To Crop or Not to Crop?
If you are looking for guidance on this sensitive issue, you will have to keep looking. We don’t take sides. Ear cropping has been a common canine procedure for much longer than human tummy tucks and Botox have been en vogue, though it has received negative press in recent years. It creates a sophisticated and traditional look in breeds where it was once the only show-standard considered acceptable. Today it is more a matter of personal preference. Some argue that it is unfair to inflict pain on an innocent puppy who has no choice in the matter. Today’s pain medications, however, make this argument untenable. The risk of anesthesia for an entirely elective procedure is also a concern that many people have. While anesthesia is always a concern, we minimize the risks at Clermont Animal Hospital by performing pre-surgical blood screening, placing an intravenous (IV) catheter for IV fluids, and using a reversible anesthetic. A trained anesthetist carefully monitors the patient throughout anesthesia and recovery. We do not believe that it is our place to say whether or not a dog’s ears should be cropped, but for those who choose to crop, we feel it is our obligation to provide a protocol that emphasizes the safety and comfort of the puppy.
Your Pet’s Safety and Comfort
Because young puppies have a low body mass index (BMI) and a high metabolism, they are more sensitive to anesthesia than more mature dogs. Their immature immune system also puts them at higher risk for infection. Because we take the care of these patients seriously, we have instituted a very strict protocol to ensure the safety and comfort of these puppies. Owners who are unwilling or unable to adhere to this protocol will not be serviced. It should be noted that our breeder protocol, reserved for experienced breeders presenting litters of puppies, varies slightly. Click here to view this protocol. For all other puppies, our standard protocol is as follows:
- Ideally, puppies should be between 11 and 15 weeks of age for ear cropping in most breeds. There is some breed variation and flexibility in this, so please consult with our veterinarian if you wish to have an ear crop performed on a puppy not in this age range.
- All puppies must be up-to-date on vaccinations and de-wormers including distemper and parvo. All puppies must have at least two vaccinations protecting against these diseases and must have been vaccinated between two and four weeks before the ear crop procedure. For puppies who are old enough, an intranasal bordatella vaccination is also advised. If these vaccinations were not administered at Clermont Animal Hospital, proof of vaccination must be provided. At least one fecal stool exam and two general de-wormers are required prior to the procedure. Proof may be requested.
- All puppies must have pre-anesthetic blood work including a complete blood count (CBC) and a chemistry panel within one month before the scheduled ear crop. If this is being completed at another veterinary facility, please contact us for a list of tests that should be included with the chemistry panel.
- All puppies will receive an intravenous (IV) catheter and IV fluids to ensure venous access in the event of an emergency and to minimize blood loss during the procedure.
- An electrocardiogram (EKG) is performed on the day of anesthesia to ensure that there are no heart abnormalities. If there are irregularities discovered on this test, a further work-up (chest radiographs and/or an echocardiogram) may be required prior to anesthesia.
- Our standard anesthetic protocol with puppy ear crops involves a pre-sedation, a heavy sedation at induction with a reversible injectable medication (which provides very strong pain relief for 8-12 hours), and induction and maintenance of a surgical plane of anesthesia with isoflurane inhalant anesthetic. It should be noted, however, that anesthetic protocols are customized to the specific needs of the patient, based on breed, blood test results, pertinent medical history, and age/weight of the animal.
- A dedicated anesthetist monitors and records all pertinent parameters including pulse rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygen saturation, depth of anesthesia, and temperature. EKG and blood pressure can also be monitored, if warranted.
- A pain medication protocol can be custom-tailored to the needs of the individual patient, based on the blood test results, and the patient’s level of sensitivity to pain.
- While ear crops are performed as out-patient procedures, patients cannot be released prior to 4:30 p.m. This ensures that they receive proper monitoring by a trained medical professional during the post-anesthetic period.
At Clermont Animal Hospital, we recognize that ear crops are becoming a lost art—an art we are trying to preserve. It is a technique that is not being taught in veterinary schools and is difficult or impossible to learn from a book. Some veterinarians who crop ears use forms to perform a “standardized” crop. Our doctors feel that this does not allow for the individuality of each animal. Instead, we provide a customized crop for every dog. This is an art that requires a good eye for symmetry and balance, as well as experience to know how a dog is likely to “grow into” his ears. Before each ear crop, we meet with clients to make sure that we are all on the same page regarding the desired look and result. In each case, we take the following factors into careful consideration when sculpting the ears of the patient:
- Traditional breed standards and the time-honored traditions associated with ear crops for each breed are always our starting point for discussions. We use a combination of printed references and experience to make sure that each dog will receive a look that will epitomize the breed.
- Owner preferences are also an important consideration. Some owners prefer a cut that is shorter or taller than the traditional standard. A slightly bigger bell at the base of the ear can make the ear stand more easily and limit the effort involved in postings, but other owners see a larger bell as less desirable due to its appearance. Because every dog receives a custom cut, we can make adjustments to suit personal preferences. We encourage owners to bring in a photo or two to illustrate the type of cut they desire. Prior to the procedure, we meet with each owner to discuss the style of cut desired and explain our personal technique for ensuring a regal, elegant result.
- The sex of the dog is also taken into consideration. Females of many breeds are given a slightly shorter cut to ensure that they will maintain their feminine look. Males are given a little longer, stronger cut to reflect their masculinity and macho image.
- The individual characteristics of each dog are used in sculpting the ears. Dogs with long, floppy ears will need a little more than the standard ratio removed, in order to avoid a “jack ass” look. A female with a petite, narrow face will benefit from a slightly narrower cut. It takes artistic vision to match the cut to the face of the dog. We pride ourselves in taking the time to contemplate the outcome, before beginning the procedure.
- The age of the dog is also an important factor that we must take into account. Puppies tend to “grow into” their ears, but how much this will happen depends on the age and breed of the puppy at the time of the ear crop.
For every owner contemplating an ear crop for their dog, it is important to understand the follow-up care. The surgical procedure is only one half of a two-part equation. Home after-care and proper postings are an essential part of achieving the desired posture that gives cropped ears their regal appearance. For the first two to three weeks after surgery, it is important that the dog wears a protective collar at all times to prevent him from scratching at his healing ears. Just after surgery, light bandages are applied to protect the raw ear edges and help give shape and support to the ears. Once the bandages come off, owners must use Betadine to clean and disinfect the raw ear edges. Oral antibiotics are also important in the first two weeks of healing to prevent infection that will lead to scarring.
Typically, we like to check our patients back at one, two, and three weeks post-operatively. These visits are included automatically in the ear crop package. The first visit ensures that the ear is healing properly without creases, folds, or infection. The ears are lightly taped at this visit. Sutures are removed at two to three weeks, and the first true posting is done at suture removal. Every posting is uniquely tailored to the animal, the shape of her head, and the way in which her ears are behaving at the time of the posting. Clients will be shown how to post the ears and given tips on proper posting. Ideally, we like to see our patients back one week after their first posting. An ear posting is not included in the ear crop package for this visit, but a no-charge consultation on the healing and posting process is provided. For clients not comfortable with posting ears, this service can be provided for a small fee after the first complimentary ear posting. Along with these postings, we educate owners on tips on how to provide the best ear care and minimize folds, creases, lazy ears, scarring and other complications. We can also advise our clients on how long to leave a posting in place and how frequently to post the ears based on their pet’s current situation. The number and frequency of postings needed varies greatly from breed to breed and puppy to puppy.
Because of the quality of our ear crops and our dedication to patient safety and comfort, our services are sought-after outside of the immediate Cincinnati area. For these clients, a few modifications to the pre-anesthetic work-up and the follow-up protocol may be necessary. First, it is very important to secure the cooperation of a local veterinarian to facilitate remote care. Prior to the procedure, your veterinarian should administer necessary vaccinations and perform the pre-anesthetic blood testing. Records and results should be faxed or emailed to our hospital at least 3-5 days before the scheduled procedure to ensure time to address any problems or omissions.
On the day of the procedure, it is essential that the owner who will be doing the follow-up postings and care attend with his/her pet. There are important things to discuss that cannot easily be relayed through a friend or a relative. While local clients are invited to drop off their puppy without staying for an appointment if they choose, new clients MUST schedule a morning appointment on the morning of the procedure so that we can review the pertinent medical history, ensure that the puppy is in good health, and outline the procedure and protocols.
Ear crops are considered an out-patient procedure and do not require an overnight stay in the hospital; however, patients cannot be released prior to 4:30 p.m. This ensures that they receive proper monitoring by a trained medical professional during the post-anesthetic period. This is the most critical time to be alert for complications. Under no circumstances will a puppy be released prior to 4:30 in order to accommodate a more convenient drive home. It is recommended that those travelling more than 45 minutes home on the same night as the procedure should have at least two people in the car: one to drive and one to monitor the puppy. For those, requiring more than two hours for travel or those without a travel companion, a hotel stay on the night of the procedure is recommended. Click here for a link to pet-friendly area hotels.
The post-operative follow-up visits will need to be adjusted to the needs and resources of the client. Videos taken in good lighting and showing close-up views of the ear margins may be helpful initially in determining proper care in the first weeks post-op and the proper time for suture removal. These can be sent via email for review. Whenever possible, we prefer to see our patients at least one time post-op to remove the sutures, do the first posting, and educate owners on the nuances of home care and postings. We offer Saturday hours until noon which can reasonably accommodate most clients within a four-hour radius. Clients with prior experience and success in doing their own postings may elect not to make a second trip to our hospital. In these cases, we respectfully request that a local veterinarian remove the sutures and examine the site for any signs of infection, as these do not always transmit well via video.
What Our Clients are Saying about Our Ear Crops
Sharlene Bennett "k-9 Cuts Groomer"
"When I first set out to purchase a Giant Schnauzer, I knew I would want her ears cropped. After researching several veterinarians who did this procedure and after a recommendation of one of my clients on this veterinarian practice and procedure on how they did their cropping I was impressed, especially since they custom crop to the specific dog and not just the breed standard. They base the cropping on your dogs size and looks."