whether his testicles are gone, but I wanted my dog to look exactly the same as he did when I got him,” said Shao, 48, of Rochester, Minn. “I thought it’d be like a vasectomy--a little snip-snip and everything would still be there.”

When Shao learned that the procedure would actually remove Stitch’s sexual glands, she went online and found Neuticles, which makes testicular implants for animals.

Stitch had two silicon testes implanted and thus joined the growing number of animals that have had a procedure that many veterinarians say is purely cosmetic. Others say the procedure helps the fight against animal overpopulation.

More than 250,000 pairs of patented Neuticles have been sold worldwide since 1995, for implantation in animals as diverse as a rhesus monkey in Arkansas and a water buffalo in Colorado. The impants are inserted in a simple surgical procedure, either during the neutering process or after. Ranging in price from $94 for a polypropylene set to $1,799 for a custom-fitted pair, Neuticles are marketed for their “real” shape and feel.

The procedure is done solely for looks, said Dr. Jeff Werber, a Los Angeles veterinarian known for his celebrity clientele, who are no strangers to cosmetic enhancements themselves.

“It’s a very specific personality that goes for Neuticles,” Werber said. While the manufacturer claims that about 60 percent of Neuticles buyers are female pet owners, some men take particular issue with the neutering process, he said.

“They vicariously feel that if I do it to the dog, in a way I’m neutering them,” Werber said.

Werber says he is all for Neuticles if that is the only way to persuade pet owners to get their animals fixed.

“It’s silly, it’s pure aesthetic,” he said, adding that he would not consider such adornments for his own cats and dogs. “Are people really going to look at my dog and say, ‘What happened to his scrotum?’ No! But if it means the difference between an owner letting us neuter or not, then in a way it becomes a health functional issue.”

Not all veterinarians will perform the surgery. In her 11 years as a veterinarian, Michele Seibold said she had never seen a Neuticle used.

“It’s an unnecessary surgical procedure,” said Seibold, who works at the Quarry Ridge Animal Hospital in Ridgefield, Conn. It is fundamentally different, she says, to be talking about something like implants for women who are emotionally traumatized by mastectomies. But animals?

“This dog knows no better,” Seibold said. “It’s crazy.”

Gregg Miller, the creator of Neuticles, disagrees. “You should neuter your pet,” Miller said. “But where is it written that your dog has to become a eunuch in the process?”

Miller clearly puts his dogs first. He said losing Buck, his late bloodhound and the inspiration for Neuticles, was harder for him than the death of his mother.

When Miller first asked his veterinarian about testicular implants for dogs in 1993, the doctor thought he was crazy, he said. Not soon after, the veterinarian came around to the idea, and the pair spent two years developing and patenting Neuticles.

“It’s a traumatic experience for the pet owner and for the pet,” said Miller, of Oak Grove, Mo. “With Neuticles, it’s like nothing ever changed, and that is very soothing for a lot of truly caring pet owners.”

Dwight French feels the same way. He wants Neuticles for his Boston terrier, Augustus.

“One of my reservations about having my dog neutered was that it’d be sad to just have an empty scrotum,” explained the 53-year-old from Fitchburg, Mass. He wants his dog neutered, but thinks replacing the testicles will make the process less startling. “It just wouldn’t look right without them. I wouldn’t want anybody to take mine.”

Any pet that receives Neuticles is insured for up to $2 million against any complication. But Miller says no one has reported any problems so far.

Whatever the guarantees, dog shows are one arena where Neuticles have not been well received. The American Kennel Club does not allow dogs with physical alterations to be entered in competitions, even if the animal’s natural testicles do not descend on their own--a common problem in dogs.

While dog show judges are trained to inspect all of a dog’s parts to ensure that there are no cosmetic additions, there have been incidents involving the use Neuticles, said Daisy Okas, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club.

“It’s not a rampant problem,” Okas said. But she acknowledged the difficulty judges can have in separating real glands from fake ones. “If they can’t detect it, there’s nothing we can do.”

E-mail: csv2113@columbia.edu