Your Puppy’s Ears: To Crop or Not to Crop?

Ear cropping is usually done between 10 to 12 weeks of age, but it also depends on the veterinarian. Many vets will no longer perform this surgery because not only is it purely cosmetic, but it is very painful to the pup. In fact, certain states are outlawing it altogether. In America and Europe, many top kennel clubs are no longer requiring cropped ears as part of the breed’s standard requirements. I have been working in the veterinary field for many years. I’ve worked in the same clinic for over 10 years and when I first started there, the doctor performed ear cropping on full-breed puppies. Almost every time, the puppy awoke from the anesthesia screaming in pain even when given pain medication. Also, after administering antibiotics, infection can occur and as with any surgery using a general anesthetic, there is always a life risk. After this particular surgery, the pup is quite unsettled and uncomfortable due to itchy, sore ears. Inside the bandages, humidity builds up and it is hard to keep them from trying to scratch and remove the tape and bandages during the healing process. I finally convinced the doctor to quit doing the surgeries. It really didn’t take much persuasion because I know he didn’t like doing them anyway. He is an incredibly talented and caring veterinarian and didn’t feel it was a surgery of worth.

Throughout the years, I’ve often had clients ask for information about ear cropping. Though we no longer provide the service, I explain what is actually involved. Most clients change their minds and quickly decide against putting their puppy through that. There are many people that are not only shocked and appalled after learning that a large portion of the ears are literally sliced off. I often wondered what those clients thought ear cropping was before I explained it to them. I assumed it would be somewhat obvious but as the saying goes, “never assume.” It does make me feel a bit better at least knowing they now have the facts and are more aware of what to expect because some clients whom don’t have the facts beforehand later express regret. This is why I always offer the details to anyone who mentions possibly having their dogs’ ears cropped; whether solicited or not. Further scrutiny behind ear cropping is it is an on-going process for up to at least two to three weeks due to having the client return multiple times (usually every two to three days) to change bandages. Frequently, clients don’t keep those essential follow-up appointments which aids in the potential failure for the anticipated outcome, increases the chance of infection and the level of physical discomfort to the pup. Additionally, there is never a satisfaction guarantee for the final results. Luck actually plays a large part in getting the ears to “stand” perfectly. No matter how great the surgeon, some ears are going to end up looking awkward, which often leads to the tactless questioning from others such as, “who in the world cropped those ears?” Thus, painting an unfair and negative picture regarding the skills and validity of that surgeon.

Despite the fact that this unnecessary surgery has become less and less common, there is a plus to some veterinarians continuing to perform them. Unfortunately, there are quite a few sick-minded people in this world that take it upon themselves to do this and other related types of procedures on their own. Owners and/or self proclaimed “breeders” execute these so-called surgeries without a license, training, anesthesia, pain medication, or sterile conditions. Very often, such procedures are performed with only a razor, tape, sometimes tampon applicators to roll the remaining ear into, and maybe a bottle of alcohol. These are the same types of people that tightly tie off the tail of a dog with rubber bands to cut off the circulation and wait for the tail to eventually fall off on it’s own. Given those distressing facts, it is good that licensed veterinarians remain available to cut down on the amount of those performing procedures on their own. The veterinarians that choose to provide this service are not to be looked down upon, even in my opinion of ear cropping. Most are caring, talented doctors providing proper care and pain management in a appropriate, sterile environment. Keep in mind that this is far from the sole purpose of their practice and they studied many years to take the oath to care and protect animals.

If you are considering having your pups ears cropped, I suggest asking your veterinarian exactly how this procedure is performed, how much of the ear will be removed, what is entailed regarding the outcome, what are the general risks involved, and what the necessary after care will be. Having those facts will grant you a more informed basis in making your final decision.

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