A veterinarian’s view on dog ear cropping and tail docking
Some of the most controversial elective, optional surgical procedures done in veterinary medicine are the procedures of tail docking and ear cropping in certain breeds of dogs. While these are obviously not surgical procedures done for the health of the individual animal, such procedures are done only for breed standards, thereby allowing certain breeds (such as Boxers, Dobermans and Schnauzers for example), to be shown in the rings at dog shows.
These procedures are typically done at very young ages (from days old to the first few weeks of life), when the procedures are less complex and supposedly not as difficult on the young puppies. However, the procedures are in fact very painful and difficult for young puppies as the areas involved are very rich in nerve supply. This is the case even in young animals whose nervous systems are still developing, and even with the use of strong and newer available pain medications in veterinary medicine. Another concern I have over these procedures is that they are done during a critical time of immune system development, when young puppies are prone to potentially dangerous viruses, including parvo virus and distemper virus. Additionally, these surgical procedures also stress the immune systems of young developing puppies, who are often being vaccinated during the time periods when these procedures are done.
While I know that this point of view may get critical feedback from breeders and show people, I base my opinions on several decades of observations of the effects of such procedures on young developing animals. If the procedures must be done, they should be done by an experienced veterinarian who does lots of these surgical procedures, as well as uses appropriate anesthetics and proper post-operative pain medications.