Aug. 18, 2011 -- Munson, a burly 7-year-old English bulldog, has a secret: His testicles are fake.
Neutered as a puppy, Munson (named after Larry Munson of Georgia Bulldog fame) got a pair of synthetic stand-ins to preserve his manly pride. Not his idea, of course, but his owner's.
"A lot of dogs have a lot of hair back there so you can't tell they're neutered. But with bulldogs, it's just right out there for everyone to see," said Jaime Davenport of Atlanta, whose husband, Jim, stood up for Munson's mojo.
Over dinner with a veterinarian friend, the Davenports learned about Neuticals -- bean-shaped silicone implants swapped in through a tiny scrotal slit during the neutering procedure. The vet even had a catalog detailing faux sets from "petite" to "XXL."
"We were just hysterical," said Davenport. But her husband was sold. And for $99, Munson got a shiny new pair of testicles.
While cosmetic procedures such as ear cropping and tail docking have petered out, plastic surgery for dogs continues to boom -- most of it, Munson's testicles aside, for medical reasons.
"We don't usually do things for cosmetic reasons in pets, there's usually a medical reason," said Idaho-based veterinarian Marty Becker.
With the famously high-maintenance bulldog breaking into the nation's top 10 registered breeds, those medical reasons are mounting. The breed's deep skin folds are prone to infection, and their flattened noses and pillowy soft palates can complicate breathing (not to mention cause loud snoring).
But a tummy tuck or a nose job can have dogs and their owners resting easy. Becker has even used Botox to relax tight puppy wrinkles, he said.
Botox and Braces ... for Dogs
If puppy Botox sounds bizarre, picture a dog with braces. Crooked teeth can cause painful sores, Becker said, describing one dog that had to sleep with a toy in his mouth before he got the "Rin Tin Grin," or braces for dogs.
Munson's predecessors, both purebred descendents of the original University of Georgia bulldog mascot, had tail and eye problems that required surgery. Munson's fake testicles, however, are purely cosmetic.
"It's typically men who want them for their dogs," said Becker, adding that male owners often ask about upsizing. "And you can always tell when a dog has them, because when he sits on the exam room table they clank!"
But someone else is onto Munson's fake parts -- a Lakeland terrier named Finley.
"My mom brought her dog in, and she could not stop smelling Munson's testicles," said Davenport.
Because Munson looks unneutered, the Davenports have had to do their fair share of explaining. A kennel charged more to take Munson on group walks because he "still has his cherries," Davenport said.
"We said, 'Yeah, but they're not real!'"
Some vets and pet owners oppose the testicular implants.
"This type of procedure is really only for one thing: To promote the ego of the owners," said Craig Swinson, whose adopted rescue dog Percy came with Neuticles, which was discovered when the dog was in surgery to be neutered. "Dogs don't know and they don't care."
Swinson, whose wife is a vet in Richmond, Mass., said he wishes money spent on fake testicles for dogs was donated to animal shelters instead. But some vets, like Becker, remain neutral on Neuticles.
"If it makes them have a closer relationship with their dog and take better care of him, I'm all for it," he said.
Although Munson has aged and his loose skin has sagged some, his back end looks surprisingly youthful.
"He's getting up there and his testicles are still very high and tight," said Davenport. "My husband said, 'I think he needs an old dog upgrade.'"