Adopting a pet is a huge responsibility. Doing so requires not only feeding and caring for your dog but making the choices that will improve his or her life. It’s important, though, that you know whether the decisions you make are actually going to help your dog to have a long and healthy life.
You may, for example, wonder whether or not you should get your dog’s tail or ears cropped. Doing so is certainly common enough, but it’s hard to tell if these procedures will actually do anything for your dog. In fact, you may not even know if doing so is legal.
If you’re considering whether or not to have your dog’s ears or tail cropped, you’ll want to do a little research. It’s a good idea to learn why people have historically made such choices, as well as if it’s something you need to do for your dog. Once you’ve figured that, you can make an informed choice that might be able to improve your dog’s life.
What is Ear Cropping and How Does it Work?
The process of cropping a dog’s ears is more popular than you might think among dog owners, but it’s also quite controversial. The actual act is fairly simple – it involves removing part (or in some cases, all) of the external part of a dog’s ear. This can often be done for cosmetic reasons but there are sometimes also health benefits involved. Some areas do, however, ban the practice and consider it excessively cruel.
Why Do People Crop Dogs’ Ears?
It’s very hard to determine exactly why someone would want to crop a dog’s ears. There are probably as many reasons as there are dog owners, but you can likely lump the reasons into one of two categories. Some dog owners choose to crop dogs’ ears because they believe that there is some kind of health benefit. Others make the choice because they believe that doing so provides some kind of aesthetic benefit.
Those who choose to crop a dog’s ears for health reasons generally do so because they’ve been led to believe that there are long-term positive health impacts. Some, for example, believe that cropping a dog’s ears will help their dogs to avoid recurring ear infections. Others who are in favor of cropping tend to believe that doing so will help the dog to feel better. Unfortunately, there is no compelling scientific data that shows that either of these benefits actually occurs after cropping.
There are others, however, who choose to crop their dogs’ ears because they find the look aesthetically pleasing. This is especially common among those who show their dogs, as some breeds have standards that require cropping in order for the dog to be shown. As you can imagine, this kind of surgery is only necessary for those who are planning to show their dogs and it’s absolutely not required for the dog to meet any other outside standards if the dog is not going to be competing.
How Does Ear Cropping Work
Ear cropping is a surgical procedure. Most dog owners choose to get their dogs’ ears cropped when they are somewhere between two and three months old, as this is the time period in which the cropping is most likely to ‘take’. The surgeon will put the dog under general anesthesia and then remove about two-thirds of the dog’s external ear. This not only removes much of the dog’s ear flap but also removes all of the nerve endings in that part of the dog’s ears.
How Does Ear Cropping Heal?
As you might imagine, a dog does have to do some significant healing after he or she gets his or her ears cropped. The dogs’ ears will have to be stitched up, which means that they will have to be bandaged for a few weeks. It should be noted that you will almost always have to take your dog back to the vet to make sure that your dog’s ears are healing correctly and that the bandages can be replaced correctly.
What are the Risks of Dog Ear Cropping
As you might imagine, there are some very real risks to getting your dog’s ears docked. In fact, these risks may be enough to off-set even the perceived benefits of having that surgery performed. As such, you should take the time to ensure that you know what could happen after this surgery.
Perhaps the biggest immediate risk is that associated with general anesthesia. If the dog successfully makes it through that, he or she may also have to deal with a significant risk of post-surgery infections. Your dog’s ears could start bleeding and they might even have to be fully amputated, a process that can be very painful for your dog. Even in best-case scenarios, your dog is going to be in pain for quite some time. There are even some very concerning reports of dogs experiencing phantom pains after the surgery.
What is Tail Docking for Dogs?
Another very popular type of cosmetic surgery for dogs is tail docking. Tail docking is a process by which a dog has part of his or her tail surgically removed. The amount of tail removed tends to depend on the breed of the dog.
Why Do Dogs Get Their Tails Docked?
As with ear cropping, there are two major reasons why a dog might get his or her tail docked. Some people choose to dock their dogs’ tails because of cosmetic reasons, while other people choose to dock their dogs’ tails because they are looking to help their dogs avoid significant health problems. As you can imagine, there’s a fair bit of difference between the two camps of tail dockers.
Tail docking is one of those procedures that actually has a significant amount of history behind its practice. Tail docking was originally a procedure performed because of the benefits that it was thought to bring a dog. Some thought it could make a dog’s back stronger or make it faster, while others thought that doing so would help the dog to avoid catching rabies. More modern proponents of docking tend to do so because they think that doing so can help to ensure that the dog won’t be able to spread infections from its tail, that it might be able to more quickly heal from some diseases, or that it can help the dog to avoid more significant injuries when the dog is working.
Of course, most who dock their dogs’ tails are just doing so for aesthetic reasons. It’s part of the breed standard for some breeds, while others just like the look. Unfortunately, doing this to a dog can be even more painful than cropping his or her ears.
How is Dog Tail Docking Performed?
Unfortunately, the process of docking a dog’s tail can seem incredibly barbaric to most dog owners. This is a process that’s done one of two ways, neither of which is particularly pleasant. Both methods do, however, end up with the same result.
The first method of docking a tail involves using a rubber band to constrict the flow of blood to the dog’s tail, eventually causing it to fall off – a process that generally takes at least a few days to occur. The other method involves using a scalpel or even a sharp pair of scissors to ‘snip’ the dog’s tail.
How Does a Dog Tail Heal After Docking?
Given that the location of a dog’s tail makes this spot likely to become infected, it’s vital that dog owners monitor the site of the tail removal and keep it free of anything that could cause infection. Not only must bandages be changed regularly, but your pet’s dog bed should be kept clean.
It will take a vet’s recommendation to know when a dog’s bandages can be removed after docking. It will usually take a couple of days for this to occur and you’ll likely have to remove the bandages yourself. Given that this can be a dangerous process in and of itself, you’ll need a vet’s help to learn how to properly remove your dog’s bandages.
Once the bandages are removed, you’ll have to monitor the area to make sure that no infection has occurred. This means keeping an eye out for discharge and swelling – and if you see either, you need to go to the vet. Regardless of whether or not there is a problem, healing does usually involve a vet visit about a week later.
Is it Legal to Perform Dog Ear Cropping or Tail Docking?
As you can imagine, this is something that varies quite a bit by state. There are only nine states that regulate this process and they have very different rules. For example, cropping can only be done by a veterinarian while the dog is under anesthetic if the dog is in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, or New Hampshire. The dog can only have his or her ears cropped under the same circumstances in Maryland, and even then only if it is considered ‘appropriate’ to do so. Massachusetts has the same vet requirement, but no anesthetic requirement; Washington only allows cropping when it is part of the normal breed standard. Maine and Illinois both keep the licensed vet requirement.
Tail docking is a bit more regulated than ear cropping, with nineteen states having laws on the books about the process. Pennsylvania restricts docking entirely on dogs after five days old unless there’s a medical reason to do so; Maryland restricts docking unless it’s done for ‘appropriate’ reasons and under anesthesia. Both Louisiana and Alaska require docking to be done in a timely fashion and in a manner that is both sanitary and that will reduce the amount of pain felt by the animal.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why do dogs get their ears cropped?
Dogs get their ears cropped for a variety of reasons. Some people think that ear cropping will help the dog to avoid certain infections or that it might even help a dog to hear better. Other people get their dogs’ ears cropped because it is part of the aesthetic standard for the breed, which means that the dog’s ears must be cropped for the dog to be shown in some types of dog shows.
2. Is cropping a dog’s ears good or bad?
There’s really not any objective reason to get your dog’s ears cropped. While it might be important for some types of dog shows, there’s absolutely no evidence that shows that it can do anything good for your dog. In fact, there are no scientific studies that show that the supposed benefits of having your dog’s ears cropped will actually do anything for the dog. As such, the only positive impact that the process can have for a dog is helping it to win certain types of dog shows.
3. Is ear cropping bad?
It’s hard to say that there’s anything particularly good about ear cropping. Though it’s a normal procedure for certain parts of dogs based on specific standards, it’s something that really only applies to a very small percentage of dogs who are going to be entered into very specific types of dog shows held to be a small number of organizations. For other dogs, though, it seems like a procedure that can cause a dog a lot of pain, that has some serious potential downsides, and that ultimately won’t do anything positive for the dog.
4. Is it illegal to crop dogs’ ears in Australia?
It is not currently legal to crop a dog’s ears in Australia (1). It can technically be performed by veterinarians in some states as long as there is a therapeutic reason for doing so, but the reasons for doing so are so few and far between that it’s unlikely that any dog owner will find a reason to have this process done.