By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"Any time you do any surgery it's a traumatic experience to some extent," says Kenneth Williams, a veterinarian at Heights Veterinary Services in Houston. "As far as psychological problems, we've not experienced that. I do have a Boston terrier, male, who was neutered at the appropriate age. It didn't bother him one way or another."
Williams says for every 200 dogs neutered, there is one inquiry or request for implants. The cost of neutering ranges from $150 to $250. Slipping in a set of Neuticles may add $20 to the bill, not including the cost of the implants, provided there are no complications as can arise when an owner wants to move up a size, Williams says.
Neuticles owner Miller said many times owners are tempted to give their dog the illusion of a more robust character than nature intended. But he warned that overpadding the sacks will cause inflammation and might lead to more serious complications, such as one beagle whose scrotum was dragging the floor after its owner had replaced the dog's small testicles with large Neuticles.
"Neuticles are more for the client than the patient," Williams says. "A lot of times it's the clients themselves who trade places with the animal, and they don't want to be neutered."
"I wouldn't want mine chopped off," says 25-year-old Tony McManus as he and his wife, Jennifer, watch their dog play at Dallas' Lakewood dog park. Though the couple are convinced that neutering their dog changed him for the worse, they say they wouldn't spend money on prosthetic testicles.
"I'm not sure if another surgery and some fake ones would make him feel better," Jennifer says. "It seems extravagant."
Dave Vanverstelt threw a ball for his 2-year-old English bulldog, Benson. Vanverstelt says only his desire to breed his dog made him balk at the idea of neutering. Benson had an undescended testicle--a precursor of cancer--so Vanverstelt acted on his vet's advice and had the dog neutered.
"Yeah, I've heard of implants," he says. "It's an owner issue, but what do you expect? Dallas is just behind Los Angeles for plastic surgery. It's the insecurities of men coming through."
At Houston's busy Riverside Animal Hospital, a low-cost animal clinic, veterinarian Karen Kemper says she has been on the company's master list of clinics that offer the procedure since ordering a set as a gag gift for a friend, but she turns away clients asking for Neuticles. "Let me put it to you this way. It depends on what kind of practice you're in," she says. "It's not complicated, but it's a delicate surgery; you do a lot more than you regularly do in neutering with the preservation of sheaths and structures. We don't have a lot of owners who have discretionary income to spend...to have the procedure done."
Traditional neutering at the clinic costs $75 compared with $300 to $400 to implant Neuticles.
Kemper says the whole business over implants boils down to vanity. "Owners don't want the dog to look neutered--that's about the person. Neuticles do nothing as far as hormone balance or anything like that. Dogs operate on scent. Think about it. A dog can't tell if a longhaired dog has testicles, but it can still identify it as male or female. It's strictly a visual thing for two-legged people."
Miller, however, says that responses such as Kemper's infuriate him. "Fifty percent of vets nationally won't do it...and most will charge a criminal amount of money, but it's a two-minute procedure. It's as simple as changing a light bulb.
"We're after ultra-loving pet owners who want their dog to have the very best, who don't want them to suffer, who want a dog that looks like a male dog."