Ear cropping cosmetic, controversial

Wednesday, January 2, 2002

QUESTION: My wife and I got a young Schnauzer for Christmas. We are debating whether or not to have its ears cropped. Could you give a little information on the operation?

ANSWER: Today, ear cropping is done strictly for cosmetic reasons and is controversial. Some countries have outlawed it. Others argue that it is no different than cosmetic surgery humans have performed on themselves. The idea is to make the pet or person look better and what looks better is a matter of personal opinion.

Ear cropping is usually performed at 8 to 12 weeks of age. The surgery determines the length and shape of the ears. Puppies should be in prime physical condition before surgery. They should be up to date on vaccinations, worm free, and blood tested for anemia and ability to clot blood. These puppies should be on a good quality food and vitamins. This surgery can be quite bloody and is best done with a laser. By using a laser, the blood loss is greatly reduced. Often an 80 percent or more reduction is achieved.

The operation does not determine whether or not the ears will stand. Ability to stand is determined by the individual animal's ear cartilage strength, by the strength of the muscle to the ear, and by its own personality. Assertive animals are more likely to hold their ears in an upright position.

It usually requires 10 to 14 days for the healing process to be complete. Medication is available to ease the post operative discomfort. Taping the ears after surgery is important so that they grow and develop in an upright position. The ears should be taped at regular intervals until they stand continuously on their own. In some puppies one or two tapings may be all that is necessary. Schnauzers usually fall into this group. Other puppies may require many tapings. There will be a few puppies that simply are unable to hold their ears upright no matter what is done.

Dr. Koch is a Cape Girardeau-area veterinarian

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