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Ear Cropping in Dogs

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Ear cropping is a surgical procedure in which a portion of the ear is removed. The purpose of the procedure is usually to produce ears that stand erect. This procedure is most often performed in puppies around 8-12 weeks of age. Most veterinarians will not perform this procedure on puppies over 14 weeks of age because as the pup ages, his ear cartilage becomes less pliant and the potential for non-erect ears increases.

What Are the Indications for Performing Ear Cropping?

Ear cropping is most often performed to comply with standards for various breeds. Several breeds either require ear cropping or accept cropped ears in the show ring. Whether or not to have the ears cropped, however, is a personal decision. The breeds most often associated with cropped ears include schnauzers, boxers, Great Danes, Doberman pinschers and miniature pinschers.

What Preoperative Tests Are Needed?

Preoperative tests depend in part on the age and general health of the animal. Usually, most dogs are around 8 to 12 weeks of age and are healthy. In those patients, preoperative tests typically consist of a complete blood count and fecal examination. In certain breeds, a clotting test may also be needed prior to surgery. If performed in an older animal, a complete blood count, serum biochemical test, a urinalysis, and possibly an EKG may be performed prior to surgery.

What Type of Anesthesia is Needed?

This is a surgical procedure in which part of the ear is removed. General anesthesia is needed to induce unconsciousness, control pain and relax muscles. In the usual case, the pet will receive a pre-anesthetic sedative-analgesic drug to help him relax, a brief intravenous anesthetic to allow placement of a breathing tube in the windpipe, and subsequently inhalation (gas) anesthesia in oxygen during the actual surgery.

How Is the Procedure Done?

Following anesthesia, the pet's ears are clipped and scrubbed with surgical soap to disinfect the area. An incision is made from the base of the ear, up the center and to the tip of the ear to remove the outer half of the ear. What remains is a triangular piece of the ear. The procedure is then performed on the other ear. The incision may be sutured or glued with surgical adhesive. If sutured, the sutures may need to be removed in 10 to 14 days. Following surgery, specific bandage techniques are used to keep the ears erect during healing.

The procedure is not always successful. Every animal has individual differences in their ears and surgery may not result in completely erect ears.

How Long Does the Procedure Take?

The procedure takes about 45 minutes to 1-1/4 hours to perform in most cases, including the needed time for preparation and anesthesia.

What Are the Risks and Complications?

The overall risk of this surgery is low. The major risks are those of general anesthesia, bleeding (hemorrhage), postoperative infection and wound breakdown (dehiscence) over the incision. Overall complication rate is low, but serious complications can result in the need for additional surgery or the loss of one or both ears. Hearing is not affected.

What Is the Typical Postoperative Care?

Post-operative medication may be given to relieve pain, which is judged in most cases to be mild to moderate and can be effectively eliminated with safe and effective pain medicines. Home care requires reduced activity and daily monitoring of the bandages for moisture, discharge or slippage. The bandages will need to be examined by your veterinarian every week and replaced as needed. These bandages will be kept on until the ears stand erect, which can take 6-8 weeks. The longer the ear is after surgery, the longer it will take to heal and stay erect. Any concerns about the bandages should prompt a call to your veterinarian.

How Long Is the Hospital Stay?

The typical stay following an ear cropping is ½ to 1 day but varies depending on the overall health of the pet.

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