What is an ear crop?

wiseGEEK Writing Contest

As many dog owners know, there are several different dog breeds that are often altered by the process called ear cropping. Pit bulls, Dobermans, Great Danes, Min Pins, Boxers and Schnauzers are just a few of the breeds whose ears are commonly cropped.

Owners have many reasons for having their dog’s ears cropped. Many feel that the dog appears to be more of “show quality” with cropped ears. Others believe that dogs are required to have their ears cropped to be shown or even be registered by the AKC. Some owners are under the impression that this is a necessary surgery and opt to have it done for that reason. Finally, it is a common misconception that dogs have fewer ear problems when their ears are cropped as opposed to leaving them floppy and natural.

There are some facts that owners don’t realize, however. The American Kennel Club does not require that any breed of dog have their ears cropped in order to be shown or registered. Breed standards apply for dogs with both cropped and natural ears.

Ear cropping is a strictly elective surgery, meaning that it is not a necessary procedure for the benefit of the dog’s health. The surgery is done for one reason; to change the overall look of the dog. It is simply a cosmetic procedure.

Many owners have their dog’s ears cropped without knowing what actually happens during the procedure. A lot of people are under the impression that something simple is done to make the ears stand up. This is not the case.

The procedure is named ear cropping for a reason; the ears are cut off. While they aren’t completely removed, much of the ear flap is excised, leaving only the thicker cartilage to stand up to a point.

Each breed has its own pattern for what the ears should look like once they’ve been cropped. Great Danes for example, have very tall ears while Pit Bulls and Min Pins have short cropped ears.

As the surgery is cosmetic and elective, one has to consider the side effects and possible complications more so than a surgery that is non-elective. If this were a procedure that was required, side effects and complications are still considered but the benefit may outweigh the possible harm.

Obvious complications come from general anesthesia as with any surgery. Precautions can be taken by the veterinarian in charge to help minimize these chances but even with precautions, pre-surgery testing and monitoring situations can become quickly unfortunate resulting is anesthesia reactions and even death. Some dogs are more likely to have problems than others so this should be discussed with the veterinarian prior to having the procedure done. White, Albino, and dog’s classified as blue are commonly at a higher risk for complications during an ear crop.

Another problem may be that the ears don’t stand once they are healed. Some veterinarians will bandage or tape ears in place, but it cannot be guaranteed that once the material is removed the ears will still stand. Every dog is different and even with a perfect ear crop surgery and proper after care, some ears just won’t stand. There are also cases when the ears just don’t appeal to the owner as much as originally thought. The surgery is basically a freehand surgery for many veterinarians and no two will ever turn out the same.

As a large portion of the ear is removed, the procedure does cause a great deal of pain. Even with a lot of prescribed pain medications, discomfort can still be observed in some patients.

Ear cropping should only be done if the owner has been thoroughly educated about what happens during the surgery, how it affects the dog and what the possible complications may be. Again, it’s an elective surgery that is done for cosmetic reasons only. Owners should be well aware of that and have any questions addressed by the veterinarian prior to having the procedure performed.

submitted by Faith Eversole